Ten Years on and still no cure for Cancer of the Bush (FIFO)

In October 2011 the then State Member for Kalgoorlie, the Hon John Bowler coined the term “Cancer of the Bush” referring to the negative impacts of Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) work practices of large mining companies in many mining cities around Australia.

Ten years later as the Chair of the Australian Mining Cities Alliance (AMCA) and Mayor of the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, John Bowler reflected last week on the lack of progress by the Commonwealth and State Governments to make change.

“This issue has been mulled over by various governments for years and while there are plenty of reports and recommendations to show for it, not enough real progress has been made.” he said.

“AMCA will adopt its new Strategic Plan and Policy Platforms at its meeting to be held next month and one of the outstanding issues is the need for all governments to properly acknowledge and manage the impacts of FIFO on mining communities.

Take for example the Commonwealth Government House of Representatives’ Standing Committee on Regional Australia Inquiry report of February 2013 titled ‘Cancer of the bush or salvation for our cities? Fly-in, fly-out and drive-in, drive-out workforce practices in Regional Australia’.” Mr Bowler cited.

The Standing Committee report contained 21 recommendations to address a range of impacts including the services planned for in FIFO communities.

One important recommendation related to the need for service planning and funding to acknowledge the non-residential population demand for services as follows;

“The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government, in consultation with state and territory governments, review allocation of funding for communities that receive fly-in, fly-out/drive-in, drive-out workforces so that funding is based on both resident and service populations.”

“But here we are at the end of 2021 and that crucial recommendation has simply not been heeded adequately.” John Bowler exclaimed.

He elaborated further; “AMCA will dig deep into this issue and will advocate for action on the dormant recommendations by all governments.

For example, we can see merit in the Commonwealth and other State Governments developing legislation similar to the Queensland Government’s Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act which it adopted in 2017.  This Act outlaws 100% FIFO operations and places the onus on resources sector project proponents to meaningfully plan for the social impacts of their mines, with the clear objective of improving the lot of people in affected communities.”

Like any fight against a threat like Cancer, AMCA’s efforts will need to be earnest and consistent.  We intend to persevere on behalf of our communities.” he said.

The 2013 House of Representatives Standing Committee report can be found at;  House of Representatives Committees – ra fifodido report.htm – Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au)