Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Underestimating the impact of fly-in fly-out

I read the paper and see people write, "fly-in fly-out will buy me my house" and I can't believe my eyes.  The idea of being away from my family for extended periods for money would keep me up at night, if it was the only solution.  It seems naive and short sighted.

The impact on a family must be horrendous.  One parent effectively looking after everything to do with the house, another 4000 km away with nothing to do but work.  The only payback being a few extra dollars per hour.  It may pay off the house, but it would certainly put my marriage under strain.  I value time with family a lot higher than that.

In schools we see this impact emerging with dual income families and one parent FIFO.  Kids get limited support from parents as instead of sharing the load of parenting, it is placed on one overworked person trying to juggle 100 balls in the air and usually a job aswell.  I could only liken it to the load of the single mum, something that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Needless to say the load ends up somewhere and typically it is with kids in schools unable to socialise effectively and study adequately.  There is a cost to FIFO and we haven't paid it yet.  It's on its way and we had better put some thought into it.  These kids are coming and many may be underdeveloped and lack self discipline after being left alone for extended periods of time.  It has the potential to be a mental health issue (with kids lacking belonging), a policing issue (with kids not being adequately monitored), an education issue (with attendance and performance dropping) and a social issue (with families under strain).

Encouraging true regional areas seems to be the only real solution and it will take years to create viable communities in outlying areas.  Royalties for regions was a ridiculous notion but if refocussed now that money is available, it will be an interesting exercise spending money to make regional centres attractive - fixing health, education, lack of amenities and creating a broad spectrum of service based jobs (built around decent populations); rather than risky exiles from city centres with fear of never being able to return due to increasing land values.  Just ask a teacher trying to return from a regional centre how easy it is to get a job in Perth after a regional posting now independent public schools has reduced the available pool of places.

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