Special report: A look at the lives of two FIFO families
WHEN the time comes, they both leave their families on flights bound for isolated outposts.
Two hours after leaving Brisbane, one will arrive in Moranbah, a tiny coal mining township west of the Central Queensland coastline.
The other will cross two state boundaries, flying from Brisbane to Melbourne before driving two-and-a-half hours to Longford in eastern Victoria.
From there, he will be choppered over the Bass Strait to an oil rig where he works as a chef.
Despite claims made to the contrary this week, neither will be staying in accommodation that resembles a concentration camp.
For coalminer Michael - not his real name - the commute is a chore he endures because BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance does not allow local workers at its new Caval Ridge mine.
For Christine Mackay and her husband Danny, it is a lifestyle they embrace - one that gives them the freedom to live where and how they wish.
A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
WHEN BMA began recruiting for its Daunia and Caval Ridge mines, the only option for those locals wanting work was to move.
Only workers from either south-east Queensland or Cairns were considered.
Michael and his family left their regional life for the Sunshine Coast to try their luck.
Michael talks about his new home away from the country as being haunted by vampires - during the day, the neighborhood is deserted but grows active at night.
"I have kids that come from the bush," he said.
"Where we are - people are vampires, we don't see them during the day, only at night.
"I come from an area where we didn't have to lock our doors.
"I could walk outside and scream and no one could hear me.
"It's taking a long, long time to settle down."
He was selected for one of the 900 jobs offered by BMA at the two mines, his resume chosen from a pile of 30,000 applications.
The two mines are the only "100% fly-in, fly-out" mines in Queensland.
He describes Caval Ridge as "the pinnacle of all the mines" - everything is new.
With recruits pulled in from other industries and trained, there is optimism and enthusiasm.
"It would have cost thousands just to get one person through the process," he said.
"They've weeded out all the assholes."
Everyone is on a seven-on, seven-off roster.
Part of the deal is that they must be on a plane to Moranbah from Brisbane or Cairns to be ready for their shift. When the whistle blows after seven 12-hour days, they must board their designated flight out of town.
There is no room for visiting the nearby coalfield towns of Moranbah, Dysart or Clermont let alone the coastal centres of Mackay or even the Whitsundays to the north.
Their time does not become their own until they arrive back in Brisbane or Cairns.
"It's worse than a boarding school," he said.
"A boarding school you don't get sacked."
For Michael who now lives in south-east Queensland, it can make for a long journey.
If the plane runs on time, he will arrive in Brisbane three hours after finishing work.
If it runs late, he could be preparing to drive 100km at the end of five hours in transit.
"Driving to the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast - you imagine doing that after a nightshift on a motorway," he said.
"I don't understand why we have to fly in and out from Brisbane."
If he was able to live nearby, maybe it would be different.
Michael knew what he signed on for, that he would have to be spirited back and forth from the middle of Central Queensland, but he still hopes for change.
"It will work better if they don't have 100% FIFO," he said.
"It's knowing you can get home and for the wives to know you can come home.
"We would only like to do it five years, but I don't know if I can last five years."
A PERFECT SUNRISE FOR MACKAY
IN OLD-fashioned terms: Danny Mackay is the family breadwinner, working two weeks on, two off on a lonely oil rig somewhere in the Bass Strait.
His wife Christine though may have the tougher job - while he is away, she is left to wrangle Riley, Cooper and Willow, their three children under six.
As a chef on the rigs, he spends his two week break delivering and collecting the kids from school or kindergarten.
He chips in to help out at kindy if needed and prepares the family dinner.
"We're very lucky to have that when he's at home," Christine said.
It cannot be an easy life.Danny took a casual job on the rigs six years ago when the pair lived in Victoria.
He left home for the rigs just one week after Riley was born.
Time ticked on and Danny's chef job became permanent, then he was promoted to a chef manager role.
Two years after Riley came into the world, the Mackay's welcomed younger brother Cooper, now four.
Willow arrived two years after that. She is now two.
Before having children, Christine and Danny lived at Sunrise Beach on the Sunshine Coast.
Just three weeks ago, they returned.
"We chose the lifestyle for the children," she said.
"We left the lifestyle of the Sunshine Coast to be back in Victoria where we did originally grow up, where we're from.
"We've had two other little ones, they are now a little older, so we decided to follow our dream and move back to the Sunshine Coast in the area we love."
Danny's employer does not pay for his transfers from Sunrise Beach to eastern Victoria, it is an extra cost for the family so they can live where they want.
It may be routine now, but habit does not replace having your husband nearby. Christine is already making contact with others like herself, whether through groups like FIFOfamilies.com.au or simply on Facebook.
"It gets lonely," Christine said.
"If your husband is away at night time, you want someone to call on.
"It comes down to how positive you are about the lifestyle that you live.
"Danny and I have had lots of conversations about why we do choose it. We support each other.
"If the kids are sick, he has the flexibility of coming home.
"We miss him when he's away but we're working towards having him here for good."