Timor-Leste workers are filling important gaps in the horticultural workforce this season under the Seasonal Worker Program, with the number of approved workers being 5 times higher in Mallee than last year, with more workers on the way.
“It has been a great day with Mr Samuel Soares from the Timor-Leste embassy. We have met with approved employers and department representatives, and have been out on the ground meeting some of Samuel’s fellow countrymen, who are here working in horticulture.” Dr Webster said.
“Timor-Leste is one of our closest neighbours and they are an important contributor to the Seasonal Worker Program. Workers from Timor-Leste come are helping Australian growers meet a labour need and provide for their families back home.”
“Mr Soares has told us of a significant number of workers who are available in Timor-Leste, who want to come to Australia and work.”
“The changes that have been made to the Seasonal Worker Program as part of the Regional Agricultural Migration Program have improved flexibility and availability of these workers.” Said Dr Webster
“I’m very happy that numbers have increased significantly since before Christmas when we received reports that only 27 applications had been approved.” Dr Webster said.
“As of the 6th of January, we have 231 places approved for workers from Timor-Leste alone in Mallee, with more due to arrive in country over the coming weeks.”
“It has been encouraging to hear from approved employers that the uptake of Seasonal Worker Program RAMP is accelerating and that feedback is so positive.”
“Timorese workers are highly productive; they are respectful and keen to learn. Workers under the Seasonal Worker Program are able to return season by season, growers are positive about the increased productivity, speed and quality of these returning workers”
“Accommodation continues to be a significant issue. I have had encouraging meetings with Mildura Rural City Council and Swan Hill Rural City Council on this late last year, and I have contacted the Victorian Planning Minister encouraging them to engage with us on a solution” Dr Webster said, “It is vital that the Victorian State Labor Government come to the party in working towards a sustainable, legal workforce and not ignore the issue. Our harvest depends on it.”