Welcome to Episode 88 of Good Will Hunters from the Development Policy Centre.
Today on the show I speak to Jemma Mackinnon and Kerry McCarthy, about their experience of the Seasonal Worker Programme, as farm owners and managers.
The Seasonal Worker Programme is a scheme that allows Pacific Islanders and Timor-Leste citizens to come to Australia to pick fruit. It’s incredibly popular in the Pacific, and has been growing rapidly reaching above 10,000 workers last year.
Especially in an era of tight aid budgets, looking at alternative ways to partner with the Pacific is key, and labour mobility benefits both Australia and the Pacific.
Jemma is the Human Resources and Seasonal Worker Programme Manager for Mountford Berries in Langford Tasmania. The farm employs approximately 60 seasonal workers from Timor-Leste and Tonga. Kerry is the Co-owner of GraceKate Farms which is located on the Darling Downs in Queensland. The farm has employed workers from Solomon Islands through the Seasonal Worker Programme since 2012.
In the episode Jemma, Kerry, and I discuss the Seasonal Worker Programme and the challenges Covid-19 has posed. We discuss how prior to Covid-19, being selected for the programme felt like winning the lottery for workers from the Pacific, but this year that experience has changed dramatically, as workers have been stranded, in some cases unable to go home and in other cases unable to return to Australia.
We discuss the implications this has for the workers themselves, as well as the growing fear amongst farm owners of having a labour shortage come harvest season, and what can be done.
Enjoy the episode,
The GWH Team