Overview: The rise and rise of the mining sector and the fly in fly out worker may be paying the bills for thousands of families, but there is growing understanding of the adverse impacts on relationships.
The impact of FIFO parents on a child’s ability to learn is the focus of a study by Queensland researchers against a backdrop of a rise in industries like mining which can need employees in isolated locations and away from their families for weeks on end.
The study’s co author Dr John McMasters from the University of Southern Queensland says while there is plenty of research on the psychological pressures on FIFO workers, there is little known about the impact on a child’s educational progress when a key role model is absent for extended periods of time.
He says there is some early evidence that children who once relied on a parent to assist them with schooling duties may see that parent as 'less knowledgeable' when they are not in the family setting for long periods.
School studies may also be disrupted when the parent returns after a long absence, triggering 'holiday' mode.
He says that families are staying in touch on mobile phones and social media but this is not a silver bullet and in one instance a computer room set up by a mining company to enable workers to Skype home was simply not used.
Dr McMasters says if a child’s educational progress was slowed for any reason, so too would their future potential, and suggested children may be helped by visiting their parent’s distant workplace and seeing it first-hand.
'This may bring a greater sense of comfort and understanding,' he said.