Australia Recruiting Seasonal Workers From Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Employees can now stay 9 months to help recoup cost of flights

TARAWA (Radio Kiribati, Nov. 17, 2015) — The Australian High Commission here in Kiribati says it will work closely with the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources Development to maximize the number of I-Kiribati people recruited to work in Australia’s seasonal workers program.

Australian High Commissioner to Kiribati George Fraser told Radio Kiribati News there is now no maximum number of people required to work in Australia from Kiribati and other Pacific Island nations.

"We understand that the seasonal workers program is demand-driven and depends on the demand from the employers," he said. "If they are wanted by the employers and meet the criteria, of course, they can go. You could have four to five thousand people down there if you wanted to and if they’re welcomed by the employer."

Fraser said he’s argued with the Australian government for longer visas for the people of Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu because flights from these countries are very expensive.

"In order to recoup the money you outlay, we argued that it would be fair if the workers from these countries could stay longer."

The Australian government has agreed to this concept and workers from Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu can now stay and work in Australia’s seasonal workers program for nine months rather than six months.

"That’s good for the employers because they don’t have to retrain people. They have the same people and it’s very good also for the workers to save money."

Australia intends to take 200 people or up to 250 workers from Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu as part of the Developing Northern Australia Initiative which has moved to its pilot phase of five years.

Workers from these countries could go down to work in Australia for two years and perhaps three and would be working in many different areas or lower-skilled areas such as electrical, welding, carpentry, business and information technology.

They will have a chance to work in the three states that have the northern aspect in Australia such as Northwest Australia, Northern Territory and Northern Queensland.

This will provide them with an opportunity to get experience, to save money and perhaps even to migrate at a later stage.

According to the top Australian diplomat in Kiribati, the initiative for the seasonal workers will be expanded to the types of work that the seasonal worker program is involved in. Previously Pacific Islanders were only allowed to work in horticulture. Now other areas such as hospitality, aquaculture, cane, cotton have opened up opportunities for Pacific workers.

"I guess the message is that we’re opening more industries to the seasonal workers because this is a win-win situation. The farmers need more workers so they can more productive and the workers need employment."

Fraser said the issuance of multi-year visas to workers from Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu under the Development Northern Australia Initiative hasn’t started yet but the first visas will be issued at the beginning of the next financial year or maybe a little bit earlier.

The Australian High Commission in Kiribati is working hard on getting this initiative implemented but says more work should be done with the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources Development in Bairiki in terms of the selection and recruitment process.

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