Solomon  Islands  workers  harvesting  mangoes  at  Nutrano  in  Katherine
Solomon Islands workers harvesting mangoes at Nutrano in Katherine Cardno

Information sessions to focus on reliable farm workers

Growers in the Lockyer Valley will have the opportunity to hear first-hand about the benefits of using the Federal Government's Seasonal Worker Programme at an information session on August 15.

International delegates from the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu will be joined by representatives from the Labour Mobility Assistance Program, the Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network and the Office of Industrial Relations to discuss the positive outcomes of the program and how growers can get involved.

Attendees will receive and overview of the SWP; hear testimonials from current approved employers; be introduced to Pacific Island Labour Sending Unit staff; and receive an update on labour hire licensing from the Office of Industrial Relations.

The information session will conclude with a Q&A session and attendees will have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Pacific Island nation representatives over dinner.

The August sessions are a continuation of the successful Queensland road show held in March.

QAWN Project Manager Karen George said the information sessions piqued the interest of growers with over 100 attending sessions in Mareeba, Bowen and Stanthorpe during March.

"At these sessions international delegates from the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Fiji and PNG plugged the value of their workers," Ms George said.

"The common thread heard was reliability, a strong work ethic, genuine desire to work and they return each season - all qualities growers seek in their staff.

"The aim was to ensure growers knew there were other options when some Pacific Island nations couldn't send workers due to, for example, natural disasters."

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.

Approved SWP employer Kerry McCarthy from GraceKate Farms on the Darling Downs, will be speaking at the Lockyer Valley information session about her experience with the program.

Ms McCarthy has been an approved employer since 2013 and said the program had been a game-changer for her business.

"The SWP gave us the boost we needed to expand our operation, and we could not do what we do without our team from the Solomon Islands," she said.

"The consistency of a returning workforce is a big incentive for us because we need that stability.

"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 come along and learn more."

  • WHAT WHEN WHERE: Wednesday, 15 August 2018, 5:30 - 6:30pm, followed by BBQ dinner. Gatton Research Station, Warrego Highway, Lawes. RSVP: http://bit.ly/2MPLWWG