14 November 2008

Tonga confirms participation in Australia's seasonal worker scheme

As of July next year, Tonga will send 800 workers to work in rural Australia's horticultural industry, reports ABC Radio Australia.

The Australian government is piloting a seasonal guest worker scheme, which will allow thousands of Pacific Islanders from Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea to work temporarily in regional parts of Australia in the horticultural industry.  The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is providing 2,500 visas for nationals from these countries, and each Australia visa will allow guest workers to remain in Australia for up to seven months of a twelve-month period.  

The scheme was due to go live before Christmas this year; however, Tonga says it will send its 800 workers July 2009.  According to Matangi Tonga, Tonga's national newspaper, the Minister for Labour, Commerce and Industries, Lisiate 'Akolo, said the Tongan workers will be posted in Swan Hill, Victoria and in Griffith, New South Wales, where farms are desperate for workers to pick almonds, potatoes, onions and other produce.  The workers will be aged between 21 to 45 years old.

The four Pacific nations will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Australia on the 25/26 of November in Canberra.  Currently, Australia granted Tonga and Vanuatu the highest quota for visas under this scheme (800 each), while Papua New Guinea and Kiribati will get 650 and 250 visas respectively. 

The Minister for Labour said it will be giving preference to those residents on the outer islands of Tonga, as 70 per cent of workers who took part in New Zealand's similar Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme were from Tonga's mainland.  He added, "so now we want to help the people in the outer islands who are facing more hardships than those in the main island and give them the same opportunity."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their Australian visa application.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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