Tasmania's fly in fly out workforce has been in limbo since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia in March, with no end date in sight.
A FIFO Facebook group, started in May, for Tasmanians in the industry has about 300 members, all with a different story to tell.
The group acts as a support network as they try to get the state government to address their concerns and frustrations, keep up with changing restrictions and navigate their new way of life.
Some members are stuck in other states on the mainland, while others are in constant isolation at their interstate work site and when they return home.
The lucky ones, who can return home, have been in constant isolation since restrictions were imposed in March.
Devonport FIFO worker Nathan Boag, who created the group, said the government had not replied to hundreds of emails sent by members and not one exemption had been granted.
"We are now five months continuous quarantine, unable to see a doctor unless [it's] an emergency. Unable to see a dentist. Unable to go for a walk.
"If we quit our jobs we add more strain to an already overwhelmed welfare system," he said.
"We are used to missing out on life events, but we don't sign up to be locked out of our homes and state for months on end, to then only be in constant quarantine with no option to be tested.
"The major concern is physical and mental health."
All of the FIFO workers and families that The Examiner spoke to insisted they were grateful to still have employment and wanted to share their stories in the hopes of getting the government to make a change.
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On-site health protocols
Mr Boag said all FIFO mine workers adhere to various stringent COVID-19 safety measures, including social distancing rules. It ensures the industry survives and a mining site is not compromised by an outbreak.
"It would appear, members of the public have very little idea on what is happening to prevent COVID-19 being brought in by us the FIFO worker," he said.
He said each mine site had health screening as they board their plane, before they begin work daily and as they leave the site, including temperature checks, questionnaires and COVID-19 testing.
Launceston couple stuck since March
Launceston couple Aleathea De Ruyter-Barnett and Jason Barnett are stuck in Western Australia.
The pair left for Pilbara in March with a small bag of summer clothes and have been stuck ever since.
In WA, FIFO workers can reenter the state, under an exemption, but are required to isolate for 14 days. Meaning they would face quarantine at both ends if they returned home.
Mrs De Ruyter-Barnett said they had been renting out Airbnbs, as if they flew home they would need to take six to eight weeks off work.
"It's damaging people ... it's an awful situation for everybody," she said.
"We don't have a car, you don't know anybody and just not having a date of knowing when you're going to go home.
"We don't want Tassie to open their borders, we don't want WA to open their borders, we just want a bit of ... compassion."
They have not seen their 20-year-old daughter or 25-year-old son since they left which is taking a toll. Mrs De Ruyter-Barnett said they hoped to be home by September for their daughter's 21st birthday.
One of the lucky ones
Jake Blackwell is considered one of the lucky ones as he is able to return home.
He works on a mine site in Mount Isa and initially when the pandemic hit he was stuck there for eight weeks.
He was allowed home after Queensland granted FIFO workers exemptions, on the premise they went straight to site.
Since being able to return home to Devonport, he has been in constant isolation.
At home he spends two weeks in quarantine, unable to leave his house, before flying to his work site and spending another two weeks in isolation there, as they stay onsite with only the kitchen open.
Creating a constant cycle.
He has a young daughter and his wife is pregnant with their second child, which is due in September. To be at the birth Mr Blackwell said he would take four weeks off work unpaid.
"The constant isolation and quarantine puts a strain on relationships, as well as on mental health."
Father and son stuck in WA
Kindred's Samantha Bradburn has not seen her husband Jody or her 18-year-old son Lochlan since the pandemic broke out.
Herself and her 16-year-old daughter remain separated from the other half of the family.
The father and son flew to WA once the borders began to close to keep their jobs at the site near Laverton, unsure when they would return.
Due to WA and Tasmanian restrictions on both ends they would also need to take several weeks off work to return home. Despite this, Mr Bradburn is trying to get home but his flights have been cancelled.
Mrs Bradburn said it was lucky her son and husband had each other.
State stands firm
Since the beginning Tasmanian FIFO workers have not been granted quarantine exemptions.
Exemptions are processed by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment and State Controller.
A spokesperson from Premier Peter Gutwein's office said exemptions were at "arm's length" from the government.
"It is important to note that FIFO workers are not just coming into the state, they are going into other states where they are providing an essential service," they said.
"Our number one priority is keeping Tasmanians safe, and we will continue to make decisions based on public health advice to prevent a second wave."
They did not answer if the government had a plan to address the issues facing FIFO workers.
Currently FIFO workers quarantine at home for 14 days, if they work outside Victoria and do not leave Melbourne airports on connecting flights.
A State Control Centre spokesperson said an exemption would be denied if it did not prove unusual, underserved or disproportionate hardship.
They said border restrictions would be reviewed on July 31.
"Like any returning traveller, a FIFO worker can present a risk of transmitting coronavirus into Tasmania," the spokesperson said.
"The difficult family circumstances experienced by some FIFO workers is acknowledged, however the health and safety of the Tasmanian community is a priority."
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