Accepted paper:

Navigating distance and proximity: the moral value of homes, housing and the long distance work commute in a neo-liberal era


Aileen Hoath (Curtin University)
Fiona Haslam Mckenzie (University of Western Australia)

Paper short abstract:

Housing and labour scarcity are central in recent Western Australian mining discourses. A hegemonic globalism situates FIFO labour arrangements as disruptive and disempowering. Contingent neoliberal globalism theory opens on spaces in which workers enact diverse possibilities of housing and home.

Paper long abstract:

Housing, viewed through the lens of accommodation shortages, equity issues, wealth accumulation, development potential and associated labour and infrastructure requirements in Western Australia related to the recent globally driven mining boom has been a central concern for policy makers and industry, employees and impacted communities, and various social commentators. Solutions to the twin mine related issues of housing and labour scarcity have frequently been contentious.. The geography of Western Australia results in major mining projects located in sparsely populated remote regions distant from urbanised population centres. While the construction of company towns provided a solution from the 1960s, increased aviation capacity, government retreat from remote interventions and a corporate turn toward greater labour flexibility, saw a rise in Fly-in Fly-out (FIFO) workforce arrangements from the 1980s. The arrangements, where workers leave home and family to live in on-site camp accommodation for regular intensive compressed shift rosters, has been interpreted through a hegemonic neoliberalism lens, as disruptive and disempowering of labour solidarity, community, and the norms of family life. Housing emerges as a crucial normative element of modern domestic life. FIFO participants are simultaneously represented as victims and agents of disruptive capitalist development. Aligning with scholars who reject 'strong or idealised theories' of neoliberal globalisation for a theory of contingency and hybridity, allows this the authors of this paper to seek out and explore the spaces around dominant policies and practices in which FIFO workers and families navigate the challenges of intermittent separation and intimacy, and enact particular notions of housing, home and domestic life.

panel Dwe03
Material moralities of homes and housing