For the first time 286 workers from one Pacific Island are heading to Australia for employment opportunities under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme.
The 286 Fijian workers were farewelled by the Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, Youth and Sports, Parveen Kumar Bala on Friday, making it the largest single deployment of workers from a single nation.
There will be more workers from Fiji who will be going as there has been a demand for Fijians to fulfil the labour shortage in Australia.
The PALM Scheme represents one of the two employment pathways offered by Australia to the Pacific nations, the other being seasonal employment.
While closing the four-day pre-departure briefing, Mr Bala highlighted that this was the biggest pre-departure briefing cohort by far.
“To our workers, out of the tens of thousands of applicants, you have all been chosen in this round which means that you are the best of what our country has to offer. Let your employers see that you are indeed the best,” he said.
“Follow in the footsteps of our fellow Fijians that have gone before you and are now part of the PALM Scheme. This interest in Fijian workers by employers in Australia is due to the hard work of our fellow Fijian workers who are already in the Scheme demonstrating to the employers in Australia.
“I wish to congratulate you and hope that you will be good ambassadors and will open many doors of opportunities for your brothers and sisters to experience the same. Do good, work hard, listen to your supervisors and follow instructions and do not be swayed by the bright lights and of course, think of your families always.”
The Australian approved employers in this case are Regional Workforce Management, MADEC, Smart Berries, Plant Grow Pick, JBS Primo, Seeka Pty Ltd, Agri Labor, Kalfa Bananas, and Oakey Beef.
Under the PALM Scheme there has been no issues for Pacific workers however there have been reports of workers being mistreated under the seasonal employment program.
Australian foreign minister Penny Wong has said that the Australian Government would look into the issues of exploitation of Pacific workers.
The exploitation issue is not widespread but it continues to happen. Meanwhile, former Pacific Islanders in Australia have formed a group in partnership with a law firm for those who feel they have been aggrieved by their employers.