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FIFO wife opens up about struggle

TOUGH GIG: FIFO life can be hard for families.
TOUGH GIG: FIFO life can be hard for families. Lee Constable

THE stresses of fly-in, fly-out work are well known.

As a "FIFO wife” herself, Kristie-Lee Alfey has heard the stories.

"Mental illness, depression, relationship break-ups, suicide,” she said.

"I wanted to find out what's going on.”

The CQUniversity pyschological science student is running a survey not only of FIFO workers, but their partners and families, to find out how the lifestyle influences their health.

It's a tricky demographic to study, Ms Alfey says, not only because workers are so often on the move, but because it is a male-dominated industry.

"Generally men don't like talking about feelings and emotions; they think 'I'll just man up and have a beer',” she said.

What Ms Alfey has found so far from about 72 participants, is many don't seek help when they need it - something she hopes her research, with the supervision of Dr Amanda Rebar, will help change.

On the flip side are those waiting at home.

The experiences of the partners of workers is something Ms Alfey wants to shed light on.

"It feels like you're living two lives,” she said.

"When they're away, you're almost like a single mum, and you establish a routine.”

Ms Alfey said forums on social media where partners share their stories were a good source of support.

"Even when you meet (other FIFO partners), because of the nature of the job they might not be in that position for very long,” she said.

Her husband has been a FIFO worker for the last six years and the couple found communication was the key to avoiding resentment.

"At the beginning it was difficult because my husband would come home and just want to relax, whereas I was running around still maintaining everything, looking after children,” she said.

"As we got into it a little bit further I had to stop myself - because I was missing out on time with him as well.

"Eventually I said 'I know you want to relax but maybe we can tackle these things together and that can become our time together'.

"He didn't even realise.”

The study needs at least 200 participants - so if you are a FIFO worker or family member and want to participate, email fifolifestudy@gmail.com.

Also, if you'd like to share your story, email us at news@dailymercury.com.au


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