FIFO families: tips for staying jolly

Early celebrations, special care packages and action-packed video calls are among a range of simple ideas to ensure fly-in/fly-out miners have a jolly Christmas despite being separated from loved ones on 25 December.

Alicia Ranford, co-founder of the online support network Mining Family Matters, has spent five out of 12 Christmases away from her mining engineer husband, and says the experience has made her family more resilient.

“It’s entirely natural for families to feel sad and disappointed when they’re apart for special events, but unfortunately it’s not financially viable for most mining operations to close down just because Santa is on his way,” Mrs Ranford says.

“From our website,, we know that mining families can be incredibly resourceful – last year one couple got the whole family in on the idea that Christmas was early in December, to ensure their toddlers experienced the special day with their mining dad before he left for the mine.

“The toddlers didn’t know what day it was – they just saw that Santa had drunk his milk and knew he’d been down the chimney overnight.”

Mining Family Matters psychologist Angie Willcocks says that when it comes to being separated on Christmas Day – or any relationship pressures associated with mining life – it’s important to remember that children pick up on the emotions of their parents.

“If you feel okay about your partner being away for Christmas, chances are your children will be okay with it as well,” Ms Willcocks says.

“Remember to watch your thinking, stay busy and upbeat and avoid allowing your thoughts and feelings to remain focussed on the fact that you’re apart.”

Mining Family Matters, Australia’s award-winning online support network for families in mining and resources, offers these simple ideas for families who’ll spend Christmas apart this year:

  • Celebrate early. Plan ahead with your extended family and set your own special date during the R&R break closest to Christmas. Go the whole hog (or pork!) with bon-bons, pudding – and allowing your miner to open his/her presents early. The kids always love celebrating Christmas Day twice, food shopping won’t be quite so crazy, and you’ll create great family memories despite your family Christmas falling on the wrong date.
  • Send a secret Santa box to the mine site, to be opened by your miner on Christmas morning. Include things like a bon-bon and Santa hat, home-made biscuits, Christmas cards/artworks from the kids, small presents from each of you (your miner can guess who chose what) and of course some tinsel for their donga. A silly picture of you and the kids wearing Christmas hats is always a winner too.
  • Pre-arrange a special Christmas Skype call to ensure your miner plays a part in your day. Put the carols on in the background and open a couple of presents together. Pack a short Christmas story for the mine site, so mum/dad can read to the kids, or get the kids to sing their favourite Christmas jingle.
  • If Skype isn’t available, or your miner would prefer not to Skype on the actual day (some miners find it harder when they can see the celebrations they’re missing) get family and friends to send short texts throughout the day. Make sure you include those lame Christmas bon-bon jokes. No-one should be spared bon-bon jokes on Christmas Day.
  • It’s not always practical, but some mines invite families up on site for Christmas. If ever you get the opportunity, don’t miss it. It’s something you’ll never forget.
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