WA inquiry aims to shed light on FIFO suicides

THE Western Australian Parliament will launch an inquiry into fly-in, fly-out suicides after passing a motion from state Opposition leader Mark McGowan.
WA inquiry aims to shed light on FIFO suicides WA inquiry aims to shed light on FIFO suicides WA inquiry aims to shed light on FIFO suicides WA inquiry aims to shed light on FIFO suicides WA inquiry aims to shed light on FIFO suicides


Andrew Duffy

The Education and Health Standing Committee will outline its terms of reference today and produce a preliminary report by the end of the year.

Debating the motion late yesterday, both sides of politics supported the inquiry and said because of the pressing nature of the issue, a final report would be produced by March 2015.

“We could all see that this was a bipartisan issue and not one in which we would play politics,” Liberal member for Eyre Graham Jacobs said.

“It is really important also that we recognise that we want to make a difference. A lot of us understand the issues.

“Almost all of us have FIFO workers in our electorates and we recognise some of the stress factors and risks. These issues are important.”

In passing the motion, both sides of politics acknowledged FIFO workers were an important part of the economy and needed to be supported.

Members also noted many workers enjoyed FIFO and handled the lifestyle quite well.

McGowan said the inquiry would look to add to existing initiatives already put in place by industry and government.

“FIFO workers are incredibly important for our society and the strength of our economy. They are roughly half the direct workers in the mining industry,” he said.

“If anyone was to infer that this is somehow an attack on FIFO per se or an attack on FIFO workers, I would say that is not the case. That is not what we are trying to do here.

“It is a hard job and we want to support people.”

The WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy said the resources sector would make a detailed submission to the inquiry.

“Every suicide is a tragic loss with far-reaching impacts. As a community we must all work together to reduce the prevalence of suicide across Western Australian society,” CME chief Reg Howard-Smith said.

“Despite some recent assertions that there may be a higher occurrence of mental health issues associated with FIFO employment, research is yet to find any substantial evidence in support of such claims.”

The CME said the extensive Commonwealth parliamentary inquiry into FIFO received no evidence that supported the claim that mental health issues were higher in FIFO populations compared to the wider workforce.

Liberal member of Southern River Peter Abetz also said there had been little research on the connection between FIFO and the suicide rate, and the inquiry might be able to shed some light on the matter.

Ultimately, the CME said the resources sector already took mental health very seriously, with companies providing support groups and assistance programs to help workers adjust to the FIFO lifestyle.

“Put simply, it’s a matter of choice for employees – a choice about where they live and where they choose to work,” Howard-Smith said.

  • Support is available for those who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14.