The Department for Child Protection and Family Support (the Department), working with the Western Australia Police (WA Police) and specialist family and domestic violence crisis and support services, sought to explore the association between Fly-in/Fly-out (FIFO) work arrangements and family and domestic violence.
Current research literature has increasingly identified the damaging impacts of FIFO work arrangements on parenting, families, and individuals. This is often recounted in the research literature as ‘parenting stress’, ‘conflict’, and ‘relationship stress’. Whether or not these negative consequences of FIFO work arrangements on families are indicative of the existence of higher rates of family and domestic violence in FIFO worker populations is unknown. Exploring this further within the context of prevailing misunderstandings surrounding family and domestic violence that conflate violence with family conflict and relationship issues, also provided impetus for this preliminary study.
A preliminary exploration of the association between FIFO work arrangements and family and domestic violence was undertaken in the localities of Rockingham and Mandurah in WA. Data for the project was collected from WA Police, the Department and specialist non-government family and domestic service crisis and support services. Findings from the preliminary investigation showed that the nature of the association between FIFO work arrangements and family and domestic violence is complex and multifaceted, and not reducible to a simple cause and effect analogy. The study also highlighted the significant presence of children within the FIFO and family and domestic violence association.
The study found that in the Rockingham and Mandurah regions, FIFO work arrangements were identified across the three family and domestic violence data sets at rates of between 1.4 per cent and 2.4 per cent. These are in line with expected rates, based on the estimated FIFO worker populations in these regions and were not viewed as being over represented in the family and domestic violence data collected in these regions. The association that existed between FIFO work arrangements and family and domestic violence was found to be multifaceted and created unique challenges and benefits for those agencies and services working in this arena. Challenges included difficulties in holding perpetrators of family and domestic violence accountable where FIFO work arrangements prevented engagement with behaviour change programs, and difficulties in working effectively and in a timely manner with perpetrators on FIFO work arrangements in the context of family and domestic violence and child protection worries. By contrast, benefits existed for services working with victims of family and domestic violence due to the very nature of FIFO work arrangements (i.e. the perpetrator was known to be absent from the home for predictable and known periods). Of significance was the presence of children in all data sets, totaling fifty-one for the reporting period with ages ranging from two years to sixteen years.
Several recommendations emerged from this preliminary study that attempt to address the complex challenges and benefits for agencies and services working with family and domestic violence where FIFO work arrangements also exist.