REGION - Northern Grampians Shire Council will host a focus group in Stawell to address the impacts working outside of your own community can have on families and communities.
Northern Grampians families with a member currently working a fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) or drive in drive out (DIDO) job are encouraged to attend.
The focus group comes amid the Council's push to have Stawell established as a FIFO base in light of the imminent closure of underground operations at the Stawell Gold Mine.
Mayor Cr Wayne Rice said the Council was well aware of the potential negative impacts FIFO can have on the whole family and was keen to help local families adjust.
"The council has partnered with Grampians Community Health to develop a network for Stawell's FIFO families to give them the support they need to manage the lifestyle," he said.
"The focus group will investigate the key issues experienced by families who currently have a member in the FIFO workforce.
"We are keen to have the whole family, including children over eight, involved so that we can ascertain the impacts on all family members."
Free childcare for children younger than eight will be provided at the focus group.
Cr Rice said several FIFO flights from Stawell to Manuka, New South Wales, just after Christmas had gone well and demonstrated the Council's plan could work.
He said there had been media attention on the negative impacts of FIFO on families and communities, with SBS World News airing a story in early January on the Stawell FIFO program, discussing the potential stresses FIFO can cause.
"Northern Grampians Shire Council has made a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into FIFO workforce practices in regional Australia, and we have requested to be included in a pilot program to monitor FIFO work and family wellbeing," he said.
"The Council is very keen to ensure our local families who take part in our FIFO program are not adversely impacted and we will be doing all we can to help them make the lifestyle work."
Projects Manager with Northern Grampians Shire Greg Little said the focus group will be a forum for families to tell where they are at with the FIFO program.
"It is important to make sure the community are where they want to be and they can get employment with the skills they have," he said.
"About 21 FIFO families responded to surveys we sent out regarding the impacts, we think that is a small percentage of the overall number of families taking up the opportunity."
Mr Little said council is very aware of a lot negatives associated with FIFO such as the stresses it can put on family dynamics.
"When one of the parents is left behind to manage the finances, family, costs and kids it can have a major impact on the family dynamics," he said.
"It also impacts on the person who is spending all that time away from the rest of the family.".
Mr Little said they have anecdotal evidence of the impacts on individuals and families, but really want to hear from people experiencing it.
"We are in a unique situation where we actually have a community of fly-in-fly-out workers," he said.
"Generally the FIFO workforce come together not knowing each other as they are from scattered locations across regional areas."
Mr Little said it was his understanding that no where else had undertaken a project like this one.
"We are in a strong position where we are able to bring people together and create support networks that lesson the impacts on families," he said.
"Through the focus group we want to hear real accounts of what people need and the issues they have experienced to date.
"That way we can help make life easier for families and FIFO sustainable as a workforce alternative.
"After we work out what the issues or problems are we will be able to work towards developing the solutions that are needed."
Mr Little said it was important to have support methods that weren't just internet or web based but tried to focus on the human element.
"It is important to bring the community together and engage with them on the opportunities they have going forward," he said.
The focus group will be held at the Taylors Gully Children's Centre, 87 D'Arcy Street, Stawell, from 1pm-3pm on Wednesday January 23.
If you are a family currently involved in fly-in-fly-out or drive in drive out and would like to take part in the focus group, please call Amanda Western on 0419 129 043 or Bianca Bulger on 5358 0524 to register.