Hur­dles for pet pro­ject

Pilbara News - - News - ■ Court­ney Fowler

An in­ter­state worker liv­ing in Kar­ratha is cam­paign­ing to have a cat fos­ter­ing pro­gram tri­alled in lo­cal min­ing camps to bat­tle lone­li­ness and de­pres­sion among fly-in, fly out work­ers.

Colin Ford was inspired by his own ex­pe­ri­ence be­com­ing a foster carer for an­i­mal res­cue or­gan­i­sa­tion Sav­ing An­i­mals From Eu­thana­sia, an ex­pe­ri­ence he said had lit­er­ally “saved his life”.

“I came over to take up a job af­ter be­ing out of work for 12 months, but un­for­tu­nately on the way over here my wife got very ill and couldn’t join me,” he said.

“It’s a very lonely place to be, com­ing home ev­ery night to an empty house ... I was go­ing through a car­ton a week and I’m not even a beer drinker.

“I was miss­ing my cat at home and asked on Face­book if any­one had a cat I could come pat and I got a fan­tas­tic re­sponse from the com­mu­nity who made me aware of the foster pro­gram at SAFE. At first I thought about it as a good op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing nice for the lo­cal com­mu­nity, but it in fact it’s SAFE al­low­ing me to have those cats which has changed ev­ery­thing for me.”

Mr Ford said his time in Kar­ratha would have been un­bear­able if it wasn’t for the nine cats who he shared his life with for the past five months, sev­eral of which he had since found homes for.

“I’ve got five cats at the mo­ment ... it’s ab­so­lutely turned my life around,” he said.

“In two week’s I am head­ing back home to be with my fam­ily but there are a lot of FIFO work­ers who are also bat­tling lone­li­ness on camp.

“So this idea dawned on me that my ex­pe­ri­ence could help oth­ers who are also miss­ing their loved ones.”

Mr Ford said he be­lieved if camp ac­com­mo­da­tion had a cat area for foster cats it would not only save their lives but also im­prove the men­tal health of work­ers on camp.

“Cat cafes have taken off in places like Amer­ica and Ja­pan ... wouldn’t it be mar­vel­lous if you could set up the same kind of things at the FIFO camps,” he said.

“I think it would be the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for min­ing com­pa­nies to take a new ap­proach to cur­ing work­ers’ lone­li­ness.”

SAFE founder Sue Hedley said so far Mr Ford’s pro­posal had been met with op­po­si­tion from min­ing camps who had a strict “no-pet pol­icy”.

“There’s no doubt in my mind this model would work, we’ve just got to get some­one to give it a go,” she said.

“Act Be­long Com­mit Pil­bara health co-or­di­na­tor Gemma Brooks said she be­lieved Mr Ford’s novel idea could help im­prove the men­tal health of FIFO work­ers.

Pic­ture: Court­ney Fowler

SAFE founder Sue Hedley, Act Be­long Com­mit Pil­bara health co-or­di­na­tor Gemma Brooks and Colin Ford.

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