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February 12 - 18, 2010 people & places
When mining engineer Joe
Ranford goes to work he
travels up to 6000km before
he comes home again.
Money is good in the fly-in fly-out
world of mining and resource
Mother-of-two, Alicia Ranford,
thought the routine of nine days on
and five days off would be a good
life for her and Joe, but the reaction
of their two-year-old daughter
crying for an absent dad would tell a
"She wasn t coping with Joe s
absence and would fret wanting to
know where he was," Alicia said.
"Nine days is a long time for
someone that age."
How the Ranford s dealt with the
pressures would lead to the start
of a new business opportunity
and help for thousands of similar
families around the nation.
"It can be a great lifestyle if
you make it work for you," Alicia
told The Independent Weekly a
week after the launch of her new
web-based business Mining Family
Matters (Mining FM).
MiningFM aims to help fly-in
fly-out workers cope and provide
an outlet for suitable commercial
operations, especially online
Joe and Alicia Ranford moved
back to Adelaide from Cobar in
NSW after many years travelling
the world following the fortunes of
mining s boom and gloom roller-
With a chance to at last settle
down came the reality that there are
not many major mining operations
close to their chosen Adelaide Hills
"Joe works in Perth," she said.
"Just after he started our
two-year-old found it hard to cope
with having an attentive dad for a
few days and then not seeing him
for more than a week.
"I went onto the internet to find
out some information on these
types of issues and whether there
were any forums or support groups
for families like ours -- but there
"I contacted a friend who is a
psychologist and we began to work
through the issues that confront
a family when there are such
prolonged periods of separation.
It made a real difference once we
knew what we were dealing with."
The problems are wide-ranging
and differ according to the job
roster and the circumstances of
"A classic example is the young
single man," Alicia explains.
"If he meets a girl she is almost
certainly going to have a different
social roster to him. His days off
might be Wednesday to Sunday
every second week, so if his new
girlfriend is a normal five-day week
worker, they only have two days a
fortnight where they can develop
their relationship. That takes a
lot of effort from two young
For married couples
the stresses arise from the
lopsided working roster.
On the website s chat room
one worker said he always
found he was so tired after his
stint away that the first day
home was a "winding down"
day. But the same need came
from a mother who said after
nine days caring for children
on her own she wanted a
For another family, it was
all about the children missing
"We will have to try giving
my husband space on the
first day back. We are usually
all pestering him as we have
missed him so much. We also
make sure he has a bit of
special time with each of
the kids when he is back. The
kids love it and really look forward
to it when he is home," the mother
More and more Australian
workers are moving to fly-in fly-out
work as the mining and resources
sector expands and traditional
manufacturing jobs contract.
South Australian Chamber of
Mines and Energy CEO Jason
Kuchel said the recently opened or
expanded operations in SA are a
sign of things to come.
"Prominent Hill has about
500 people and Olympic Dam s
contractors are often on an in and
out arrangement," Mr Kuchel said.
"Heathgate Uranium has about
120, Challenger Gold has 50 and
there are at least five mines due to
come on stream this year".
Resources giant Santos has more
than 1200 workers who work a week
on week off roster.
"Ideally mining companies would
like to see their workforce stabilised
in a location nearby, but in some
mines that is just impossible," Mr
Kuchel said. "Olympic Dam prefers
their workers to be housed at Roxby,
but they are a big enough operation
to do that."
He cited the case of one worker
who lived three hours south-east of
"He drives three hours to
Adelaide Airport, flies to Perth,
catches another flight to the north
west of WA and takes a helicopter to
the oil rig he works on."
In South Australia where
many workers from the ailing car
industry have opted to take up
mining jobs the transition is tough.
Hot outback weather, longer daily
working hours and long absences
from home make it a different world
to knocking off at Mitsubishi in the
late afternoon and heading home to
For the Ranfords life has
settled down and a new business
opportunity has made it more
"The kids are getting older and
used to the routine and now I have
found time to start the website,"
"In the first week we have had
contact from mining workers and
families across Australia as well as
eight other countries.
"We hope to sell advertising to
companies who see our members
as a good market for them to pitch
their products to.
"In the meantime, we are
building Australia s first online
A new web-based business aims to
help Australia's growing ranks of fly-in
fly-out workers and their families. Kevin
Naughton reports on the challenges for
families who spend most of their time
thousands of kilometres apart.
return to their
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