Last year, Taire worked at Olam Orchards Australia in Carwarp, Victoria. It was his fifth visit under the program, which makes him one of the earliest Kiribatis to participate since the Pacific nation joined the Seasonal Worker Programme in 2010.
Kiribati workers have earned a reputation for both hard work and friendliness among Australian employers.
‘I love coming back,’ Taire said. ‘I have three sons and the money I have earned here sends them to school and helped buy a fishing boat for my brother. Every year when I come I support my family.’
Few countries need as much help as the tiny equatorial Pacific nation of Kiribati, which joined the Seasonal Worker Programme in 2010. It is one of the world’s most remote and vulnerable countries, consisting of 100,000 people living on 33 low-lying coral atolls that are subject to rising seas levels.
The Seasonal Worker Programme also helps Australian farmers and accommodation operators who are unable to source enough local workers to meet their seasonal labour needs.
The program attracted more than 6,000 workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste in the 2016–17 Financial Year, with the numbers trending higher each year.
The program contributes to the economic development of participating countries by supporting workers to undertake short-term low and unskilled jobs in Australia’s agriculture and accommodation sectors.
Most of the workers send money back home to help their families and communities.
A recent World Bank report, Maximising the Development Impacts from Temporary Migration (Recommendations for Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme) found that the program now offers more employment opportunities than the entire formal sectors of some of its participating countries.
In the report, the majority of workers said they were ‘extremely satisfied’ with their experience in the program and ‘have improved their living standards in a way that would have been unimaginable otherwise’.
The Australian Government is introducing new measures to the program, including increasing Australian industry engagement, piloting ways to lower upfront costs for employers, improving visa arrangements and reducing red tape.
Critical safeguards are built into the program and include a requirement for approved employers to fully test the local job market before they can apply to recruit overseas workers.
Seasonal workers brought into Australia by approved employers are subject to the same workplace relations and work health and safety safeguards as Australian workers.
More information about the Seasonal Worker Programme.