Program aims to pair farmers with Timor-Leste seasonal workers

Stuart McGuckinSouth Western Times
VegetablesWA chief executive John Shannon
Camera IconVegetablesWA chief executive John Shannon Credit: Countryman

A pilot program designed to provide West Australian horticulture businesses with seasonal workers from Timor-Leste is set to benefit South West growers.

Up to 12 businesses will take part in a pilot of the Pacific Labour Scheme project announced by Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan last week.

It will see the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development partner with vegetablesWA to match workers from Pacific Island labour programs with WA horticulture businesses.

VegetablesWA chief executive John Shannon said “dozens” of growers in the South West could benefit from the pilot program.

“It will help assess the benefits to the local industry of providing to the local industry a facilitation service for the Seasonal Worker Programme and the Pacific Labour Scheme,” he said.

“Difficulties obtaining and training seasonal labour is an industry-wide issue with the data gathered during the trial expected to assist vegetable growers plan better for the future.”

Mr Shannon said vegetablesWA would identify six to 12 businesses willing to take part in the trial and assess their labour needs, constraints and opportunities.

“This pilot project arose through conversations between the State Government, industry and Timor-Leste,” he said.

“We are really pleased to have had such good support from Timor-Leste for the concept as a country who participates in the Seasonal Labour Programme.

“We are still working with the Government on how the application process will work but would love to hear from any farmers in the South West who might be interested in being part of the pilot.”

Ms MacTiernan securing a reliable workforce was vital as the State’s horticulture industry continued to grow.

“The labour scheme pilot project will begin to address the labour needs of WA’s horticultural industry and strengthen linkages with our Pacific neighbours,” she said.

“Getting a clearer understanding of the barriers to accessing and retaining seasonal workers will be an important first step in designing future workforce needs.”

She said the close proximity of Timor-Leste meant it made sense to establish a long-term partnership to bring more workers to the State.

“I have worked on driving partnerships with Timorese workers over the last decade, recognising the great value and mutual benefits in establishing a stronger relationship,” she said.

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