A woman at her mining job getting ready
Hayley Campbell on the job
Australia Today

It’s Never Looked Hotter to Work in the Mines

Fly-in, Fly-out work is having its moment on TikTok. But for Australians who actually commit to the work, its not all free dinners and big pay packs.

I keep seeing Australian 20-somethings extol the benefits of fly in, fly out work on TikTok. In Australia, it’s called FIFO (fy-fo), and the pitch of FIFO work has the ring of a shitty clickbait ad that’s maybe going to give you computer malware: this one simple trick can make you thousands. Head to Bali for a couple weeks, buy a pair of jet skis, and have lunch served to you every day in a cafeteria full of lobster. All you have to do is a little bit of work in the mines.


Thing is, according to just about everyone I spoke to, the FIFO trick is really hard. Every week or two you fly away from your home to work in or around a mine for 12-and-a-half hour days, enduring 40+ degree heat while swatting away flies, or sometimes spiders the size of a bowling ball.

And still – mining has probably never had more advocates calling it glamorous. It’s been a big player in the Australian economy for a long time, but there’s renewed interest as Gen Z watches FIFO workers on TikTok jet around the country. The workers seem to have broken free from the 9-to-5-forever-no-house trap: they get more quality time off than the bulk of young people while earning a substantially better salary. And all of this for a generation who have just about inherited the shittest deal in years: an economy stacked against them, a housing market that serves their parents and no one else, and a government intent on blocking its ears until all the old voters die off.

“I was getting good money,” she tells me – $73 an hour – “but I’d rather work in a kitchen for half the pay.”

But what’s FIFO really like? Is the money worth it? Is the work that grueling? Should I quit my job and see if the mines will have me? I talked to a few workers to find out.

Hayley Campbell

Hayley Campbell, 32, has worked FIFO in some capacity since she was 18, and so asking how she feels about FIFO feels a little absurd, like asking whether she enjoys adulthood.


She’s held various jobs across mining sites – catering, admin, trade assistantship – but is now a first-year apprentice high voltage electrician who looks after machinery in a coal processing plant. Her location is considered the young, hip site, where they test new technology like self-driving trucks.

As we talk over Zoom about the confined spaces and heights she navigates, I ask if she’s scared of them. She says, no, she's scared of high voltage electricity, which is literally invisible and also dangerous and potentially lethal if mismanaged. I guess that’s what the money is for.

“I know a lot of people think, oh my god, I couldn't do [it],” she tells me, “But what I like about working in FIFO is the amount of time that I can get off when I go.”

Currently, Hayley works 4 days on, 3 off, but will switch to the coveted one-week-on, one-week-off arrangement soon. Then she can take just a week of paid time off to get a three week break, go snowboarding in Japan, and still rest before work.

She compares this to the 9-to-5 she worked briefly in her 20s telling me she never had enough time to do anything, really. As most 20-somethings would know, your weekend is made up of one day recovering from the week, one day preparing for the next, and then it’s time to go again.

As she talks about wishing she was able to make it to the gym after her 12.5 hour workday (13.5 including camp-to-site commute), it strikes me that maybe Hayley and I are built fundamentally differently, like on a molecular level. Surely, not everyone has this constitution – a lot of people must hate it.


“Definitely,” she confirms. “Over the years, we've had people come out and say, I want to do this. And within the day, they're back on the plane.”

It’s not that Hayley never found it difficult, but she also has more job satisfaction than basically anyone I know. She likes active work and thinks following a routine where you wake unfathomably early is maybe a good thing. She’s made friends and proven herself in an industry that isn’t universally friendly to women. She might branch out beyond coal, but since her company has paid her to learn a trade, her future feels set. 

Mitch, 29, works in non-mining FIFO. He uses LIDAR technology (something I am told 100% exists) to detect and measure wind speeds, which helps companies scout potential wind farm locations. It also seems like the kind of tech you’d see an international weapons manufactorer champion as “revolutionarily efficient”. He works three-to-five-day swings that take him out to remote areas across Australia. Each week, he lands in a different town with a single street, a gas station, and a military-memorabilia-adorned pub named something like The Imperial or The Royal. 

Over Zoom, Mitch tells me about his first day doing this type of work – he wasn’t FIFO yet, but it was a similar project. He found it mind-blowing.

“I couldn't believe the amount we were charging hourly. It was just dollar signs ticking in my mind.”


It wasn’t just the money – the entire day was weird, hard, and exciting.

“We couldn't get the truck up the hill, and we had to unload it halfway up. We ended up being on site for 10 hours. It was like, Whoa, this is a crazy life. We're in the middle of nowhere, at the top of this mountain, three hours west of Bundaberg. There’s a beautiful sunset in the bush, but we've gotta get back soon, or we’re gonna hit a kangaroo.”

Mitch likes this kind of thing – challenge and spontaneity. He’s happy to be free from 9-to-5 work, which he found boring and repetitive. He believes in the renewable energy sector, and is glad he can tangibly contribute. Plus, he’s racking up insane Qantas points.

An important thing to understand about Mitch, though, is that he spent his 20s moving every year, floating through Australia, New Zealand and North America. He’s single and doesn’t have pets. Everyone he’s close with is used to him drifting in and out of their lives – which is why FIFO suits him.

Even though he likes his work, he wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. If a friend was interested, he’d want them to seriously consider the compromises.

“I’d ask, are you willing to actually commit to the lifestyle? And how long do you want to do it? Because I feel like you need to do it for a while for it to actually be worth it. The sacrifices that you’d make socially, potentially emotionally, and maybe even physically, aren't really going to add up to a financial benefit if you don't do it for long enough.”

In terms of financial benefits, Mitch believes there are misunderstandings about how much FIFO workers really make.

“I think the assumption is that anyone who works FIFO makes at least $200,000 a year, which isn't necessarily the case. There's definitely people who aren’t making that much money.”


He thinks that young people overestimate how realistic it is to get into the industry without connections.

“It’s almost the Queensland/Australian dream. Kids are like, I'm gonna finish high school, do three or four years of FIFO, be a millionaire, go traveling, and then I’ll get a real job. I think there’s a bit of a misunderstanding about how easy it is to get into.”

Most FIFO workers that Mitch has met have stories like his: they knew a guy who knew another guy. For what it’s worth, this is also how every person I spoke to for this story started FIFO.

I ask what he thinks of the FIFO consultant TikTok accounts that help people build the right resumes to get in.

“I mean, for resumé help to be helpful, your resumé has to actually be on the desk of someone that can give you a job.”

Rhonda on site

Rhonda on site / Supplied

I really wanted to speak to Rhonda. She’s a mother from New Zealand and seemed different from the other workers I saw online. FIFO wasn’t her calling; it was supposed to be a temporary step to help her reach her actual goal.

In a recent video on TikTok, she talked about how she was about to start a FIFO job as a machine operator. She’d worked in the mines before – and had sworn she’d never go back. But things were different now: she wanted to open a kitchen selling fry bread, a popular Māori food. A six-month FIFO stint seemed like the best way to fund it.

We scheduled a call for the following week, but when I followed up, she responded that actually, she hated FIFO and had already left.

I spoke to her a few days later to talk about what had gone wrong.


Rhonda first started FIFO back in 2008 – she’d moved to Australia to take the job. At first, she loved it.

“I thought, Oh, my God, I'm gonna make all this money and be able to buy a house. I had a really positive attitude.”

A year turned into 5 years, which turned into 15. Like a lot of people around her, Rhonda felt trapped – she was earning more than before but found herself in a cycle of debt that kept her from leaving. She didn’t really know what else she could do without taking a massive pay decrease.

Whatever part of working in the mines had seemed fun was long gone. She was in an old-school site with strict rules about when you had to be in bed and where you were allowed to walk around. If you talked back, they’d just get rid of you. Even as she accumulated experience, it was hard for her to move up in a male-dominated workplace. She says that today, many FIFO women have radically different experiences, and she knows it’s not this way for everyone or on every site. But, for her, it was taxing. 

Eventually, Rhonda was financially able to leave the mines – until recently, when her personal circumstances changed. 

“I thought, I’ll just do it for a little, just so I can get my little kitchen. I lasted a week. I couldn’t wait to quit.”

When she started the new FIFO job last month, Rhonda arrived at another old-school, male-dominated mine site. She was supposed to use a bulldozer, but they said women weren’t allowed and put her on a truck. Obviously, this pissed her off. The 12-hour days meant nobody was getting enough sleep, so everyone kept sniping at each other. “The whole environment felt toxic,” she says.


She struggled with the isolation, especially since FIFO takes her away from her family. During her 15 years of mining, her mom helped look after her kids – but Rhonda missed a lot.

“I missed out on their birthdays and Christmases. I missed out on everything. I sent them to boarding school, but I have no memory of this school, because I was never there.”

She doesn’t want to take away from the good parts of FIFO. There was a time when she loved it, and it’s really a great way to make money. She hopes single people working FIFO, then jetting off to go party on a beach, have a great time. But she’s glad she left.

“I was getting good money,” she tells me – $73 an hour – “but I’d rather work in a kitchen for half the pay.”

I guess being a FIFO worker in the generic sense isn’t a real thing – it’s not like everyone holds the same role, works at the same site, follows the same schedule, or makes the same salary. 

I get why a compartmentalized schedule is attractive, and if you’ve got the physical and emotional stamina for it, FIFO could really set you up financially. But, as an easily sunburned and generally feeble woman with a passion for working from bed and then blurring my Zoom background so it looks like I’m not doing that, I think you’d catch me on the first flight out.

Right now, Gen Z is reaching adulthood in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, while scrolling tiny content machines that submerge them in things to want. It makes sense that FIFO would gain steam at this particular moment. But achieving the aspirations of the internet has never been straightforward—and, for many, it comes with a price.