What’s it like working in the mines? FIFO tradie earning six figures lifts the lid on life in the outback: ‘Better than a 9-5 job’

What’s it like working in the mines? FIFO tradie earning six figures lifts the lid on life in the outback: ‘Better than a 9-5 job’
  • PublishedFebruary 6, 2024

‘I was living pay cheque to pay cheque… Now I have the opportunity to get ahead in life financially.’

A fly-in-fly-out tradie has offered a glimpse of what it’s really like working in the mines — from tackling gruelling 12-hour shifts in blistering heat to enjoying the perks of living in the outback.

Kenzie Greaves was a personal trainer in New Zealand when she made the drastic career switch to construction, working as an apprentice carpenter making just $16 to $20 an hour.

But after years of struggling to make ends meet, the qualified builder decided to escape the city life to move to the “middle of nowhere” in Western Australia for a FIFO entry-level role — earning $120,000 a year.

Living the “best of both worlds”, she now works 14 days on and gets 14 days off.

“It’s given me a lot of opportunities to get ahead in life financially,” Kenzie, now 25, tells 7Life.

“I never have to worry about money or living pay cheque to pay cheque anymore.”

Kenzie Greaves has offered a glimpse of what it’s really like working in the mines.

“I help with services on trucks, changing filters, refueling the trucks, basic maintenance and helping everyone in the workshop and fuel farms.

“Yes you have to work crazy long hours, but you feel so accomplished after pushing through such a long week to having the well-earned time off, it’s worth it.”

‘Get ahead in life’

She now takes home about $3500 a week — after tax.

“The money is pretty good, and the possibilities are endless, with progression and moving up and onto a higher pay after some time in the industry,” she says.

“It’s a really stable job in order to get ahead in life. It’s really good experience and you meet so many people.”

As a FIFO worker, she gets many perks for living away from home — including free all-you-can-eat buffet-style food, accommodation and even flights from where she’s based in Perth to the mining site.

“It wasn’t too hard to get used to being away,” Kenzie says.

“It was just a very different feeling, flying to a camp which is literally in the middle of nowhere.

“But the camps have basically everything you need — a gym, pool, cafe, coffee, convenience store and more — so it just feels like you are on school camp to be honest.

“All the accommodation is paid for, the food is all free and we have a huge selection to choose from.”

‘Better than a 9-5 job’

Her favourite perk is getting a decent amount of time off between shifts.

“The lifestyle allows you to go away to work hard, for however long your swing is, then you get a really good amount of time off to be able to be at home, explore or go on holiday to relax,” she says.

“I was working eight days on and getting six days off on 12.5 hour days — and even working night shifts, so seven nights in a row.

“I’m now going back to a site where I’ll be doing two weeks on and getting two weeks off — 12-hour shift days.

“Depending on what roster you get, getting the time off is a perk.

“It’s always going to be better than a 9-5 job where you only get the weekend off.”

Kenzie works as a service technician, helping with basic maintenance on trucks.

Despite working in a predominantly male industry, Kenzie says she’s noticed a growing number of women working as FIFO tradies.

“It’s very common to have females working now. At my last site, there was almost 50/50,” she says.

“You still face a lot of men making comments or don’t think girls should be in a ‘male industry’ but it’s definitely becoming more welcoming.

“I’ve never been a girly girl — I love getting dirty, dressing in comfy clothes, hands-on work and physical labour, because studying was never my thing so tradie work has always been my option.”

Over the year, Kenzie has met great people from “all walks of life”.

“If you’re lucky enough to have people on your crew that you get along with, it makes it a hell of a lot easier,” she says.

Challenges

Her job does come with many challenges — including 12.5-hour days, working in scorching weather and tackling night shifts.

“You are on your feet in the heat. It’s crazy hot, 40C every day,” she says.

“I hate the heat in the middle of the Pilbara. It’s insanely hot. So a long day in the weather isn’t the nicest especially in summer.

“I also hated night shift — I’m a morning person so having to switch and sleep during the day and work all night is a massive struggle for me. I don’t enjoy it as it ruins my routine when I’m back home from work for a couple days.”

If it’s not a heatwave, she’s working in wild weather conditions such as massive storms and freezing nights.

Her job come with challenges including 12.5 hour days and scorching weather.

Kenzie leads an active lifestyle so she hits the gym every day before heading to work.

“I train at the gym at 2am prior to starting work because working out is super important to me,” she explains.

“I have to include a gym session in my day so I’m up extremely early to get that in.”

Because she is away for weeks at a time, Kenzie says she has had to miss out on a social life.

“Due to my roster, I miss out on things like birthdays, festivals and events,” she says.

Life before FIFO

Before her FIFO job, Kenzie was working as a tradie in New Zealand.

“It was very hard being a female on site as it’s not very common (there),” she explains.

“I got a lot of gross comments on the daily, photos taken of me, and many people didn’t really want to give me the chance or time of day because I was girl in a male job.

“But I worked with heaps of amazing guys and they treated me like one of the boys and taught me a lot.”

She also worked night shifts, which included tackling seven nights in a row.
She also worked night shifts, which included tackling seven nights in a row. Credit: Kenzie Greaves

Despite enjoying her job, Kenzie says she was “living pay cheque to pay cheque” for years.

“I was only getting about $600 to $700 a week for my pay — it was horrible the hours you worked and you only had the weekends off,” she says.

Her then-boyfriend’s mining job piqued her interest in fly-in fly-out work.

“My partner at the time was doing FIFO and I was always intrigued to what it would be like,” she says.

“I enjoy being hands on. I don’t mind getting dirty as I was working as a chippy anyway, I thought it would suit me well.”

So she began applying for entry-level FIFO roles in Australia.

The 25-year-old says she’s always enjoyed physical labour work.
The 25-year-old says she’s always enjoyed physical labour work. Credit: Kenzie Greaves

After facing constant rejection for four months, she finally landed an entry-level mining job in the extremely remote and rugged Pilbara region of WA.

“It’s pretty hard to get in,” she says.

“I was applying for entry level roles for months before getting my first opportunity.

“Unless you’re qualified in a trade it does make it a little harder.

“I had a chippy qualification but there’s not many roles for that in the mines.”

Competitive market

She completed heights and confined space training courses to make her stand out from the competitive job search market.

“I went and got my heights and confined space tickets which helped. There’s heaps of tickets you can pay to do which will help your application,” she says.

“I also printed my CV out and went directly into a recruiting company and asked them for a job and I got one within that week.”

By sharing about her life, she hopes to see more women move into FIFO work. 

After taking a couple of months off to work as an online fitness coach, Kenzie says she is excited to return to the site.

“I literally stopped FIFO because I moved states to the Gold Coast, but I missed it so much … and I can’t wait to get stuck in again,” she says.

‘Great opportunities for women’

By sharing her extraordinary life, she hopes to see more women move into the FIFO industry.

“I don’t think women should be afraid of trying to apply — there’s so many opportunities/job roles to go for and you can always change and move around once you’re in,” Kenzie says.

“It’s super common for girls to be in the mines now so why not just give it a go.

“You can create a really good routine with your life, work hard, and get ahead in life with the money side of things.”

For those looking to get a FIFO job, Kenzie says: “The best way to start if you have no experience is go get some tickets and skills for your CV.

“You just have to be consistent with applying for everything and going for entry-level roles — heaps of job opportunities will come up.

“Be prepared to start at the bottom — it won’t be the best job but it’s not forever and you have to gain experience somehow.

“It’s also a good way to see if you’ll like FIFO or not.

“There’s heaps of jobs like cleaning, utility, offsider or trade assistant that you need zero experience for.

“Yes anyone can apply — you just need a clear criminal background check.”

SOURCE: 7NEWS

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