Within the expanding category of families characterised by mobilities, long distance commuting families may not be separated by cultures or national borders, but the distances between them may heavily impact on time spent together, especially within Australia. Non-resident workers include fly-in-fly-out or drive-in-drive-out FIFO/DIDO mining and gas industry employees and contractors, who live in the area temporarily while rostered on, and who have their usual place of residence elsewhere. Despite the obvious role digital media plays for transnational families, its significance in mediating the impact of non-resident work on family relationships, gendered family roles, expectations and obligations is currently unknown.

This paper brings together these areas of inquiry to explore how mobility and absence due to work in the Australian mining industry are common features of family life. The discussion draws on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the coal mining Bowen Basin region as part of a study that interrogates the ways digital media impacts upon mobile labour and non-resident workers in the resource extraction industry in Queensland. The research combines conventional ethnography with non-resident workers in mining accommodation villages, on-site with ethnographically informed methods to gauge routine material practices and the meanings attached to movement while workers are away. By incorporating media practices into creating family-hood across distance, the research how different kinds of mobile families create their own sense of wellbeing and how different stakeholders do (or do not) support them.


Jolynna Sinanan is Research Fellow in Digital Media and Ethnography at the University of Sydney. She has an interdisciplinary background in anthropology and development and her research focusses on digital media practices in relation to regionally comparative mobilities, family relationships, work and gender. Her books include Social Media in Trinidad (UCL Press, 2017), Visualising Facebook (Miller and Sinanan, UCL Press, 2017) and Webcam (Miller and Sinanan, Polity, 2014).

About Anthropology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Anthropology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of anthropological research and ideas among UQ scholars and invited researchers. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment.


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