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FIFO worker earning $3.5k a week reveals why he still sleeps in his car

"Paying $60-$70 per night for a hostel in a six-person room doesn’t make sense when I have space to sleep in my car.”

A fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) mine worker in Western Australia has revealed the highs and lows of working a job that pays him around $3,500 per week.

Axel De Lièvre isn't a tradesman, meaning he hasn't performed a four-year apprenticeship. Instead, he's a tradie's assistant and can perform a range of tasks on the mine site, from transporting water to ensure his colleagues stay hydrated, to cleaning equipment and driving a forklift.

De Lièvre works in Karratha but is based a 15-hour drive or two-hour flight away in Perth, the country's tightest rental market. The former personal trainer baulked at the cost of renting so, when he has time off and he's not jet-setting to Bali, he resorts to a fairly uncommon living situation.

“During my week off when hostels are booked or expensive, I opt to sleep in my car to save money for travel,” he told Yahoo Finance. “The high demand for hostel beds in Perth makes it challenging to secure affordable accommodations without advance booking.”

FIFO tradie smiling wearing a hard hat with an inset of his car where he sleeps.
FIFO worker Axel lives out of his car to save cash so he can travel after slogging through two-week stretches of mine work. (Source: Supplied)

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But he says he would far rather have an uncomfortable night's sleep and more money in his account than a small bed with shared bathrooms.


“I’ve always sworn to myself that I wouldn’t change my values," he said. "For me, paying $60-$70 per night for a hostel in a six-person room doesn’t make sense when I have space to sleep in my car.”


What does a tradie's assistant do and is it worth it?

Jobs in the mining sector are notoriously well-paid and many have asked De Lièvre how they can do the same. He was once a personal trainer in his home country of Belgium, and Mexico, but worked in mines in Canada before relocating to Australia. He warned the work could be hard and wasn't for everyone.

Here's a quick snapshot of his day:

4.30am: De Lièvre wakes up at camp, has a free breakfast and is transported to site

6:00am: Work day officially starts, with tasks varying from cleaning work areas, maintaining machinery and disposing of hazardous substances

10:00am: Short smoko then back to work

12:00pm: Temperatures are likely over 30C now, with highs of 36C between December and March

2:00pm: Lunch (free again)

6:00pm: Work is over for the day and he's taken back to camp, where he's given dinner and can use the gym, but he's back at it in less than 12 hours

Rinse and repeat for two weeks straight before a one-week break.

The car that tradie Axel sleeps in in Perth when he's not working on the mines.
Despite raking in thousands every week, Axel doesn't mind sleeping in his car when he has time off. (Source: Instagram)

He said the days on the site were long and hot, and were certainly not for the faint-hearted.

“Working in the mines has its positives – high income and company-covered expenses like flights, accommodation, food, and gym facilities,” he said. “I appreciate the free time when off, often travelling to Asia. On the downside, there’s the isolation, loneliness, distance from family, long work hours, and work-life imbalance.”

A tradesman's assistant works in shutdown periods, when the mine is temporarily closed for maintenance, repairs, infrastructure upgrades or safety inspections.

“I began in July with a 10-day shutdown, followed by a 10-week project in August in Karratha, where we built a water-cooling tower. During this project, we worked 12 hours a day, six days a week," he said.

A swimming pool, trays of food and a gym showing free facilities FIFO mine workers get.
Some of the perks on offer for FIFO workers living on camp at a site in Western Australia. (Source: Supplied) (Instagram)

Is it hard to get a job in the mines?

De Lièvre told Yahoo Finance it was “straightforward” to get into Australia’s mining sector and that all you needed was a medical check and to complete several “tickets”, like working in a “confined space” or “at height”.

His top tips are:

  1. Travel to Perth as most mines are in Western Australia

  2. Obtain the necessary tickets like white card, confined space, gas testing, and working at height

  3. Apply everywhere. The more you apply, the greater your chances of finding a job

  4. Securing a job in the mines takes time, so embrace the process and practice patience

There are thousands of jobs online for FIFO workers, ranging from entry-level jobs paying up to $130,000 with a promise of training and career progression, to positions for accredited tradespeople.

Mining has been listed as one of the top-paying jobs to snag for people who don't have a university degree, although they do require some certifications.

There are specific recruiters for FIFO jobs so, if you are interested, you should reach out.

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