THE prospect of being able to hire a reliable seasonal workforce through the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) has piqued the interest of Queensland horticulture growers.
International delegates from Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Fiji and Papua New Guinea plugged the value of their workers to strong crowds of growers at recent SWP information sessions in Mareeba, Bowen and Stanthorpe.
Growers also heard from representatives of the Labour Mobility Assistance Program, the Department of Jobs and Small Business, Bowen Gumlu Growers, Mareeba District Fruit & Vegetable Growers, the Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
The common thread was reliability, strong work ethic and a genuine desire to work – qualities all growers seek in their staff.
The international delegates represented four of the 10 participating countries in the Federal Government-funded SWP.
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In 2016/17, Australian employers hired 477 workers from Timor-Leste, 190 from Fiji, 139 from Papua New Guinea and just 87 from Solomon Islands compared with 2690 from Tonga and 2150 from Vanuatu.
Growers were informed of opportunities to diversify recruitment sources across the SWP countries, reducing the impact on the main sending countries.
The aim was also to ensure growers know there are other options when some Pacific Island countries get hit by cyclones and cannot send workers.
Kerry McCarthy from GraceKate Farms on the Darling Downs told growers at the Stanthorpe information session that the SWP had been a game-changer for her business.
“The Seasonal Worker Programme gave us the boost we needed to expand our operation, and we could not do what we do without our teams from Solomon Islands,” she said.
“It gives us confidence to know the SWP has such strong government support both in Australia and abroad, and we encourage any interested growers to get involved.”
For more information about participating countries and contact points, visit jobs.gov.au/participating-countries-and-contact-points
- Copy supplied by Growcom.