Making fly-in fly-out a women's game

In Western Australia, the phrase 'fly-in fly-out worker' tends to conjure up the image of a cashed-up bloke with a penchant for living hard, leaving a trail of fast cars and real estate in his wake.

But this stereotype could not be further from Karla Dickson.

The 45-year-old single mother of Tahlia, 9, and Jakim, 18, makes the most of being a mum on a FIFO roster, and with the help of a FIFO salary, she says she now gets to spend more time with her children than she did working in Perth.

"Before I moved back into the FIFO workforce over a year ago, I found I was away from home 12 hours a day, five days a week working in the city," she said.

"I'm away for work Mondays to Thursdays so I get to take Tahlia to and from school on Fridays and my weekends are quality time with my kids and being a mum - doing what I want to do with my kids."

About 13 per cent of the workforce at her site, Barrick Gold's Granny Smith mine outside Kalgoorlie-Boulder, are also women, according to Ms Dickson.

However, it was shortly after she began her transient career a decade ago that she discovered she was only one of three women on site.

"I used to feel like the odd one out," she said. "But the mindset has changed - the attitude is really positive towards women on site."

When she was working as a shift nurse before going FIFO Ms Dickson said Jakim had become a "ping-pong", being shipped between houses and carers as her shifts grew longer and her rosters more unpredictable.

"I was seriously having dreams I was abandoning my child," she said. "It was just horrendous he was a ping-pong ball – it was awful."

Now life has become more stable, even with the two children, thanks to a 'four on, three off' roster and a nanny called Glenda, or "Noona" as she's known to the family.

Tahlia has her mum to tuck her into bed four nights a week, and on the other three she has Noona.

"This creates stability – we know every week mum's not going to be here these days and she will be home on these days – there's a routine," she said.

"We got rid of the ping-pong.

"You have your normal challenges as a parent if there's something on at the school, but you had those problems working full time anyway – I wasn't getting home until after 7 when I was working in the city and I spent most of my time with her cleaning and putting dinner on."

Ms Dickson has decided to speak at the Women in Mining WA seminar in Perth today to encourage other mothers to explore ways to achieve their personal goals, FIFO or no FIFO.

"My situation may not work for other people but it's about having the confidence and the courage to explore and be brave – not foolish," she said.

Women in Mining WA was created 9 years ago with the goal of supporting and keeping women in the mining and resources sector and its seminar has drawn crowds of up to 500-people in recent years.

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  • The story Making fly-in fly-out a women's game first appeared on WA Today.

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