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Jet set work jump-starts future

Date

Larissa Nicholson

Martin Smith and his eight-month-old son, Lewin, at his home in Higgins.

Martin Smith and his eight-month-old son, Lewin, at his home in Higgins. Photo: Graham Tidy

THOSE complaining of getting caught on Northbourne Avenue in peak hour could spare a thought for Martin Smith.

For more than two years, the Higgins geologist endured an eight-hour commute from Canberra to work at a goldmine in the Northern Territory as part of the fly-in, fly-out workforce.

Mr Smith would leave Canberra at 6am on Tuesday to fly to Melbourne and then catch another flight to Alice Springs.

From there, he would board a chartered flight to the mine with other workers.

''I became really good at falling asleep on planes. I used to get on a plane, buckle my seatbelt up and fall asleep, but waiting in waiting lounges in Melbourne there were a few people flying so you'd meet up with them or read books or read papers, listen to music,'' he said.

Mr Smith worked at the goldmine on a nine days on, five days off roster for more than two years starting in January 2008, and said he would recommend the experience to others.

He earned about $30,000 more working at the mine compared with his previous job in the public service, and the work itself was interesting.

But Mr Smith said it was hard being away from his then girlfriend, now wife, Meredith, and he eventually returned to Canberra to get married.

''The work itself was really good, thoroughly enjoyed that, but you can get a bit stunted if you do it for too long,'' he said.

Mr Smith said he and Meredith had agreed he would work on a fly-in, fly-out basis for just a two- to three-year period to help establish themselves financially.

His improved salary meant they could put a deposit on a house and take a honeymoon in Europe.

Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh this week said he was keen to help Canberrans find temporary work in interstate mines if they wanted it.

Dr Leigh said he would hold information sessions on mining jobs if there was enough local interest.

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