Online Community Engagement Software

Pacific Labour Scheme / Seasonal Worker Programme for Agriculture

Project overview

Flood support and grants available for Pacific Nations agriculture workers and other visa holders

Flood affected Pacific nations workers, and other approved visa holders working in the agriculture sector are able to access financial support if they live in a declared activation area.

Workers should search the latest declared activation area information and then apply for the various forms of personal hardship financial assistance. The activated areas are reviewed regularly, so continue to monitor the website if your area is not currently included.

These grants can be applied for through the Community Recovery Grants Portal. Please be aware, some financial assistance grants are income or asset tested. Make sure you meet all criteria before applying.

If you require assistance with the portal or are unable to complete the grant applications online, please phone the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349. A consultant will be able to assist with troubleshooting or completing the application on your behalf. Please ensure, if possible, you have identification information before calling the hotline. If you are unable to provide any forms of identification, a community recovery officer may seek further information about your circumstances to assess your application.

If you are experiencing emotional stress or personal financial hardship from the flooding and rainfall event, you can contact your local emergency relief provider or counselling service. This applies even if your area is not currently listed as an activation area.

If you require more information, you can phone 13 QGOV (13 74 68) or visit the Queensland Government website (www.qld.gov.au).

Pacific nation agricultural workers that are working in Queensland may have been affected by the recent flood events. DAF has contacted the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme to ensure both employers and employees are supported to assist these workers. Our Pacific Labour Scheme/Seasonal Worker Programme (PLS/SWP) team continues to work with PALM and Queensland’s Approved Employers to provide support and assistance. The key contact numbers for Approved Employers and employees to access PALM assistance and support at this time is for:

Seasonal workerscan call the SWP information line on(+61 2 6240 5234), 9 am–5 pm (AEDT) Monday to Friday, or the support service line below after hours for critical incidents. They can also send anemail to (seasonalworker@dese.gov.au).

Longer-term workerscan call the support service line on (1800 51 51 31) or email (support@pacificlabourfacility.com.au). Please note the support email inbox is only monitored during business hours, and calls to the support service line after hours should be for critical incidents only.

Queensland's borders are open

At 1.00 am AEST, 22 January 2022 fully vaccinated international travellers, including Pacific nation workers, arriving in Queensland were no longer required to quarantine. However, always check whether there may be other requirements when entering Queensland from overseas.

Despite the changes to entry into Queensland, it is expected that workforce pressure in the Queensland agriculture sector will continue throughout 2022. All enterprises should have considered workforce attraction strategies for peak periods and planning ahead.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has support, links and information available through the BCP eHub and regional Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network (QAWN) officers. QAWN officers are located across the state and can assist agribusinesses navigate workforce requirements and connect with labour providers.

The Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP), now consolidated under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme, will continue to address the labour shortages in agribusiness.

Enterprises looking for tech-based solutions can also visit DAF’s AgTech Portal to search our AgTech Finder and connect with innovation hubs and founders across the state.

Vaccination of your workforce

While all workers now entering Queensland from Pacific Nation countries must be vaccinated there are many workers in Queensland who are not fully vaccinated.

Please arrange to get these workers vaccinated as soon as possible. This not only protects them but also reduces significant risk to your workforce.

Queensland Health supports any initiative you come up with by arranging to have these workers vaccinated.

Contact your local health care provider or clinic to arrange for these vaccinations as soon as possible.

Support for rebuilding Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga was hit by tsunami in the wake of the volcanic eruption at Hunga-Tonga – Hunga-Ha’api on Saturday 15 January 2022. It has caused devastation to homes and vital infrastructure, and 85 per cent of the 105,000 residents of the Kingdom is impacted. Queensland has close ties to the people of Tonga and is home to many Tongans. Our agriculture sector is particularly appreciative of the Tongans who helped fill pandemic-related harvest workforce shortages in 2021 – their contributions helped keep food on all our tables and many remain in the state to assist in 2022. Tonga now needs our help to rebuild. The High Commission of the Kingdom of Tonga in Canberra, with the mandate of the Government of Tonga, has opened an official relief account.

Account Name: High Commission of The Kingdom of Tonga,
7 Newdegate St, Deakin ACT 2600, Australia

Designator: Fakalikutonga Relief Fund

Bank: Westpac Bank, Woden Cntr,3 Bradley St,Woden ACT 2606,Australia

BSB: 032 713

A/C: 537859

SWIFT code: WPACAU25

Any donations would be most gratefully received and will all go where it is needed. Please advise of any donations to: The High Commission of the Kingdom of -Tonga: info@tongahighcom.com.au; or The Consulate General of the Kingdom of Tonga: info@waterhouse.to

Resources to support the treatment of COVID-19, what to do if you test positive and advice for close contacts are available in the Important Information section of this eHub. The resources have been codesigned with multicultural communities and health sector stakeholders to ensure they respond to community concerns and include:

Medical care for COVID-19 - Explaining how to get help, navigating the National Coronavirus Helpline and when you should call an ambulance.

What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 – Covering types of COVID-19 tests, registering a RAT test, isolation, recovery and health information for self-management of COVID at home and practical support for people in isolation.

Who is a close contact? – Covering who is a close contact, when close contacts can return to work, who is a critically essential worker and what are the rules for critically essential workers.

Information for multicultural communities is available in 40 languages.

New social media resources to promote vaccination for children 5–11 and boosters, and a factsheet with basic steps on how to complete a nasal Rapid Antigen Test are available.

The February Commonwealth Multicultural information pack is available on this Ehub under Important Information.

This pack contains in-language communications resources with information about COVID-19:

  • COVID-19 vaccine booster doses;
  • COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11;
  • Getting tested for COVID-19 and what to do if you test positive; and
  • Living with COVID-19 and how to care for yourself and others.

Click on the links in the attached stakeholder pack to access translated COVID-19 information in your community’s language. Resources include videos, audio files, posters, factsheets and social media content.

There are changes to restrictions in Queensland business, event and mask restrictions are easing. Details are available under Important Information.

From 6 pm on Friday 4 March 2022, restrictions on businesses, events and mask-wearing  will ease in Queensland. Masks will no longer be required indoors, except in hospitals, residential aged care, disability accommodation, prisons, public transport, taxis and rideshare, airports and on planes. Masks will still be recommended whenever you can’t social distance. Venues and events will no longer have density limits, including for places of worship and community halls.

Queensland Health and Refugee Health Network CALD COVID-19 Health Engagement Project (CHEP) Resources factsheet is available under the Important Information tab

Catch up with our Approved Employers

Andrew Serra – FNQ banana and avocado grower - shares his experience

*Article courtesy of Australian Banana Growers’ Council

Andrew Serra has spent a lot of time on the phone over the past 12-months. While this isn’t unusual for most business owners, it’s the subject of those phone calls that has changed. “We’ve been working with [labour hire company] Madec non-stop,” he said. “I’ve been on the phone with them every second day, just pushing.”

Mr Serra, who grows bananas and avocados, has been looking for workers since this time last year. He’s managed to get by with current staff but describes the situation as a constant battle. Thankfully, he’s now secured a number of seasonal workers through the hotel quarantine system.
“I know a number of farms who use these workers and have got very few people currently. The turnover is massive and it’s draining on the farm owners, obviously, but also on their support staff and management team. From our experience, it’s not only us but also our supervisors and managers have been struggling since Christmas.”

Mr Serra describes the current situation as an employee’s market. The few that are looking for work can pick and choose, and agriculture is often far down their list desirable jobs. For Mr Serra, the solution lies in working with authorities to set up more quarantine hubs and ensuring appropriate vaccinations are available to those coming from COVID-free countries to work. 

“Unfortunately, though, it’s going to be user pays,” he said. “The days when you could pick up a worker fresh into the country, without having to pay for quarantine or anything else, are likely done, for the next few years at least. Some can afford it, some can’t. I understand that. It’s a commercial decision people will have to make. It’s not a cheap decision. But after going through the process, there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel – productivity and workplace culture has improved." It’s not over yet, though. There’s always going to be competition with other industries and backpackers can pick and choose their path. With many banana businesses struggling, particularly those that are smaller, Mr Serra’s advise is to work with reputable Approved Employers to give you the best chance of accessing new workers arriving into the country.

 

2021 will go down as a birthday with a difference for Barrie Mackay from Mackays Bananas

Barrie spent his special day in quarantine alongside 60 workers from Vanuatu who have come over through the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) to help meet labour shortages at Mackays Tully farm. 

While Barrie wanted a no-fuss birthday, the workers weren’t going to miss a chance to sing happy birthday and drape him in their national flag. They then presented him with a handmade garland using material sourced from the accommodation’s garden.  A special cake delivery at the daily food drop, organised by Barrie’s wife Nadia, was icing on his birthday celebrations.

The Queensland Government is coordinating quarantine requirements for employers seeking to bring agricultural workers into Queensland from low-risk Pacific Nations under the Pacific Labour Scheme/Seasonal Worker Program. Approved employers such as Mackays Bananas nominate the country the workers would come from, the proposed quarantine arrangements and where the workers will stay and work after quarantine. “The ability to access workers from our low-risk Pacific nations has certainly helped us out,” Barrie said. “Since our borders closed to manage the pandemic, we’ve been faced with challenges around workforce and there’s no silver bullet. As an industry, we will continue to need overseas workers, local workers and backpackers who are still in the country.”

Queensland was the first state to allow on-farm quarantine. And since October 2020, DAF has assisted with welcoming 3,000 workers who have completed quarantine.