Love in the time of a mining boom

ALMOST 300 people have signed up online for the chance to meet a mining man. Kellie Guest reports on the latest innovation in FIFO dating and the social effects of the long-distance lifestyle.
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Staff Reporter

The website www.meetaminingman.com.au was launched four weeks ago and is designed to provide men working on a fly-in, fly-out roster with an avenue to meet women.

It’s the brainchild of 24-year-old Perth woman Angela Nathan, who recognised the need for such a website through her own social networks.

She said many career women would like a relationship but still valued their own space and independence, and the website provided an alternative way to meet people other than the pub and club scene.

Nathan said lots of single women in Perth were looking for relationships and finding it difficult to meet men.

Because of the resources boom, many men in Western Australia and Queensland are working away from major cities and regional centres.

Nathan said she interviewed men aged between 18 and 50 years to gain a better understanding of the situation.

Those men said they were gaining financial benefits by working FIFO but sacrificing their lifestyle.

The men, often aged in their mid-20s, also said they were financially secure and ready to meet a partner.

Nathan said there was less taboo nowadays around using the internet as an avenue to meet people.

“In Australia it’s important to embrace the internet because the country geographically is so spread out,” she said.

However, Nathan said that although there were nearly 300 members registered on the site, many of these were women and it was proving difficult to reach the men, because many FIFO workers did not have internet access.

The website has the support of Dr Nick Keown, who released a study in 2005 looking at the health status of men in the Goldfields mining industry of WA.

He said it was an innovative tool for FIFO single workers.

FIFO rosters can be incompatible with mainstream work schedules providing limited opportunities for many single men to meet women.

“Consequently many are forced into isolation and experience loneliness on their R&R breaks,” Keown said.

He said one benefit for men using the website was knowing that potential partners understood their work roster requirements.

Yet he agreed with Nathan it was hard for miners to access the internet onsite unless they were a white-collar worker.

“Crib rooms at work and recreational areas in the campsite generally are not equipped with internet facilities,” Keown said.

Minesites that provided these facilities could also give workers another communication medium and a way to remain socially connected at less cost than long-distance phone calls.

Keown’s well-documented research also showed male mine workers were concerned about relationship problems and social isolation, along with fatigue, stress and adverse physical, emotional and behavioural changes.

The report also detailed how the effects of long hours and shift work were transferred between the work place and home, which impacted negatively on work and family relationships.

His work will soon be joined by another analysis of mining lifestyles.

University of WA PhD student Susan Clifford has been collecting surveys aimed at analysing how working in the mining industry affected employees and their partners.

The survey was focused on how working arrangements affected stress levels, relationships, lifestyle and health, and identifying ways people could cope.

“We’re looking for an objective description of what it’s like to work in the mining industry,” Clifford said.

She said much of anecdotal evidence was negative, yet with more than 50,000 people working in the industry there must be both positives and negatives to the lifestyle.

Already 200 surveys had been completed. Of that, 50 partners of miners had participated.

The survey was designed to look at the long-term impacts of working in the industry, while a secondary survey looks at the daily impacts of mining life.

It has involved 35 people who kept a daily diary and contributed saliva samples.

Clifford said she was keeping an open mind about what the results from each survey would show.

Preliminary results showed miners had only moderate stress levels, on par with the general WA population.

But once the results were properly analysed it could provide a better understanding of the exact situation, she said.

Clifford said she was working on her research because she had an academic interest in how work affected the rest of a person’s life, and the mining industry was an interesting sector to analyse.

The results will be published widely to all industry stakeholders once the study has been completed at the end of the year.

Clifford suggested this could potentially lead to outcomes such as the introduction of less stressful rosters, or the development of different healthy coping mechanisms for workers.

It could also reinforce the introduction of more simple measures such as childcare support groups for mining partners.

Miners and their partners have until the end of July to participate in the survey.

To take part, go to www.ihs.uwa.edu.au/research or phone 08 6488 2712.

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