Mum fights for FIFO changes

Pilbara News - - News - Pe­ter de Krui­jff and Kelly Bell

■ A WA mother who lost her son to sui­cide said the fight would go on in the wake of the State Gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the men­tal health in­quiry of fly-in, fly-out work­ers.

Last week the State Gov­ern­ment said it sup­ported 14 of the 30 rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Ed­u­ca­tion and Health Stand­ing Com­mit­tee, noted 15 and par­tially sup­ported one.

Anita Miller, mother of FIFO worker Rhys Con­nor who killed him­self on a mine site out­side New­man in 2013, ques­tioned why there was only one per­son on the com­mit­tee from the Men­tal Health Com­mis­sion.

“I’ll fol­low (the rec­om­men­da­tions) through, that’s my mis­sion as a mother of a child who was lost to sui­cide,” she said.

The State’s work­ers’ unions have lev­elled crit­i­cism at the Gov­ern­ment for not bring­ing in a for­mal code for FIFO or re­strict­ing non­fam­ily friendly ros­ters.

CFMEU State sec­re­tary Mick Buchan said the code of prac­tice was the min­i­mum needed to en­sure a healthy ex­is­tence for FIFO work­ers.

“It un­der­pins the in­tegrity of all other rec­om­men­da­tions, and with­out it, weak­ens the 14 rec­om­men­da­tions that the Gov­ern­ment has agreed to,” he said.

The re­port rec­om­mended that the Depart­ment of Mines and Petroleum and Mines and Petroleum Min­is­ter Bill Marmion’s of­fice work with the Men­tal Health Com­mis­sion to de­velop a code.

In­stead, Mr Marmion said many of the ob­jec­tives of the rec­om­men­da­tions could be achieved by re­view­ing and strength­en­ing ex­ist­ing codes of prac­tice which would be done along­side the Com­mis­sion.

“Plan­ning is un­der way on a Work Health and Safety (Resources) Bill which will pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress other rec­om­men­da­tions in the re­port,” he said.

Mem­ber for the Pil­bara Bren­don Grylls said it would have been good to see the rec­om­men­da­tions fully en­dorsed but there might not even be as much of a need for FIFO in the fu­ture.

He said a short­age of ac­com­mo­da­tion and large con­struc­tion forces had made the prac­tice of FIFO a big sav­ing for com­pa­nies in the past, but a fal­ter­ing hous­ing mar­ket could see things go the other way, with more work­ers em­ployed lo­cally. Of the 15 rec­om­men­da­tions noted, the DMP and Men­tal Health Com­mis­sion will work with the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee to progress at least 11, in­clud­ing the need for men­tal health train­ing at mine sites and the in­tro­duc­tion of on­site peer sup­port pro­grams.

The num­ber of FIFO work­ers will be counted an­nu­ally, while funds will be com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing a data­base of re­portable deaths and, on the Gov­ern­ment’s be­half, the MHC will com­mis­sion in­de­pen­dent re­search into the men­tal im­pacts of FIFO work.

Pic­ture: Sharon Smith

Mine work­ers at Perth air­port ready to fly to site.

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