FIFO, FIFO, it’s off to work we go 29



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All our married life, 38 years, my husband has been a heavy haulage train driver, working various rail corporations in SA over the years including a 5-year stint in Port Hedland, WA, driving ore trains.

During these years, we have lived in large railway towns, small railway communities and a large scale industrial town with the exception of 8 years, when in 1988 we escaped to a small SA rural town, commuting, after I and my two young children at the time, were involved in a train crash which took the lives of two people, including the local train driver and a parent of one of the children in my daughter’s class.

We returned to the same railway town after leaving Port Hedland in 2002, and with the same job, different shirt, prospects of the smaller rail corporations were in doubt so now, at the age of 60, to finish off his working life, we have moved again.

This move, the biggest of our lives, but with more of dedicated purpose than the previous moves. This move was to be closer to the major city airport and my husband is now working the FIFO roster.

Working Fly In Fly Out at our age was something we only considered at the beginning of this year and doubted every aspect of it, often believing we were making the biggest mistake of our lives.

After never living in a major capital city for the length of time since being married and never living in the suburbs, proved a daunting prospect as to where we would be comfortable.

We found a house and moved to a very small rural community of 250 people but only 50 mins from the airport.

This, along with the roster of working 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off back in the Pilbara has changed our lives on so many levels.

Leaving long time friends, comfortable surroundings, activities, routines and convenient shopping, to start afresh in a house that needs work, no friends, unfamiliar settings, limited activities, no day to day routine and no shops along with being alone for two weeks at a time has had a huge impact on both of us.

I was reading the Starts at 60 article about staying mentally healthy and find I have, and have to continue, to force myself to find activities in the area to keep myself from withdrawing, and now with winter here, is very easy to do.

I found I have to be the one to make the connections. To make the first move. To continue to draw on and find the confidence to approach new people, new activities, new roads, new shops, new conversations, new routines and a new lifestyle. A FIFO lifestyle.

I have to be mindful living this new lifestyle to not over-stay my welcome, not to force myself onto strangers, not to over-spend, not to over-eat, not to overreact and not to over-indulge.

There are many couples living the FIFO lifestyle. For a week, a fortnight, a month, six months or even a year or more. Living together, apart.

Whether or not it’s harder at 60, time (measured in fortnights) will tell.

Have you ever lived the FIFO lifestyle? What was it or is it like for you?

Colleen Palmer

Counsellor Wife, Mother of 2 girls, grandmother of 3 girls Born in Melbourne, moved to South Australia at 19 Travelled extensively through the USA Worked in various clerical office settings Studies in the Mental Health and professional counselling field Worked with families and young people Enjoy quilting, musical and theatrical entertainment and ....trash TV

  1. Wonderful article, Colleen. You know if you get bored, you can always jump on a plane to Melbourne. Always welcome here. Xxx

  2. FIFO what about navy or military they deploy for 6 to 9 months a year it’s about choices if it’s not for you then don’t do it all decisions have consequences that effect kids grandkids etc

  3. We have, my husband worked off shore most of his life and I took care of the children and farm! He loved it and became depressed when he had to stop for health reasons! Being together 24/7 took a bit of getting used to for both of us!

    2 REPLY
    • I can imagine it would have taken some time to reconnect again after working FIFO off shore for so long. Hope it’s working out for you and your husband’s health has wishes

  4. Not workd specificaly fifo jobs but have workd nd lived lyk out there as u put it, place Kalgoorlie W.A.nd it realy is lyk out there.took 3days to get there by road that is nd bypass S.A. on the way yes have bin out there Beautiful is all i can say.

    2 REPLY
    • mike here-agree with what you said Tui, I think.

    • That is so isolated out there. We have such amazing country beauty in nature. Living so isolated would have been so different…

  5. I’m 63 and husband 65 and still doing FIFO ! Iv been doing it for 11 years no and previous to that the MOTH was always away doing his own thing work wise. You get used to it but it still vexes you from time to tim. I love closer to Perth in the hills but even so have not made any friends and busy myself with exploring and my he life. One day I hope it all ends and we can settle into retirement and contentment but I’m not holding my breath!

    2 REPLY
    • Hi Lyn. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope we can put in the hard yards like you’re doing and look forward to the same end – retirement. I can see that there will be times it will probably vex me too. But I think we’re a pretty resilient lot and , like you, I think I’ll get use to it…best wishes for your retirement

    • Ta colleen and I hope you survive it all too and can settle back in retirement and look back and laugh and sigh and raise your glass because you did it!

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