When we talk about a FIFO workforce, most people assume it’s just mine workers who are flying in and out of Kalgoorlie-Boulder to work before heading back to Perth or further south for their days off, to spend money and stimulate local economies in other regions.
The reality is, the State Government is just as much to blame, with a slow but steady shift of senior and decision making roles away from Kalgoorlie-Boulder and the Goldfields, and to Perth or other regional areas like Bunbury or Geraldton. Certain public service jobs are flown in, stay in hotel accommodation at significant cost to tax payers – albeit with some economic benefit to our local hotels – then fly out.
Almost every State department clearly needs to allocate more to the Goldfields, or at least look at ways they can provide Goldfields residents with local access to senior public servants across all sectors. When departments operate within their own cells, service is inferior, and speaking to someone in Kununura or Harvey when wanting to find out about local issues is clearly not an optimal solution.
There are some departments which do have a decent presence in the Goldfields, and are working hard for our community, but even within that, the broad scope the government departments are expected to cover means that, for example, while the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries has an office here, the people working in Kalgoorlie-Boulder are all focused on sport and recreation, and can only act as a conduit to connect local inquiries about arts and culture to the officers in Perth.
Whilst the FIFO government workforce is across most departments, one area of significant concern is healthcare, particularly for mental health, where continuity of care and the development and cultivation of a strong, trusting relationship between patients and health care providers is essential. In one case I have been made aware of, a patient had three different psychiatrists in a five month period, which is a far from ideal situation.
Not just in health, but for all departments in the overall context of government, there would be significant cost savings and many benefits, tangible and intangible, if these workers were residential in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
There would be better service provision because the public servants would be aware of the local issues first hand. We would see an increase and greater stability in our local population, which would in turn flow on to benefit our local economy, with more money being spent locally. The increased population would also mean increased funding from the State and Federal Governments for essential services like healthcare, education and roads – all of which are funded based on population, and this in turn would complement all the other initiatives the City is working on to make Kalgoorlie-Boulder a better place to live.