Comment that ruined dream job
"IT'S enough to make you want to run into the desert and never look back."
Walking into a donga, the tiny tin-sheds in which thousands of Australia's fly-in, fly-out workers spend weeks away from home, isn't easy for the men and women chipping away at the nation's mines.
But spare a thought for the people tasked with doing all the behind-the-scenes work to keep those frontline workers happy.
With the job title of "utility", the thousands who don't go into the mines are nicknamed "all rounders" because of how much their job title encompasses.
Utilities can be tasked with housekeeping jobs to being thrown in the kitchen or onto admin or groundskeeping work in the one day.
And according to Julia, a West Australian woman who worked in the state's mines for three years, the working conditions utilities, and women in other mining jobs face, are just as bad.
Julia and her husband spent a number of years working in WA mines before the downturn in 2016 forced both of them out.
Despite trying for almost a year to get back in the industry, Julia can now admit she's happy they realised when "enough was enough".
At the peak of the mining boom in 2012, Julia joined the thousands of other young West Australians who decided a job in the mining sector was too good of an offer to turn down.
But not long after Julia nabbed a reasonably well-paying job as a utility, the then 26-year-old realised the industry had a dark side.
When she stepped off the plane to work her first FIFO job, Julia believed she was stepping into a housekeeping job. Instead, she was abruptly told she'd been reassigned to the kitchen.
After two months of off-the-cuff, sexual comments from men walking into the kitchen, Julia finally realised why she'd been reassigned.
"I was having a drink in the bar with a girlfriend two months after we'd started FIFO work and the site manager walked up to me and said 'The only reason I put you in the kitchen was so I could walk past you and stare at your ass every day', that was the boss of the whole site that said that to me," she said.
Another time, Julia and her friend were leaving the bar when a FIFO worker approached them and said, "You're going to come to my donga and f**k my d**k".
One of the final straws for Julia was when she heard a man say to one of his friends as they walked past a female shop keeper, "Look at the sweet tits on that one I would f**k the legs right off her".
She took the sexual harassment complaint right up to the superintendent, a female, but a week later she spotted the same man walking on site.
Julia and the woman who had been the target of the man's words were later told by the superintendent there'd been too much "red tape" for her to do anything.
"Women need to know they can get taken care of there, especially if these things are happening," she said.
But it isn't just sexual harassment, she said. Utilities are also given impossible tasks and quotas to fill, all while they're on a salary of $64,000.
"When you hear $64,000 you think that sounds quite decent but then you're working 12-14 hour days and for manual, hard labour, that's nothing. It ends up being around $20 an hour for the work you do," she said.
Cleaning the dongas, where FIFO workers return to sleep after 12 hours in a sweaty mine, is particularly gruelling work.
"They're disgusting, I know it's hard for these guys but they need to understand it's hard for us too," Julia said.
"Often we'd walk in and there'd be used condoms on the floor, wank tissues, they wouldn't flush the toilet and sometimes I used to think, 'I'm getting paid $22 an hour for this sh*t, it's heinous.
"It's enough to make you want to run into the desert and never look back."
The used condoms often belonged to men and women who Julia said engage in extramarital affairs while they're away.
"You think you know these people you spend weeks in the middle of nowhere with, you see them out onsite with girlfriends or boyfriends then you all get off the plane and they walk over to their family. There's a lot of extramarital stuff going on," she said.
As well as the filthy conditions they're forced to clean in, utilities are also given impossible quotas to hit.
Julia was required to clean 45 dongas a day which, if she worked a 12-hour shift with no break, meant finishing one every 16 minutes.
"I had so much anxiety, the mental health issues out there are rampant. You're working your ass off and you're too scared to take breaks because then you won't meet your quota," she said.
"And bear in mind, you're doing all of this in 45 degree heat in long pants and a long shirt and steel-capped boots."
'YOU'RE ON GREAT MONEY, WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?'
Jobs in the mining sector are consistently ranked as offering the highest average salary in Australia, but this has caused a level of misinformation in the general public, workers say.
Despite the number one rank, recent data from SEEK revealed an average salary for someone working in the mining industry was $116,000 - a drop of 13.96 per cent from 2013.
"So many people say to you, 'but you're on great money, what's wrong with you?' But they don't realise the hours everyone works there," Julia said.
"People who haven't done it before, they just see you earning all this money and as a nice, shiny idea. You go to the site, get somewhere to stay and get fed but realistically you feel trapped, it's a totally different reality.
"It's almost impossible to take holidays because even if you want to take one or two days off, you miss a full swing - so you miss out on three or four weeks of work - which is money you can't afford to lose."
Spending such a short amount of time at home is the main factor in ending workers' relationships and breaking up families.
A miner who did FIFO work across Australia for five years previously told news.com.au
"if you're FIFO for longer than two years there's a three in four chance your relationship will go bust".
Julia, now 30 and happily running her own business with her husband in Tasmania, understands there is a level of sympathy for FIFO workers, but points out when people think of the term it's usually men who come to mind. She wants people to know how tough women have it too.
"I guess what I am trying to get at is..... it's not just the blokes. It's the women. The mothers. The sisters, girlfriends, strong-willed females who feel like they have stepped back in time dealing with lower pay, sexual harassment and constant challenges presented daily," she said.
"I hung in there for three years but I had to get out, enough is enough."