ALL FOR THE KIDS: Paul Howarth with his children Josh, 9, Ben, 11, Stephanie, 2, and Cameron, 6.
ALL FOR THE KIDS: Paul Howarth with his children Josh, 9, Ben, 11, Stephanie, 2, and Cameron, 6. Warren Lynam

How FIFO dad keeps family close when he's 2000km away

HE MIGHT be 2000km away from home but Paul Howarth makes a point of being a part of his family's houshold every day.

The FIFO worker phones home to Sippy Downs every afternoon or night to speak to his wife, Mandy, and any or all of their four kids.

"They don't always want to talk to me. Often they hand the phone to Stephie," he said.

Paul, 49, has been a fly-in, fly-out worker, working swings of two weeks on, one week off, for three-and-a-half years.

He has worked at Whyalla in South Australia and Cobar in New South Wales but his current job is just out of Mount Isa.

He said working away from home "was not completely easy."

"The older boys, they understand, but Stephie ...

"It's a bit hard with her. We say, 'Dad's going to get the bus to work'.

"She knows when I get the bus that I'm going to be away for two weeks, although time doesn't mean anything to her, and suddenly, I'm back again."

A qualified fitter, Paul once ran his own business in Maroochydore but sold that when his and Mandy's first child, Tammy, was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Tammy died 10 years ago, just before her third birthday, a loss which still brings tears to Paul's eyes.

He went back to work helping out at an air-conditioning business which led him to a second trade qualification as a refrigeration mechanic.

But when a couple of wet summers put a dampener on tourism which flowed on to the rest of the Sunshine Coast economy, Paul was forced to look elsewhere for work.

"I've always worked, every since I was 15 ... I've never stopped working. I'm a touch of a workaholic," he said.

He survives the relentless routine of work, and then making up for lost time at home, and then heading back to work, by reminding himself of that end goal.

"I look at life as a challenge, to get ahead for the kids, not for me."

His simple vision for his kids as they grow up is that they learn to "see life for what it is and do the right thing."

"You see the drugs and violence and these ratbags overseas that want to blow things up. I hope they don't go down that path and can see right from wrong, and do the right thing."

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