Brett Jenkins – “A Boy Miner”
July 9th, 2019
Brett Jenkins, a former fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) miner, has published a book to help others, particularly families, understand the reality of life on the mines. The personal memoir, titled “A Boy Miner”, is based on Brett’s experiences in the Goldfields of Western Australia and the Northern Territories Tanami Desert. It provides a snapshot of his life from the age of eighteen into his early twenties.
After finishing school in the late nineties, an uncle offered him a job diamond drilling and so he accepted. Over four years he worked in places like Kalgoorlie and was often the youngest bloke by a few years.
Brett says his motivation to write the book nearly twenty years later, came from people’s enjoyment of his stories from his time as a miner. He also believes enough time has passed for him to reflect on the experience with some added maturity.
“I can almost say I was too young; I don’t know if it’s a great environment for someone quite immature. It’s quite a dangerous environment and the living away from home is quite hard, it was for me.”
Upon reflection, Brett realised that his personality wasn’t suited for the FIFO lifestyle and he’s glad he got out when he did. He says that from the large population in Western Australia who work in FIFO, not everyone is suited. Often, the appeal of earning good money or potential expectations from family or themselves, stop others from changing careers.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the job they should be doing but they keep doing it, they fall into it and stay in it. By staying in it and not being suited to it, it often leads to mental health issues.”
“I write a story (in the book), this was happening twenty years ago but we didn’t really talk about it. And I think it gives a bit of an insight into what miners go through.”
Today, mining laborers have the highest suicide rate of all occupations in Australia. Brett says these problems existed twenty years ago but were dealt with very differently.
“A Boy Miner explores the trials of negotiating the meaning of masculinity, of mateship, and the effects that absence and isolation can have on FIFO workers and their families.” – “A Boy Miner” blurb
One of Brett’s main goals for the book is to help families of FIFO workers to understand it better.
He said, “The miners who are doing FIFO, I’m hoping they really identify with everything I’m talking about. This is also a book for their families so they can understand what they go through up there.”
“Your life is lived in two polar opposites. You work very hard, long hours and then you’ve got complete freedom.”
Brett says something he found really interesting was that some workers seem to have two completely different personalities when they’re on site and when they’re at home.
“(It’s like) they have to be a certain person on the mine site…Especially when I was working, when it was almost entirely an all-male environment, you have to be very tough, you have to be very hard. For some people it’s a personality thing and if that’s not who you are it can be isolating.”
Brett acknowledges that some people are able to manage it and can make peace with the sacrifices. In his book he mentions a cousin who’s been in the industry for over twenty years and still enjoys it as his personality is well suited. A key learning for him is that if you aren’t suited to the lifestyle, then staying in it will only make life harder for you.
Now a father and working as an English tutor, Brett says that seeing how unprepared kids can be heading into the work environment has made him realize how unprepared he was all those years ago.
“I understand why I probably wasn’t suited and I think If I was a bit more mature I would of handled it better.”