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Has Australia got a Donga Problem?

We often tell our candidates about the use of acronyms and why different words mean different things in different languages and this is an example and the chance to create a headline worthy of the News of the World. We’ll let you work it out , so to speak as you go along.

The Australian mining boom continues only hampered by the lack of human talent available. As a reaction we have seen an acceleration in the use of new techniques to not only recruit from around the globe but also to house the workers in often remote locations, in steel/aluminium cabins called dongas that has interesting connotations to Anglo Saxon readers.

Since the mid-1980s, mining companies have been switching from building towns to setting up temporary work camps that rely on workers who commute from outside the region. The latest boom has seen the miners roll out new camps and expand existing ones like a military operation.

Instead of living permanently in mining towns, a new category of worker, the FIFO employee — fly in, fly out — has arrived. They are joined by those who drive in, drive out (DIDO), and a minority who bus in, bus out (BIBO).

Most companies won’t provide precise figures but the total FIFO workforce could be approaching 100,000 if contractors and additional services such as catering are included. The mining industry’s workforce has doubled to 200,000 in the past decade and a lot of this increase has been driven by FIFO workers.

It is set to double again if the workers can be found.In many instances each donga means two workers because of rotating shifts: one stays there while working, then is replaced by another. Hot bedding Dongas , not a pleasant concept.

So great is the FIFO-driven boom that a dedicated terminal is being built at Perth airport for FIFO mineworkers and rumours abound that Brisbane will put one in place in the next 2 years.

The need to cram more workers into the camps means triple-deck dongas are being installed in the Queensland coalfields. A case of who has the biggest dongas in town!

The FIFO model is flexible because it allows companies to move workers around as needed. It accelerates development and it is also a lot cheaper to build temporary camps rather than towns. The age of the high rise dongas is here. A new career path could be as a donga erector travelling the country exhibiting the flexibility of your donga.

FIFO clearly has serious implications for the towns near the mines as they now gain only a small fraction of the income generated. The areas are left with the harmful health effects of mine production and potentially a big hole in the ground, while getting little of the mining multiplier along the way.

Is the answer a local tax? To be known as Wonga on your Donga


Author: Chris Slay

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