FIFO Relationships – Lighting the Fire, Not Fuelling It

So I was chatting to a buddy and colleague of mine over the past weekend; just shooting the breeze after another week down and one day closer to going home. He is in a similar position to me as far as family and relationships go; a single Dad on a FIFO gig. He also separated from his partner while in the midst of working in the resources sector and his kids are also the centre of his world.

The conversation took an interesting direction with us discussing the challenges of FIFO relationships.

“Interesting…how? This is a topic that is close to the top of all FIFO wellbeing discussions / forums / articles…blah blah blah”, you are probably thinking to yourself. And you would be spot on.

But our chat was not around maintaining a relationship while FIFO but about the challenges in starting one. This is a challenge close to my heart and one that I have had plenty of trouble over coming. I have brushed over this a few times in conversations, never really in depth but chatting to ol’ mate, we really seemed to be up against the same issues…well perceived ones anyways.

Of course there are the obvious hurdles of being away. Meeting someone at home and then going on swing…or vice versa with someone from work. I’ve had a couple of false starts in my FIFO dating career, from column A and column B and from experience; neither is preferable. Then for good measure, throw in meeting someone who neither works or lives near you (yep, common problem when the job ends).

Anyways, then there are the not so obvious, more mental hurdles and again from experience these seem like Everest when you face them. Well actually, more like the Himalayas…once you’ve conquered Everest, there’s still a whole range to go.

My Everest has always been the perception that my kids would have of me spending my off time with someone else other than them, our family and our friends. I spend so much time away from home I kind of have a thought process that when I am there, I am theirs.

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I’ve run this past a few people over the last little while and although the heads nod, I guess the relatability is just not there. I was so surprised and quite joyed when my chat buddy totally agreed and we continued to talk about how this was a major mental barrier for us.

The chat also revealed that a close second for us both was the obstacle of the perceived value you hold in someone else’s life. I have, and continue to struggle with this as well….yeh, I have some issues alright.

Value to my own existence and that of my family…no issue at all but the question I ask and inevitably always answer in the negative is “why would an attractive, intelligent, successful and independent women want to have a relationship with some FIFO guy who’s never home and when back spends all his time with his kids??”

My wise beyond her years sister always tells me that this is a question I am in no position to answer but in my head, it’s constantly there and I’ve always just accepted it. But after this conversation I really started to think about this.

Given my colleague is a handsome rooster with quite an engaging, charismatic disposition (both traits I aspire to), and shares similar hurdles to me…it got me thinking. Two things popped into my head.

The first; the situation of an ex-work mate and still friend whose circumstances were similar to mine, but with ex issues a mile long. He and his now fiancée (who is amazing) met while he was working a FIFO construction roster and in the midst of a very messy and heated separation.

I see the two of them now, their relationship and family has blossomed to become an amazing FIFO success story.

The second thought was of a note I received some time ago. At the time I think I’d posted maybe 1 or 2 blogs, OMC app had yet to come onto the market and was just venturing into the FIFO social media space. It was a very random but most welcome message at the time and on reflection one I should have shared much sooner….. (names of work sites removed for obvious reasons)

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I’ve had NO experience with FIFO. Zero!! Last year while I was emerging from the lowest point in my life, I was completely blindsided…..  I fell in love with a FIFO worker. 

Having been widowed only 12 months earlier & struggling for years in a marriage to support a husband with a terminal mental illness, I had completely forgotten what it was like to feel genuinely excited to be in the presence of another human. I met someone who made me laugh, who shared the same values, enjoyed the simple things in life and simply made me want to be a better person.  

I knew he did FIFO work but didn’t really know what that meant. A few months after we met he took a new FIFO role with a longer roster at a place far away. He again tried to explain that he couldn’t commit to a relationship for many reasons that came with being a FIFO worker. Having had no experience with FIFO I said that I understood, but really, I had no clue!!

I told myself that he can’t really be interested in me or he would find a way to make it work. The difficulty with limited cross country communications, limited access to phones & Internet, I didn’t fully appreciate. It wasn’t until I read your blog on the communication frustrations of your sister (who you seem to adore) and the difficulties she faces with her beloved brother working away that it started to sink in. 

Do I understand now? No, not fully, but I am trying to understand. 

On the flip side, what he wouldn’t fully understand is that over the past year that I’ve known him….

1/ I have googled and read all I could find on the Project he now works on to try to learn about what exactly he does. 

2/ I’ve read articles on FIFO workers & how it affects families & relationships. 

3/ I count down the days until he is back & then hope that I bump into him or that he will squeeze in time for a quick coffee & chat. 

4/ I’ve read all about how to improve communications and relationships with FIFO workers and their families, friends & stakeholders, including the app you are working to produce in an effort to try and fix these issues.

To me, relationships are about having an unspoken understanding.  Supporting each other’s’ dreams, desires & passions, even if that means trying to understand why someone would choose FIFO. Relationships are about being present emotionally, not just physically. 

Just because someone is physically coming home to you day in day out, it doesn’t mean they are present and doesn’t guarantee a successful relationship. Of course physical & emotional connectedness is the ideal but is it always a reality? No. 

What he does (or at least what I think he does!!) fulfills him & contributes to the sustainability of our country. Isn’t that what life is about? Doing things that you are passionate about?

I believe you can have it all if you work hard enough. Sure it’s not easy, but nothing good in life comes easy. That’s the challenge. 
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When I first received this…probably even up until very recently, I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind to really understand it, or take meaning from it. But after the last few months, maybe that big mental barrier is starting to fall….maybe.

What I do know is that dreams can come true; they just take time, effort and belief. The dream relationship is no different and whether that dream is to prosper, or to germinate / grow through a FIFO life, you have to believe it is possible. Not only belief in yourself to make it work but ,as so beautifully illustrated above, belief that your person is 100% in your corner, which is a tough concept for me.

But who knows right. Maybe that seemingly insignificant conversation will help lift me to the top of my Everest…where the rest of the mountain range will seem like speed bumps on my road to that pot of gold at the end of the FIFO relationship rainbow….maybe.

Until the next instalment; Keep Safe and #StayConnected!!!

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Movember – Where are the Jumbo Mos?? (Guest Blog)

This article was solely written by Karyn Dwyer of Separated by Flying: Grounded and Connected

As you probably know, beards have been off limits for Qantas pilots and cabin crew for years. It’s an airline thing as those oxygen masks would never stand up to a full beard or a sexy set of mutton chops. They certainly don’t allow for a ‘tache that would impress your mates!

It’s all part of those grooming guidelines that we airline staff have all filed in the appropriate place. So Unless you’re flying longhaulsteve-vizard and your name is Ted Hunter (I’m sure there’s some lucky lady who took him up on his offer) that’s a big  ‘NO DEAL’ to that 70’s style moustache you’ve been dreaming about.

Moustaches such as handlebar, horseshoe (or ‘trucker’) and similar styles are unfortunately…unacceptable.

November however seems to be a different story with these standards being somewhat relaxed. The blokes I fly with get a real thrill out of sticking it to the company and give the mo growing all they’ve got. I’m pretty sure that most of them are just growing a Mo because they can…bend the rules with no fallout…bloody rebels!

Holiday time is the only time that our flying blokes can grow facial hair that they can truly revel in. But who gets to see it right? Certainly not the usual couple of hundred people every day that would admire it while being served a meal.

And how long can holiday facial hair really get anyway? A month is a lot of commitment to cultivate the perfect specimen.  My sources tell me that growing a Mo takes a LOT of patience. While it’s fun and achieves a certain level of satisfaction, everyone hates it… including the owner eventually.  I’m told the common gripes include:

  1. Nagging from the Mrs or significant other
  2. Endless amounts of uneaten food (gross)
  3. The “shave the f&cker off it’s annoying me” which gets worse as Movember rolls on

So aside from the obvious “let’s do something we can get away with”, why do it?

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…BECAUSE MEN ARE DYING TOO YOUNG!!!

And that’s what Movember and the Movember Foundation is all about: raising awareness and funding for men’s health issues. These issues include but are not limited to:

  • Testicular cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Mental health and suicide prevention

Now to be completely honest with you I didn’t really know what Movember was all about until recently. I experienced my own hideous Movember Mo thanks to my ex husband.

It is also a subject close to the Qantas family’s heart with Alan Joyce having his own personal prostate health problems in 2012.

That year Movember was kicked off in a big way at Qantas with a huge campaign featuring the Wallabies. I’ve wallabiesnever seen so many Mo’s at work in my life! Every man and his first officer seemed to be sporting one – even some of our aircraft were sporting Mo’s!

I’m a little disappointed that our campaign seems to have lost some steam since. Yes every November you still see the odd Movember Mo with the flight crew and I still get to play my favourite game of “Spot the Movember Mo” but it’s just not the same.

Men’s health issues are still as important as they were back then but maybe not as close to home as they were in 2012? We still need to provide support for men and awareness for the cause now and for our future generation of aviators. Every year in October we have a huge campaign for breast cancer. Why not continue with men’s health on the same scale the following month?

Now I know that prostate cancer is an important health issue for the Qantas family, given the fact that most of our employees are either from the 70’s or in their 70’s and are in the highest risk categories here.

But let’s throw a spotlight on mental health issues. This is where my interest sparks. This is a huge problem for men globally, especially for those that are working away.

I believe that mental health issues are the silent killer and have read much evidence to support this. Did you know that one man every minute of every day takes his own life? I was blown away when I read this information! That’s a lot of men taking their own life!

Fortunately for us in aviation, suicide is not something that we have to deal with often. There are a lot of other working away industries where suicide is a regular occurrence. We have FIFO guys on our planes constantly who from all reports are at the higher end of the risk scale.

How does mental health issues affect us as crew though? Well I’d say that most of us are pretty lucky when it comes to crew life.  Some of the biggest D & M’s happen in the back galley in the middle of the night and it’s not all “galley gossip”.  Let’s not forget the crew room upline and the endless parties!

Thanks to that back galley and those drunken nights most crew tend to have a pretty tight bond and have it covered when they need to talk. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received has been between LAX and BNE.

I did say most but some are not so lucky. It can be a very lonely job at times. Long periods alone and a lot of time awake at all hours of the night watching infomercials in hotel rooms.

Gossip travels very fast in this industry and I’m sure that at one time or another we’ve all heard some disturbing things. Self harm disturbing things. Which is sad.

In a job where you have to put your best face forward, be professional and competent at all times; this can be a challenge. Coupled with sleep deprivation, not so friendly passengers and some personal issues, the job can become overwhelming, stressful and definitely impact your mental health well-being.

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Trust me, I know this firsthand from my 20 years of experience in this industry. So unless that party went really well or you found someone up for a chat in the galley, you can feel like you’re very much alone. Especially in the middle of the night in LA on a 38 hour slip!

As a company though, Qantas does pretty well in providing support. I didn’t know that our techies undergo aero-medical testing by a Doctor.  Once a year if you’re under 40 and every 6 months over 40.

They also provide us formal and informal monitoring to identify potential issues as well as training for stress management, teamwork, communication and behavioural awareness.

We also now have effective fatigue management processes and access to EAP for all employees and their immediate families- which is awesome.

In our industry we seem to be lucky now but what about our future generation of male crew? Ensuring that they are supported and given strategies to be mentally healthy is music to my ears. But maybe that music needs to be turned up just a little?

There also seems to a lot more going on today with kids. With a young impressionable, almost teenaged male in my home it’s something that I’ll be supporting for the community wholeheartedly. Do we need to change the way we communicate these issues to the up and coming generation?

Let’s not stick to that old adage: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Let’s try early prevention education and support not just for our fly guys but the community on a whole. You never know when you might need support, but you do know that you will at some stage.

And personally if growing a Mo can help remove the unwanted stigma that surrounds mental health issues; especially in my industry, I’d grow a Mo for sure!!

You can do your bit this November by either:

  • Growing a Mo;
  • Sponsoring blokes that are growing mo’s;
  • Taking the Move Challenge; or
  • Hosting an event.

It’s not too late!! visit Movember.com.au for more information.

Separated By Work – The OMC Review

Anyone who has worked away, or had loved ones work away for extended periods, knows that it comes with both a magnification of any existing issues and a set of different challenges from “normal” employment.

Folks have countless coping strategies; some excellent and some not so much…some intentional and some on pure subconscious reaction. I’m in no position to say which are best but what I do know is you can never have too many options.

So couple of months ago I was message tic-tac’ing with the lovely Kirsty O’Callaghan about a few things FIFO well-being. In this chat she asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing her book – Separated by Work.

Now as well as being an author, Kirsty is an accomplished Public Speaker, Executive Consultant, Coach and FIFO Wife / Mum who has numerous awards and accolades to her name. So as you can imagine, I wasn’t sure if she was actually serious, so of course when she asked for a postal address I knew she was fair dinkum and I couldn’t wait to see what this book had in store for me.

So after a couple of cross country flights and a few late nights, here are my brief thoughts on Kirsty’s FIFO Paperback.

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Long Story Short

Separated by Work is 276 pages dedicated to Kirsty’s take on all things FIFO. It is aimed at building, bolstering, or consolidating the FIFO stakeholder’s tool kit of coping / resilience strategies so we all can get the most from this chosen life style.

Kirsty covers a broad spectrum of topics and she has broken down the book into six parts. The Parts and their corresponding Chapters are titled so they are self-explanatory and a clear reference point for their contents. Each can be read as a stand-alone section/chapter to the rest of the book; so if one title draws your attention, to you can dive straight into that chapter.

Along the way there are plenty of personal anecdotes, shared stories from FIFO workers and suggestions from Kirsty’s own experience / research. During most of the chapters, you are engaged with questions and short activities with space to make notes

Subject matter experts (SMEs) in specialist fields are also utilised to succinctly provide expert opinion directed at the FIFO audience. These range from financial planning to relationships; healthy eating to raising special needs children.

What I really liked…

The Range of Topics

Kirsty covers literally the entire gamut of issues and challenges that FIFO workers and their families do or may encounter; to the point where this book would be a helpful tool for those who are just interested in tips on general life.

Separated by Work captures the usual FIFO suspects with  Chapter titles like – About the Money, Relationship Success – 50 Shades of Away and Communication – Words that can Boost, Crush or Baffle.

But, it also ventures into some lesser known struggles of the FIFO existence such as – Managing Change for High Support Needs, Life After FIFO, The Unexpected – You Cannot Prepare For It and my favourite…Not Just About a Happy Ending.

The SME input

No one is as smart as the sum of all of us, something that Kirsty really taps into. She has not engaged any old SME but ones from her own close network. For me this adds so much more authenticity to the read and you can really feel that these professionals want to make a difference for Kirsty’s audience.

There is Louise the Home Economist and Professional Organiser; Delma the Portfolio Manager; Kim the Eating Psychologist and Health Coach; and Anna the Online Communication Specialist.

Personally, the most enjoyable was Carmel Murphy whose passion and dedication to special needs kids almost jumped off the page and slapped me!! Her advice on Social Stories is excellent and is something I plan to try with my 3.

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What I loved!!

The activities

At first I thought these were a bit gimmicky so skimmed over them to concentrate on the reading. It wasn’t until I got all the way to Chapter 6 that I tried one…and was hooked!!

I went back and did all the previous activities and found them interesting, enjoyable…and intrigued as to what they managed to suck out of me. Even now reviewing my notes to write this review, I am loving the reflection on these and how much self-awareness they provided.

The Structure

For me, this book is a reference tool and one that I will keep handy. The format which Kirsty has utilized is fantastic for this purpose. The titles of the parts and chapters mean there is no flicking through thinking “where did I read that again”.

The information is also segregated in such a way that limited cross referencing is needed and there is little preceding information needed to pick up and jump straight into any chapter. The parts flow well and are in a good order to keep the theme of the book rolling and consistent.

Add to this the words and line spacing are conducive to a casual read and the chapters are short enough to hold my attention…which is not that easy!!

The Openness and Frankness of the Discussion

this is the passionfruit icing between two vanilla crumbly cookies. It added that piece of bitter / sweet flavour that that makes Separated by Work the enjoyable treat that it is.

Kirsty really opened up and shared some very intimate information from her family and personal experiences. Believe me this takes courage, character and conviction but adds the perfect amount of extra credibility and integrity that just completes the work.

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The Wrap

Separated by Work is not a gospel or bible for all things FIFO, nor does it pretend to be. But it is the best collation I’ve come across yet of facts, thoughts, experiences, tips and advice to cover all stakeholders in this lifestyle.

For those new to FIFO, or looking to take the plunge, this book is a fantastic tool to build some realistic expectations about what to expect and to start planning for what you are likely (and unlikely) to encounter.

For the experienced FIFO workers / families, it provides a great opportunity for personal reflection on the problems we face and possibly offer some new solutions to them. This was definitely the case for me as it bought a whole other perspective to common issues we in the FIFO thing all have faced and I’ve come away with some new angles of attack, no doubt.

One big piece of value I took from Separated by Work, and totally unexpectedly, was the tangibility and awareness of seemingly quite common challenges that many of my colleagues and team members face. Things that have not affected me and I never gave a second thought to, are covered by Kirsty and it really reminded me that “everyone has a story, especially in FIFO”.

So there you have it, my very brief and totally unqualified thoughts on Separated by Work. Of course, don’t take my word for it, go to the Unity Words website and check it out for yourself.

Until the next instalment; Keep Safe and #StayConnected!!!

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My FIFO 22 Push-Ups Challenge – The Wrap Up

22 Push-up s a day for 22 days…a challenge I was nominated for back on the 15th of August.

This initiative started in the States and has grown legs across social media and for good reason. This awareness campaign highlighted the alarming statistic that 22 US returned servicemen suicide daily due to PTSD and other mental / emotions disorders developed while serving their county.

In conversations with those close to the Australian military, I found out that our rate is also very concerning. Not to mention our current and ex emergency service men and women who develop similar afflictions in the service of our community.

As we all know, there is plenty of concern about the effects of the FIFO life on the worker’s mental well-being; along with that of the families they leave behind.

With this in mind, I decided to use my challenge to not only raise awareness for this cause but also of my life as a FIFO worker. Introduce to the people and places that make up my life both on and off site.

Basically to bring more tangibility to this FIFO thing and start more discussion around coping strategies, challenges and opportunities.

So, here is a wrap of my 22 day Challenge (click the heading for video links)…

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Day 1: Kick Off – 22 a day While FIFO.

I introduced you to my back 2 back and agreed that curry with the Irish Boys is our favourite night of the week of site…the weekly family dinner.

Introducing – Gary King

Directed – Jenna Melbourne

Day 2: Why One Take Videos are Awesome.

We met the team for the weekly “logistics” meeting…a night we all look forward to.

Staring – Santhi Rajendran / Nigel Bourke

Directed – Matthew Horwood

Extras – Ross Elford / Mark Grant

Day 3: Come up to My Room.

Out of bed at 3am to show you around my room. This is a place I am constantly asked about so I thought I’d show you around. It’s what I call home for 26 days and it’s not too bad.

Day 4: 22 in the Desert.

Walking to and from work is a great way many here utilize to keep physically active, in turn contributing to mental and emotional well-being while away. Taking a stroll, brisk walk or run along this track is a fantastic means to and start / finish the working day in a positive way.

Day 5: Sam is back for the cause.

Big Sam Faiers came and joined me for a wrap up of his World’s Greatest Shave and some insight into how hard it was to shave off “that” beard. The support from his FIFO friends contributed in a big way to this great cause.

Day 6: Kayne’s Web Redemption.

Kayne Gordon, a self-confessed project B-Grade celeb, joined me to prove to the FaceBook community he was capable of not only doing 22 push-ups but informing us how he keeps his magnificent physique while away working. “I just lift heavy things!!”

Day 7: 22 with the Maradona Kababs

I crashed a training session of these famous Kababs and was told how important the team and the social time is for not only their physical fitness but also their mental well-being while being on long project rosters.

Introducing – Tom Murtagh and the 7 Maradona Kababs

Directed – Guillauma Mongelard / Nigel Bourke

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Day 8: 22 and Some Vitamin Sea 

Today I showed you around the beach. It’s not your ideal beach but its sand next to a vast ocean which is good enough for me. Getting back to nature is, for me, such an important way to keep my mind in check. I am surrounded by nature up here but there is always something a little spiritual about being on the breach, fresh salt air and no one around.

Day 9: 22 for the Night Shift Crew

Night shift is an important part of any project / large operational facility. Night shift also comes with its own unique challenges around fatigue and mental strength…as I wrote about in last years’ blog. These 22 were for the night shift crew.

Day 10: 22 and Stood up 

Michelle Garrett accepted my invitation for push-ups this night…but she STOOD ME UP!! As she and quite a few others said, she isn’t the first and won’t be the last girl to stand me up but luckily Justine was there to save the day…and my dignity!! We have some fantastic women in our FIFO community and these ladies are just two and a big bunch.

Starring – Justine Archibald

Directed – Lizzy Boland

Day 10 – ER Special Surprise Video – The Dark Lord Claps

Later on the night of the 11th day I saw this video come across my feed. I found out the Michelle had organized her own push-ups video for me with some of her crew. This meant so much as the team knew how important this was to me and to go this far to organize, film and post was just amazing. How good are FIFO friends??!!

Starring – Nic “The Dark” Lord & Nigel Bourke

Directed / Narrated – Michelle Garrett

Day 11: 22 On what I wish was the 19th  

This is the driving range and putting green in camp. It’s definitely no links but if you like to hit a few balls it certainly does the trick. I reckon it keeps quite a few would be golfers; and some not so would be ones pretty sane. It’s these small extras around camp that make it a little more little home.

Day 12: 22 and a Few Goodbyes

The end of any project is a very mentally and emotionally tough time for many FIFO workers and their families. So I decided to get 5 members of my team who were leaving before I returned from R&R to ask them about why they are heading off and what opportunities awaited them.

Co-host – Gary King

Starring – Luke Handsaker, Daryl Wade, Justine Archibald, Ben O’Brien, Tony Vink, Tom M, John Pelagio

Directed – Michelle Garrett

Day 13: Fly Out day 22

Naturally this is a FIFO workers favourite day so bags packed and in storage, travel pack / laptop / pillow packed and it was 22 to say goodbye to site for the rest of the challenge.

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Day 14: 22 with the Hardman

One of the first places I go when I get home is my Nitro Boxing and Fitness. 26 days usually washes out with a good glove and sparring session with Isaac. Nothing like jumping into the ring to calm the mind and clear the head after a long swing.

Staring – Isaac Hardman

Day 15: 44 with Food Royalty

So it was down to the lovely New Farm Park to meet Shannon from My Food Religion. She gave us a brief insight into why she believes that eating a healthy diet can improve your mental well-being; given the stomach is referred to as the second brain. For more great tips and easy recipes, visit her website here or @myfoodreligion on FB.

Starring – Shannon Williams

Day 16: 22 with the Weight of my Favourite People

These 3 are the best!! If anything keeps my head above water its the thought of some fun with these guys when I get home…or just the “Hi Daddy” from down the other end of the phone. Love them to bits.

Introducing – Rocky, Scarlett and Koko.

Day 17: 22 and some advice from experience

I was lucky enough to get some time with Paula from Yummy Mummy Physio. Paula is a champion in the depression awareness space; especially for suicide widows and is active in support and awareness after caring for and ultimately losing her own husband through depression. Paula gave us her #1 tip for caring for loved ones with depression…take care of your as well. Paula is now embarking on her own venture aimed at helping soon to be / new mothers help them self through this tough time with eating and exercise plans. For more info, visit her website here or search @yummymummyphysio on FB.

Starring – Paula Hindle

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Day 18: 22 from the Finish Line

Today was the yearly beast race. 22kms and 44 obstacles through the bush and my year mind cleanse. I also
introduced you to Renae Jones and her Husband Matt from Brisbane Run Squad. Renae explained how important regular exercise was to her in coping with the daily duties of being a teacher, raising 2 young boys, operating a small business and having a partner who works shift work with the emergency services.

Starring – Renae Jones / Matthew Lyne

Day 19: 22 for all you Awesome dads

I was a happy Father Day!!! Ninja Pack in bed after a big day and I took some time, in between wines, to do my 22 late at night.

Day 20: 22 to Rival Jeremy

I was inspired by Jeremy O’Brien; International Off-Shore Super-Dad to do my 22 with mountains in the background. Not quite the Swiss Alps but a 30minute ride through the bush got me over looking Samford Valley. Time with nature is always nice and is definitely fuel for the soul!!

Day 21: 22 from Trackside

Tuesday of R&R is my Moto Track day with the kids. my wee me goes for his lesson and I take the girls riding on their quad bike. Then it’s time for me to hit the track and get some pointers. I love it and the pack count down the days. I was joined by Jody from Ultimate Motocross who told us why he loves coaching the small kids in a sport he is passionate about.

Introducing – Jody Herson

Supporting cast – Scarlett / Koko

Day 22: The final 22…with claps 

Well it was my last day of both my R&R and the Push-Up Challenge and I had to finish with the clap push-up gauntlet that was thrown down on day 10.

So here are the final numbers.img_8303_20160915202430

13,310 total FaceBook Views

37 Special Guests and budding Directors

13 Days on site

9 days at home

22 Different Locations

And a grand total of…..1,144 Push-ups!!!!

Well I hope you got something out of my 22 days. My aim here was make my life as a FIFO working single Dad more transparent and raise FIFO awareness just a little bit…whilst keeping up the recognition for the overarching cause of this viral challenge.

I also tried to bring some visibility in camp life, social interactions and the things that are important to me and believe help me to maintain high levels of physical, mental and emotional well-being in my life.

Well I’m way over my word limit here so until next time…keep safe and stay connected!!

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FIFO-‘preneurs: The day I met Jimmy

Working away in FIFO is an interesting place to be. It’s basically a little melting pot of culture, personalities and most intriguing of all…sense of humours. As I’ve written before in blog 4, one of the best parts about working in this industry is the people you meet. This was also seconded by the Lion Cub and Miss Diamond; these projects are full of them.

In discussion with folks on site, you get some very random and quite amazing stories. I’ve meet an ex Pink Floyd roadie, a singer / song writer with an album on iTunes, a qualified 747 flight instructor and even a American Hooter’s waitress on a working holiday.

Some of the more interesting conversations I’ve had in this industry are around people’s entrepreneurial spirit and business ventures. Anywhere from selling talcum powder to the Chinese to thoroughbred horse breeding; flavoured popcorn manufacturing to  designing women’s fashion; the FIFO community are an entrepreneurial bunch.

I’ve even met a guy who…”in his spare time”, designed and built a hobby hydro-electrical power plant in his back yard. Who freak’n does that!!

So this leads me to one such interesting and very random conversation I had a week or so ago. Let me set the scene…

13694995_1812725145627972_458263519_nThe mid-morning sun reflected off the scorching crimson red earth. The cool, dry breeze swept across my weathered face and as I looked out across an ocean that glistened like 1000 diamonds strewn across a blue blanket, and realised….

No… I was actually sitting patiently in a small que as I had been nominated for Drug & Alcohol testing that day. I sat there and listened to a couple of electricians next to me compare stories and bang on about previous projects and was getting a wee chuckle eves dropping on their conversation.

My ears pricked up when one said to the other, “…and how’s the app going?”

So of course this got my attention instantly. As soon as he came out of the test room I asked him about this app. After a short period of small talk we got to, “Well I’m Regan mate”…”G’day Regan; James but people call me Jimmy”.

We spoke for a while and out of this 5 minute conversation came a great all round FIFO story and one that I thought I’d share. So…this is the brief story of when I met Jimmy.

Jimmy is electrician so we can assume he is a switched on guy and unlike his name sake from Sienfeld…did not refer to himself in the third person.

Jimmy is 32 years old and has been working FIFO in some capacity for most of his trade career. Starting in 2007, he has worked both off shore and on shore and likes the rosters off shore provides but the comradery of the large teams on land based jobs.

Jimmy reckons that, apart from the money and time off, his favourite part of working in this industry is the people he has met. He has made some great friends over his years working away; some of which are still close mates today.

Also, according to Jimmy, no matter what site you go to, you can always find people with common interests and have a story to tell…some more interesting than others (Jimmy’s words not mine).

“So you’ve been doing this a while then mate…why’s that?”…I asked; in some way thinking it was my business after the 2 minutes we were chatting.

“I’m in it to provide a financially comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle for my girlfriend and I. While it is hard at times, in my opinion it is hands down the quickest way to get ahead in life financially”…or something like that was Jimmy’s response.

He did also mention that this was not something that he wanted to do long term with a possible exit after this project for “working back in town gig” as a subby.

So at about this stage of the discussion I decided this was enough small talk and came out with it..

“So what’s this App you have built?”

Jimmy proceeded to tell me it is a 4×4 Recovery app…basically, when you get stuck off road you can signal to other app users in the area who can pin point your location and come to the rescue.

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“F*#k mate…that’s awesome!! Talk me through how you came up with it”.

Jimmy continued telling me that the idea for his app came along while he was working offshore (this is where Jimmy does his best thinking; when he is away).

“I love four wheel driving and was following a few Facebook groups that were popping up which provided the same service as 4×4 Recovery app does.”

“But the problem with these pages”, continued Jimmy, “is they come with a lot of irrelevant posts which in turn, render the pages less effective than they could be. I noticed people leaving the groups purely because of the high number of these posts. I decided to turn the idea into an app which serves one purpose only and has no possibility of irrelevant notifications.”

“So mate, how did you get it off the ground?”

“Initially, I looked into learning how to program the app myself but just by chance I was having dinner with the Medic that night and mentioned it to him and he put me onto the developer website Fiverr.com. I tracked down an app developer on there and while I was reluctant at first in regards to sending money to this guy, he reassured me enough that I was able to trust him and in turn I have ended up with an app that I am very happy with.”

“Nice one!!” Another random FIFO conversation story within a random FIFO conversation story…love it!!

Jimmy proceeded to tell me that he ended up typing the app process up in notes on his phone after trying his best to explain exactly what he wanted.

“I was fairly sceptical on how it was going to turn out seeing as my developer is based in India and 4wding isn’t a very common hobby over there from what I could tell. It was a relatively long development process and the budget blew out a little more than expected but I hope the extra time and money invested will be worth it in the end.”

After a bit more in depth discussion about the ins and outs of getting a app built…a challenge we both share, I found out the 4×4 Recovery has only been live for a matter of weeks and already has seen a handful of downloads from overseas customers!!

“Now that it’s live, I find the best time to brainstorm is while I’m up here as there is less distraction than at home. It’s live now and I need to market it!!”

13694995_1812725145627972_458263519_nSo there you go. Lining up for a drug / alcohol test and I meet a likeminded, entrepreneurial guy; with an interesting story and an enthusiastic buzz. Not a bad way to kill 5 minutes of my day really.

Working away FIFO, like any job really provides the tangible and obvious opportunities that you see when taking the role. But it is also those unseen or complementary opportunities that present themselves along the way that are the most exciting and chatting to Jimmy about his app…I am sure this is the case for him at the moment.

To view / download 4x4Recovery App, visit this link or hit Jimmy’s Facebook page.

So…until the next instalment, keep safe and Stay Connected….while OFF ROAD!!

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Are FIFO Social Connections Important??

How do you live a good life?? That is the million dollar question isn’t it.

I’m pretty sure the answer here differs between us all. And it should given our slightly different social conditioning / moral compass alignment…the world would be a dull place if we all knew how to live the same perfect life.

In my NYE blog post, I set myself a goal this year to improve. Not because I particularly want to but basically because I feel I need to. Just a lot of small improvements across the board would be a nice start.

But what does this actually mean? And where do I start? How do I start?

This is something I have I have been pondering for 6 months now so as you can guess I have taken but a few small…some might suggest tiny baby; steps on my journey of possibly 1000 miles!

And given the majority of my life currently is spent at work, should I consider narrowing this down to living a better FIFO life? I think yes.

Well a couple of months ago I posted a video on the One Minute Closer FaceBook Page of an amazing TED Talk by a psychiatrist named Robert Waldinger. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here and if you have you’ll know what I’m talking about.

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Long story short…

Since 1938, Harvard University has been researching to try and find “What makes a Good Life” and Professor Waldinger is the 4th person to head this study. Basically, the study has focussed around 724 men and every 2 years they are contacted and a list of studies, questionnaires and checks are performed.

For a full run down, have a look at this link…it’s a mind blowing under taking!!

So what does make a good life? What keeps us happy, healthy and living to ripe old ages?

And more importantly…are these lessons transferrable to the FIFO / working away life?

Well basically the outcome of this study was not fame, fortune and / or success….but strong and healthy social connections.

Now for me, this is somewhat a relief as I am neither famous nor successful. And my only fortune being 3 long term investments that I won’t see mature for at least another 15 years and the return I’m guaranteed is the satisfaction of seeing them grow up.

The 3 major findings around these social connects that Professor Waldinger outlines are:

  1. The importance of Social Connection.
  2. The quality not quantity of relationships is important.
  3. Healthy Social Connections help stave off mental decline.

So with this, let’s narrow the discussion down from life to FIFO life. Why?

Well:

A: because after all this is a FIFO / working away blog and;

B: with the amount of time spent away from home, the importance of these relationships will stretch to those in your FIFO life.

Here are some numbers to put some context around time away from home amongst a selection of my close friends.

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As you can see….working away, not just a “FIFO” role can see you spend a significant amount of time away from your family and friends. Away from those with whom you most likely have the strongest social connection.

Take me. I spend 25% of my time at home trying to solidify my connection to my kids, family and long-time friends. I barely have time to nurture my current relationships let alone try to form any real new ones.

That leaves a 75% gap to fill…away from home and these long term and strong connections.

This means away from my support networks, safety blankets, the people who care for me and my wellbeing…or does it?? For me, one of the biggest challenges in working away is maintaining the social connections at home while also forming and nurturing ones away.

So in this context, let’s explore Professor Waldinger’s findings with regards to working away from home.

The importance of Social Connection

In the words of this study…loneliness is toxic!! In my October 12th blog, my few minutes of research found that those who are connected to family, friends, and the community are happier, healthier, and live longer. This was a major finding of the Harvard study.

But we have all read, heard or witnessed first-hand how straining the working away / FIFO lifestyle can be on relationships. Given the impact this looks to have on our health, happiness and wellbeing, it is worth thinking about maintain quality relationships.

But…if you have been in this environment before, you will know what kind of juggling act this is. Why? Well here’s my opinion.

You need to maintain a strong connection at home, because it’s just that; home. It’s where you go when you are not at work and where you go when the job finishes. It’s your family, lifelong friends and your people in general. These are the long term, probably stable connections.

This was one of the main drivers in the conception of One Minute Closer. To provide a tool to help strengthen these ties with those at home…to keep the connection.

But now, what about with those we spend our time away with? Healthy workplace relationships are a focus in most industries but when you work away; particularly in remote camp / accommodation, it is all the more important.

Time zone differences, questionable internet, inconsistent phone coverage and long work hours make it extremely hard to stay as connected to those at home. On top of this; challenging days, crowded gyms, set meal times and long swings make building strong work place relationships even more important.

When you work in a remote place; it is important to feel a sense belonging, build trust in your work mates and have a feeling of connection / brotherhood to the small community of which you are a part. You can’t have a bad day and cry on your partner’s shoulder or go to the pub for a beer with your best mate.

If you concentrate on one and neglect the other; well you either go home to no one or come to work / live in a community to which you feel you have no place. It’s a tough balance.

The connections and relationships you make when away are extremely important and is why they too can become very strong. We saw an example of this with our Diamond in the Rough and a long lasting friendship. On top of this, the nature of these industries is quite transient so important people come in and out of your life more often…which is extremely tough for some.

I have made quite a few strong friendships in this industry, who I continue to maintain social connections with and hopefully after this project is done I will have a few more.

Staying connected works both ways; and this is another reason for One Minute Closer’s existence.

So this is all well and good but how can it be achieved? Well, here are a few pointers that I try and use and may work for others. They are by no means fool proof and are high level but might get your thoughts going about what you can do.

Social Media: This may seem obvious but is a great way to remember birthdays and chime in to the occasional conversation. Makes those at home remember you are still there and also reach out on special occasions.

Communication platforms: Make use of as many as you can. Email, SMS, FB Messenger, phone, FaceTime, Skype, postcards etc. Some are time savers and some are more intimate but all are effective!!

Make the effort: Maintaining connections requires effort and you have to make it!!

Communication: Tell your friends and family your movements, availability; both while onsite and away. If they understand you time limitations and plans, they will be more supportive (hopefully). Also communicate how important site / work connections are to you while you are away. Tell them that you have a poker game every week, do boot camp Tuesday nights, have a beer and chips on a Friday and why you look forward to it….why this keeps your head together while you are away.

But…yep, there is a but. I can tell you from experience that this works both ways. Understand why it is important for you partner, kids, family to hear from you regularly. Refer to point one on this…there are so many ways for a quick hello which can make all the difference.

Personalise your Space…and show them: A picture in your work space, a special toy next to your bed and send them a picture so they know. It’s some reassurance and it’s also kind of nice!!

Stay present: When you are at home, be at home. Take from that what you will.

4802180-ships-anchor-chain-on-the-sandNow given the above; back to my original question of improvement. As I’ve said before, I like to lead by example but in some areas I’m a do as I say, not as I do kinda guy and this is one of them. I need to heed my own advise and work on consolidating my social connections both at home and at work. I’m OK at it but certainly not good enough.

So…are strong FIFO working relationships important? I’d say they are a necessity….an absolute necessity. They make your time at work more enjoyable, your time at home invaluable, the lives of those you leave behind a little less stressful and your memories of your FIFO experience just that little bit rosier.

So, until the next instalment; keep safe and STAY CONNECTED!!!

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The Alchemist and some FIFO analogies.

In a conversation with a colleague some weeks ago, she recommended that I read a book that she reads every year…just to remind her of some home truths and align her for the next 12 months.

Now I didn’t take too much notice of this. She fancies herself as a bit of a care free gypsy like person but it’s a pretty thin veil. Anyway, she gave me this book and I thought I’d give it a go. 170 pages, big text…sounded like little effort and the intrigue got me.

Now the book in question is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and was written in 1987 over the course of 2 weeks. It has sold more than 65 million copies and holds the world record for the most translated book by a living author. Yet I’d never heard of it.

The Alchemist is the most absorbing book I have read for a long time. Since chatting about it have realised that a lot of people have read it (over 65 million apparently) and I’ve have entered into some really interesting discussions here on site about it.

So the colleague who recommended it emailed and asked:

“Do you think this project is our crystal shop and we’re are all going to make a move with the money we made, will do what we said or just do as the crystal shop owner and not go to Mekka?”

That’s a really good analogy and got me thinking about what others I could draw from this book and relate to “this project”.

So, to channel Jules Winnfield in his chat with Ringo about the righteous man, the evil man and the shepherd , here are some meanings and analogies of my own…to try and answer the “What do you think this project is…?” part.

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I think for some this project is the crystal shop and they are the boy….stumbling across it, staying here longer than expected and leaving with plans and dreams which don’t necessarily align. Saying goodbye is hard but leaving is easy and they are excited to see what he next chapter holds.

For some it is the crystal shop but they are the old man…been here too long and scared to face the real world; and the land of their dreams. Change for them is scary and leaving is a choice they will be forced to make.

For some, this project is the shepherd’s sheep…they feel safe with their their flock and only take on the lessons of simple animals and relate these back to life’s great journeys.

For some, they are like the shepherd boy arriving in the African market plaza…rich in activity, get swept up in the culture and new / exciting things but they trust the wrong people and get left with nothing.

For some this project is like the wise King and they are the shepherd boy…lessons are imparted to them but is not until long after they part company that these lessons can be learned or even acknowledged. When they look around in years to come through distant memory, there will be the familiarity of this project in the faces that surround them.

For some this project will be like the Merchant’s daughter…captivating after one brief encounter and will hold intrigue for a long time to come. But only when other opportunities are put in front of them they will they realise that seeking this fickle maiden is not the only hope for happiness.

For some, it is the caravaner’s tent where they meet a strange yet friendly Englishman….

This project could be the desert sands between Tarifa and the Oasis. Full of excitement and intrigue at the start of the journey but as the days go by, the excitement fades, the nights become longer and the campfire conversations extinguish.

The deep hole the shepherd boy dug near the pyramids could represent the project to some people….they believe destiny lead them here to find their fortune but no matter how much they dig; it will not be found.

But maybe for some it is the Alchemist’s pan…creating wealth that can be split amongst those you care about; even putting a quarter aside for those times when you will be desperate for it.

I hope this project for some will be like the Oasis to the shepherd boy. An alluring melting pot of activity in the most unlikely place. A place where true love is waiting by a well every afternoon.

Or conversely, this project could be the desert beyond the Oasis…as it consumers husbands that are waved off by their wives who remain in the bustling melting pots of activity waiting for their men to return to them.

Maybe for some, this project will be like the Alchemist to the shepherd boy; a mysterious enigma that guides them to a destiny that deep down they knew was theirs.

But…I think for me this project will be like the drinking peppermint tea at the top of the hill.

It’s an opportunity that many people don’t know exists. Some have heard and do not know how to seek it. Some decide to start the trek and for various reasons, do not make it to the top to enjoy the tea.

For those who make it through the door of the shop, it’s a win in itself and for others, just another steep walk. But the prize in the end is the same…the tea.

Some may drink it fast, not savouring the flavour and leave the shop in search of better tea.

Some may sip it slowly until it cools, finish their tea and be satisfied that their effort was worth it.

Some may take a sip of the tea, not like the bitter taste and ask the Crystal Merchant if there is another flavour tea..or leave the shop disappointed that the tea was not worth the effort.

Me…I’d savour the walk to the top of the hill, a trek few people get to do. I’d order my tea and while I wait, would browse around the crystal shop, admiring the wonderful sites and beautiful works of art the Crystal Merchant has on display.

I’d sip my tea…it would be hot at first but as it cools I’d take bigger sips and enjoy its unique flavour while it lasts.

I’d take my last sip before the tea went cold, thank the merchant for his hospitality and delightful beverage and slowly wonder back down the hill to the crowded plaza. I’d enjoy reflecting on the short journey, knowing that I’ll never again get to enjoy the experience of my first peppermint tea, in the crystal shop at the top of the hill.

I’d then start to look for another hill to climb with its own unique prize at the top.

Pyramid 2 (3)Well I’m not too sure if that made a whole lot of sense but hopefully if you have read The Alchemist it might. And although I have related it to “this project” I guess you could span the scope of meaning to the FIFO in general or even most forms of working away.

It’s certainly a choice to work in the industries that we do and as I’ve said so many times, we’re all in it for different reasons and reflection on the journey will yield many and varied analogies I’m sure.

To close out, I’ll leave you with a parting thought from the Alchemist himself….’It’s not often that money saves a person’s life”.

So, until the next instalment; keep safe and stay connected!!

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Taking the sting out of missing Magic Moments working FIFO

I saw an email notification on my iPad a few days ago from my son’s teacher. Nothing really out of the ordinary; they are a commutative lot at his school but the subject heading, Assembly Awards, caught my attention.

To put some context in here…my wee me’s teacher flagged that she thought he was falling behind in some areas of reading and writing. Sighting attention related issues, his mother and I think tanked this and with us both knowing how hard he tries at everything; explored a few avenues we thought would help.

Long story short; he got custom glasses for class work which seems to have helped. For the last few weeks all the little guy can talk about…besides his blossoming MotoCross career is how well he’s doing at school.

So, back on track. I opened the email not knowing what to expect and was overcome by so much excitement and sadness; literally all at once. You see, his teacher was writing to tell us that he was getting an award in school assembly for outstanding performance in that weeks test.

Turns out he’s gone from an average of 3-4 out of 15 to 14!!

I know how hard he was trying…know how disappointed he was that he was not working well enough; and know how scared he was of not moving up to grade 3 with all his friends.

I could feel every ounce of frustration that came with me, his mother and teachers telling him he could do it but wasn’t trying hard enough. All the while struggling with why he physically was not being able to do what he was being asked.

It was almost pure elation thinking about how proud he would be, how relieved he would be and most of all knowing that any confidence he lost would now be back in spades!!

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But…throw in the FIFO lifestyle and this becomes a double edged sword. I was only a few days into my swing and knowing that I was still over 3 weeks from giving him a big hug and kiss, telling him how proud I am of him and…again, how sorry I was for questioning his efforts; was gut wrenching.

I’ve spoken to a few people about this particular situation; all of whom know me well enough to understand the relationship I have with my kids and how I would feel…even my ex-wife.

But here’s the thing; and really the motivation for this blog. All of them asked, “….but you miss events all the time; why is this so different?”

It’s a fair question. It’s one I’ve asked myself many times over the past few years. Am I only making it different…am I over thinking it?

I think not…and here’s why.

In my time working away; I’ve missed countless notable occasions.

Christmas 3 years in a row, Easters, school holidays, weddings, anniversaries, buck’s parties, births, deaths, poker games, Iron Maiden concerts, beach trips, surfing holidays, school concerts, Jnr Ballet recitals, first tackle junior rugby games, parent / teacher meetings, school re-unions, mates visiting from O/S….hell I’ve been away for 9 of the last 12 kids birthdays!!

But you know….the thing is; while as disappointing as planned events are to miss, you kind of get used to it. You know your roster (because you have a fantastic app…One Minute Closer) and when these kinds of events come up, you can say yes or no and move on with it.

With the exception of the deaths I guess; leave that out of the above statement.

Missing special occasions is part of taking this lifestyle choice…it is what it is. I always flag this with my kids as soon as I know; explain to them I will be at work but will make it up when I get back. They say they understand and it’s a chat we have more and more often now….eeks!!

This assembly award though…was a slightly more bitter pill to swallow. Yes part of the choice; yes you can’t be at all of these but in my mind, this was the time when my little man wanted to look out over the audience and see his Mum and Dad smiling and chapping for him.

This was the time that he wanted to hear how proud I was of him and that I knew he could do it. I couldn’t stop thinking that this was the time when he wanted me to look him in the eyes and say “mate wouldn’t have missed this for the world’.

So…what’s my point here?

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Besides likening the disappointment of me missing a Year 2 assembly to that of The Expendables Part 3; what can we take from this? I’ve had a good ponder and come up with a few things that help me with missing special events while away.

I haven’t written a point based blog in a while; so here goes. These may not be applicable to everyone or all situations but some food for thought none the less:

8 of the ways I use to take the sting out of missing important occasions:

Importance of the Occasion

Communicate this to those close to you…especially the mother of your children. They are the ones who can represent you there, pass on massages and / or capture timeless moments for you.

Talk to those who you will disappoint

For me, this is almost always my kids. When I’m back and I know I will miss an event, I’ll tell them as much in advance as I can so they start chatting about it. In all seriousness, I am finding One Minute Closer great for this as it shows them I will be away and they can count how long after I will be home.

But it’s not always my kids. Recently I had to decline going my best mate’s major milestone party. I was back and forth for a couple of weeks trying to plan to get there and am sure he knew how devo I was by how much I wanted to go!!

Photographic EvidenceIMG_7114[1]

When you are away, getting photos in real time is a fantastic feeling and makes you just the bit more connected to the occasion. If you are away, ask for picture. If you have friends and family away; send them pictures. Even a tag on FB can boost the moral!

I got this one on my girls 5th birthday a few days ago and it was just the nicest thing.

Random pictures at random times are a great way to know the real world still remembers you. Good rule of thumb – any picture, from anyone, anywhere someone else would rather be; is a good picture.

Caught on Camera

When I arrived back at camp the day of the assembly, the first thing I did was check for a video of the award. I knew his mother would take oneIMG_7108[2] and send it. She does this at swimming days, cross country, ballet, rugby and most enjoyably at tantrum time!! She knows how much I love watching my ninjas at play.

One thing I do look forward to when I get home and have videos of the kids on my phone, is to stream to the TV. We’ll watch it together on the big screen; over and over….and over….

But, this doesn’t need to be kid related. A video of the drunken uncle at the birthday party, the crying dad at the wedding or just some good old random Saturday soccer Mums at the morning game will brighten the weekend.

The Pre-Game Pep Talk and the Post-Match De-brief

Make a call before the big event and get a de-brief after. I try to FaceTime if I can but at least a call. Send your love and wishes of good luck and then get all the excitement of coming 19th in the Cross Country after the fact.

“That’s OK Dad, I didn’t want to do well because if I did I’d go to zones and I’d have to run 600mtrs not 500!!”.

Channel Arnie – be back when you say “I’ll be back”.

When I’m back on R&R…for me it’s all about making up for lost time and the un-avoidable disappointments of the FIFO life. Volunteer at school, help coach the rugby team, skate parks, motorcross lessons…when the kids are not at school it’s all about them.

I guess that is the same for other events. Making it up to parents, mates, partners…Bruce Dickenson for that special occasion that you could not be at.

But this is a do as I say, not as I do thing as I am known for re-occurring friend fails. “I’ll make it up to you in mud and petrol mate!!”

The Monthly PostcardIMG_7112[1]

Every time I get back to site, I send each one of my ninjas a postcard with all the photos from my R&R. I use TouchNote which is a great tool and simple to use. My 3 look forward to their card every month and are now saying when I’m home “can we take a post card selfie Dad?”

I guess this is a way of showing them how much I value our time together and gives them a visual reference that they allIMG_7111[1] keep next to their bed at Mum’s. For the occasions I miss they have a reminder of the times when I’m back.

Calm ‘ya Farm

Try not to make a big deal out of being away and / or beat yourself up. Yes it’s a moment missed but an opportunity to plan and make so many more special ones. The people who matter enjoy your company whenever they get the opportunity.

Weather it’s a couple of beers over a counter lunch or a day off school at SeaWorld; they’ll take whatever is on offer and like the sh*t out of it!!

And remember – you can only do the best you can with what you’ve got at that particular time; and if you do they’ll love you for it!!

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Ok, so I’m over my imaginary quota of 1,500 words and may have lost your attention about 264 words ago. But if you’re are still with me then A – well done; and B – what are your thoughts on this?

What else can you suggest to me and our small but growing community to help them through this working away business?

Shot me an FB message or email at info@oneminutecloser.com.au with all of your suggestions as the more we share, the easier this might become.

Until the next instalment; keep safe and stay connected!!

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Women in FIFO Work: Part 2 – A Diamond in the Rough.

FIFO….what images and stereotypes do those 4 letters conjure for you??

I am sure the exact details are different for everyone but I bet it doesn’t involve young, professional women dressed in high vis clothing and steel cap boots. Well the truth is it probably should as more and more women enter into, and are succeeding in this challenging and once male dominated environment.

In blog entry #6, Women in FIFO: Part 1, we had the absolute pleasure of getting insight from the fierce lion cub…a young and extremely proficient engineer who has successfully navigated for her way through the storms that are Oil and Gas mega-projects.

Through over ten years, multiple sites, various countries and project offices, her enthusiasm and passion for the profession and industry is unwavering.

Well, this time we get to hear from another seasoned female FIFO professional who is excelling in an extremely demanding role. This time…it’s not a technical role but a leader in her given department at the coal face during an extremely tough stage of a project.

In general chit chat, she mentioned “I wouldn’t mind writing a blog”.

So as you can imagine, I jumped at this opportunity as I’m positive people would much rather read her insight than my borderline drivel. Plus, the aim of these blogs is to bring some perspective to this lifestyle and woman are often the overlooked success stories of these projects.

With so much negative press around the organisations and conditions associated with FIFO work, I believe some accurate perspective into the positives and negatives that come with this career choice is a good thing…and will hopefully create some great discussion.

So enough from me, lets see what wisdom this diamond in the rough has to impart:

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Ok, so I was asked to write a blog on my perspective on FIFO work/life.  My initial response was, “who’s going to want to read that?” and “I have nothing to say!” But hey, I’m open to new experiences, so here goes!

Let me set the scene. I work on Barrow Island; a remote location off the coast of North Western Australia. It is a two hour flight from my home of Perth.

I have been working on Barrow Island for over 4 years in a managerial role. I work a 26/9 roster, live in a camp accommodation and work an average of 12 hours a day.  I’m young (ish)…… and female.

So what is my perspective on this thing called FIFO?

“Twenty six days!!??” people exclaim when I tell them. Yes, 26 days; I actually don’t mind it.

FIFO has given me opportunities I never would have had otherwise. From travelling the world to spending quality time with my friends and family when I am home. I’ve made memories that will last me a lifetime.

I remember I was out shopping one time and the sales rep asked me what I did for a living. When I told her she said, “Oh, you don’t look like you work FIFO”. I laughed it off and took it as a compliment. But it shows there is a misconception about the type of people that work FIFO.  

Most of my friends were also shocked when I told them I was going to work away; and to this day they still tell me that at the time they thought I wouldn’t last more than 12 months.  I don’t think it was that they thought I wasn’t strong or capable, but more so that FIFO just wasn’t “me”, based on their perception of “FIFO”.

These projects are not just cashed up bogans out to make some quick cash that can be splurged on cars, boats and motorbikes.

Don’t get me wrong, some do fit that mould (and then some!!) but there are so many more fascinating and genuine people in this line of work. From educated professionals with a wealth of industry experience to expats from all over the world; these projects are extremely interesting places to work.

Most are up here to provide for their families and set themselves up for their future. They set themselves a goal, hit it and then get out! Some of us are lucky enough to make long lasting friendships with some amazing people.

I still remember the day I landed on this island in early January 2012. I never would have thought that the chick that picked me up from the airport on that day would become one of my closest friends; even if we do live on opposite sides of the country.

babs2[1]Another question I get asked is “are there many women up there?”

While I don’t know the exact ratio off the top of my head; there are plenty of women that work on this site, and indeed many other sites that I have visited throughout my time in this industry. From tech to professional roles; hospitality and support services to trade positions; we chicks are taking over!

Though, I have found myself at times eating dinner in the dining hall only to look around and realise that there is not a single female in sight!

My boss, who is male, once asked me if I ever felt uncomfortable walking around camp/using the gym etc. At the risk of sounding egotistical, there are times when I notice men stop what they’re doing and stare as I walk by.

I’ve had guys whistle. I’ve even had a love note left in my dryer on Valentine’s Day by some stranger accompanied by his number! I have learned to ignore it. If I were to allow it affect me, I would be confined to my room, going without dinner each night.

Besides, twenty six days on site is a long time for these guys – any chick walking past would no doubt put their gears into overdrive – so I don’t take it personally.

I’ve never felt unsafe on site. There is a police presence as well as security personnel plus the camp community is just that; a community. IMG_0836

Camp is always busy and on the nights where I struggle to sleep, it’s extremely peaceful with everyone tucked into bed.  I have the whole camp to myself where I can wander around listening to some tunes and unwind – just me, my thoughts, the stars and some friendly local bandicoots!

There is a female gym, plenty of programs and support groups tailored to the female population and overall it is quite an inclusive environment.

So there you have it, folks; One woman’s very brief perspective on FIFO.

Is it for everyone? No. Do we need more women in on these projects? Yes!

If I can do it, anyone can!!

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So obviously the above is one woman’s perspective on FIFO life, on her particular project on that particular day… But I do hope it gave you something new to build into your FIFO stereotype.

Like any workplace, the success of these mega projects depends on team work. As you can see from the insight of our diamond above…and the lion cub before her; we have some amazing woman in this industry who will hopefully inspire more to join the ranks.

As always, drop me a message on FB or email on info@oneminutecloser.com.au for any feedback or suggestions for blogs posts…I’ll try to write about anything you want to read.

Until the next installment…keep safe and stay connected!!

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Can Jessica help us in FIFO?? If you do the survey she can!!

It was a little over 12 months ago that I started to seriously believe that the One Minute Closer App concept that I had would become a reality. At the time there were 2 main reasons that I really wanted to give this a go…because I knew it would provide value to my life (and those in it) and because I just wanted to give designing and creating an app a crack.

If these were still the main 2 motivations; then tick, tick….mission accomplished. But the past 6-8 months I’ve been amazed with the reach and response that the social media posts and blog articles have attracted. And most recently the support for Sam Faiers in the World’s Greatest Shave was incredible!

Oh…and the feedback on the app has been a little overwhelming as well to be honest. I believed it would work but never expected the enthusiasm that has come with it from so many people.

My vision has always been to create an app that adds value, no matter how small, to someone else’s life; and all the other stuff was just to play a support roll. Well it turns out that everything One Minute Closer seems to be having that desired effect.

From post replies and private messages; emails to verbal discussions and even group forums; the extensive feedback suggests that the various One Minute Closer communications channels are facilitating thought and discussion among our small but growing community.

And it is this very community that has led me, in an extremely organic way, to another amazing opportunity to create some value from this thing called One Minute Closer.

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A few weeks ago while trawling through my social media news feed I came across a link to a survey for FIFO workers. Nothing really out of the ordinary at first but after I completed it I knew there was something a little different in this one.

It was based around drinking and working away. This is a topic I have experienced firsthand on previous projects and one that I believe is a real issue. I still couldn’t put my finger on why I felt this survey struck a chord with me and I couldn’t help but to let curiosity get the better of me.

I sent an email to the coordinator of the survey to thank them for the opportunity and offer any other assistance I could.

When I read the response to my note; it was hit by their enthusiasm, passion and dedication on the subject and knew we shared some common ground here….both with helping the workers / families and the industry.

The survey I completed is part of the initial quantitative research by a young Provisional Psychologist named Jessica Bell. Jessica is a student out of Curtin University who is studying her Master of Counselling Psychology degree.

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Here is the body of the email Jessica sent to me…

I think the most important thing at the moment is getting those numbers. What I need to communicate to people is how important this research is.

The research that is currently available suggests that mental health difficulties are 10% more prevalent in FIFO workers than in the general population. However, because there is not enough research to support this, stakeholders are rejecting this claim.

Furthermore, there is even less research on the prevalence of alcohol problems among the FIFO community, yet there is this a lot of commentary highlighting the existence of a ‘drinking culture’.

We are trying to really understand what it is like for workers, so that we can get the right people to acknowledge and care enough to make changes to how these issues are approached and supported.

We want people to tell us how it is for them, and not just the negatives either. I have read a lot about how beneficial the lifestyle is for many people and our research can just as easily capture the absence of mental health and alcohol problems. So in essence, I am trying to find the truth.

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I have since exchanged emails and spoken with Jessica over the phone and her voice portrays that same desire and appetite for this topic as her written words.

I have come to know that she too has been part of a FIFO family for many years. Her parents worked away through her upbringing and she also has a number of close friends currently working FIFO.

I also learned that her family share the same love for the work and the industry as I, and many others do. As I mentioned in blog entry 4, and also subsequent articles, there are reasons why we choose this lifestyle and some of the ones I discussed with Jessica have been echoed by her family.

Basically everything is big in the resources sector…you get to see, play with and be around everything big. The work is challenging, the people (for the most part) are interesting, the worksites are ever changing and the friendships you make are unique.

On the flip side, the challenges you and your family face are tough and combined with the tyranny of distance and challenges around communication; coping strategies can be less than helpful and healthy.

On a side topic, given that my sister has completed a PhD and I know how much work and dedication goes into these theses so any extra structured assistance I’m sure would be gratefully accepted.

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So, given the above, we as the One Minute Closer Community are going to try and give Jessica any help that she needs and that One Minute Closer can provide. She is working to make our industry a more sustainable one by researching, obtaining outcomes and providing direction for all our current and further colleagues and their families.

Jessica’s research Facebook page is FIFO Mental Health experiences www.facebook.com/FIFOresearch. As we all know, Facebook is an extremely efficient and effective way to seek out like-minded people and for Jessica and her work it will be a great tool so please check it, like it and keep your eyes out for updates.

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Jessica’s online survey can be found at http://bit.ly/1JoqNjC. This survey takes approx. 15 mins so please take the time out if you are a FIFO worker and complete.

I will be sharing Jessica’s updates on my news feed to help her raise awareness and please feel free to share and / or tag other like-minded workers in the survey links of others to get the word out.

I am sure Jessica and I will chat with her regularly to see if there is anything more she thinks the One Minute Closer page can help her with.

This is such a great initiative and to be could not be undertaken by a more suited individual. I’m so please that we can, in some small way, assist with this and share in the benefits this study will provide.

One Minute Closer has always been about helping to stay connected so if this blog helps Jess reach and connect with just one person for her study…then it’d worth it.

So, until the next instalment, keep safe and…well you know!!!

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