A landmark probe into the social impacts of fly-in, fly-out jobs has likened the work to cancer.
But David Burger, a continent-crossing pipe-fitter based in Bathurst, has his own analogy of the increasingly popular lifestyle: he describes it as "a pair of golden handcuffs”.
“It’s not for everybody,” Mr Burger said.
“There are a lot of stories going about the flash lifestyle … I don’t have a lifestyle, I’m at home for five, six days a month, just to sleep.
“It’s hell on family life … you can ask my partner; ask the kids. Every time I come home, they’re that much taller.”
A federal parliamentary committee has spent the past 18 months examining the impacts of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) work on community wellbeing, services and infrastructure in regional towns and cities.
Handing down the report today, independent MP Tony Windsor declared FIFO work “a cancer” for some areas.
“Despite the rapid increase in FIFO workers in Australia and the impact the practice is having on regional communities, state and federal governments and some companies appear to be oblivious to the damage that it’s causing to the lives of regional people … workers and their families,” Mr Windsor said.
The FIFO workforce mostly comprises miners, however it is also used to deliver other services to the bush, including health and education.
There has been growing disquiet that the FIFO phenomenon is wreaking serious social damage on communities where the workers temporarily stay.
“A large influx of non-resident workers is a permanent disruption to the social fabric and feeling of a town and this ‘shadow population’ has a serious and negative impact on the safety, image and amenity of communities,” the report noted.
There is also anecdotal evidence the FIFO lifestyle “can be accompanied by a range of damaging consequences for participants, such as relationship stress and breakdown, excessive alcohol and drug use, depression and violence amongst FIFO workers.”
An ‘us versus them’ mentality has also emerged, the inquiry found, something that did not surprise Mr Burger.
“We’re always outsiders. We are called leeches (and) it’s a very strange thing because they want your business and love your money but don’t really want you in town,” he said.