Supplied Editorial Quarantine pics. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Supplied Editorial Quarantine pics. Picture: PATRICK GEE

FIFO workers ‘like prisoners’ in their own homes

A TASMANIAN father of three has spent almost three months in home quarantine, likening the state's border controls "to being under home detention for a crime".

The Launceston FIFO worker is among a growing chorus of Tasmanian FIFO workers lobbying the State Government for better freedoms in moving between states and spending time with their families in the midst of the pandemic.

"There are 1800 Tasmanian-based FIFO workers, many earning $100,000 (a year) each so that's a significant amount of money we bring into the local economy," James said, who asked his surname not be published over concerns his GTG pass would be compromised.

"We choose to live in Tasmania … we could quite easily pack up and move but we love it here, and that's not being returned to us by the Tasmanian Government at the moment."

James was speaking out after Premier Peter Gutwein told a press conference yesterday that many FIFO workers were fine with the current border restrictions.

"It's interesting. Some fly-in, fly-out workers it does cause great concern to," Mr Gutwein said.

"I spoke to some on the weekend and to be frank, they were more than comfortable with the circumstances because they felt that we were doing the right thing by the state and their family."

But James said that wasn't the case among the hundreds of residents who have joined a Facebook community group hoping to change the rules for Tasmanian-based FIFO workers.

"Not a single FIFO worker in the groups I'm a part of have expressed support for the current regulations," he said.

James works two weeks on, two weeks off working in the mines in central Queensland where there are zero cases of community transmission.

"So those two weeks off I'm in quarantine. It's mentally very difficult," he said.

"I find it very hard to see my wife having to do everything for me - the shopping, school pick-ups, I can't even run down to the store to make something for lunch for us … it's as if I wasn't here."

 

FIFO worker James with wife Jarrah and their children Harper, 11, Olivia, 9, and Quinn, 4, outside. Picture: PATRICK GEE
FIFO worker James with wife Jarrah and their children Harper, 11, Olivia, 9, and Quinn, 4, outside. Picture: PATRICK GEE

 

The Launceston man - who works in risk assessment - said there was an opportunity to ease restrictions placed on Tasmanian-based FIFO workers while still keeping the community safe.

"From a risk point of view it would make more sense for us to do a statutory declaration about where we've been and our health condition, do a temperature test at the airport and then a COVID test straight up," James said.

"We then isolate for 48 hours awaiting that result - it would be more secure than the current system where we're not tested at all."

James said that same system was current in mine sites Australia wide, with "stringent processes" in place including an on-site registered nurse that has kept mine sites COVID-free.

"There has to be a better way. The GTG pass is awful. So many FIFO workers are failing that even though we meet eligibility - the mysterious moderators just randomly fail people and they don't give reasons as to why."

James' wife Jarrah said her husband's mental health having to be in "the constant cycle of two weeks quarantine" was a serious concern.

"We've already had one wife in our seaside community whose husband has committed suicide because of this," she said.

"Mental health is a serious concern within the FIFO community and especially when you aren't free to go and see a psychologist - at least we had a date of 31st of August where it was looking like things would be lifted.

"If (border closures) are extended until December 1, our boys won't survive this."

 

 

 

A long wait to see families

A Tasmanian fly-in fly-out worker has already spent 10 weeks in isolation - and is preparing himself for not being able to see his family until November.

Read Darren's plight, in his own words …

 

"I live in Spreyton and FIFO to Western Australia monthly.

"I am in iso now in Perth before I go to the rig then do another four weeks in the middle of the ocean, then when I come home to Tassie another two weeks isolation.

"Since March to date I have done 10 weeks in isolation. It will be 12 weeks by the time I get out next time I'm home.

FIFOs (fly in fly out) mine workers in Coober Pedy -
FIFOs (fly in fly out) mine workers in Coober Pedy - "off-sider" for Coughlan Drilling Mark Averay arrived in Coober Pedy for the first time.

"That is three months of isolation and still more to come if I want to continue my life long career.

"We are being overlooked.

"Last week I drove Devonport to Hobart to fly to Western Australia via South Australia only to get there and Jetstar had cancelled the flight two days before.

"I did not get any notification, nor did a colleague who had driven from Launy so my wife drove us back home as he had hired a car.

"We both flew out the next day Launy to Brisbane, applied for entry pass into Brisbane and presented that on arrival no questions asked, allowed to go straight through as we had a two-night layover before Perth flight.

"Did not have to isolate.

"If Queensland can allow us in why do we have to isolate when we come back to Tassie?

"I have to isolate in WA even though Tassie and Queensland have no cases.

"That sucks, but my concern is when I get home as we are coming from highly controlled workplace environments with direct flights around hot spots ie Vic and NSW.

"It is ridiculous.

"We leave Tassie and enter other states as essential workers but are not treated as essential workers when we come home."

 

 

"There are hundreds of FIFO workers that work interstate - why can't there be a dedicated pass or app like G2G that is for only FIFO workers so we can be assessed for where we do our work?

"It is so unfair that other essential workers from other states get to come to Tassie and do not have to isolate.

"If they can assess them well enough to deem they are not high risk surely we could be assessed the same.

"I cannot do this any more being locked up in a box for months on end trying to earn a living.

"There are limited jobs in Tassie but I will end up being just another to go on Jobseeker payments - but then again probably won't qualify.

"I have not been on the dole since I was 17, I am now 54.

"FIFO workers bring a lot of hard earned money into the state and pay our fair share of tax. We are not asking for any hand outs, we just want a fair go so we can keep our jobs and support our families.

"It is like being in jail but you know you haven't done anything wrong.

"Twelve weeks isolation and counting. The people making the rules are of course exempt themselves from isolation.

"They have no idea what they are doing to people.

"I heard the Premier say today that he had spoken to FIFO workers and he said they were happy with current arrangements. How is that possible when you see yourself what we are all going through?

"That is just a 'get out of further questions' statement if I have ever heard one.

"FIFO coming in to work in Tassie - yes they won't have issues, it's the residents that are struggling.

"It is so unfair."

 

Are you a Tassie FIFO worker and want to share your story? Email cas.garvey@news.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Tassie FIFO workers 'like prisoners' in their own homes



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