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