Tonga wants three year visas for Seasonal Workers’ Programme in Australia

‘Oku totonu ke ma’u faingmālie ‘a e kau ngāue he Polokalama Fakafa’ahi ta’u ‘i ha visa ta’u tolu pea ke toe lahi ange ha kau sitafu ‘e fakanofo ke nau tokanga’i ‘a e fakahū kole ngāue ‘a e kau ngāue ni. Ko e taha ‘eni ‘o e ngaahi fokotu’utu’u poupou mei ha ‘a’ahi ki ‘Aositelēlia ke toe vakai'i ‘a e polokalama ni ‘a ia ne tataki ‘e he Minisitā ki he Ngaahi Ngāue Fakalotofonua ‘Akosita Lavulavu.‘E fakasi’isi’i heni ‘a e fakamole ‘i hono ‘apalai fakata’u ‘o e kole visa ‘a ia kuopau ke totongi ai pe hono ‘ai tohi mo’ui lelei mo e kole ngofua. Kuo fokotu’u atu ke liliu e founga hono fakangāue’i ‘o e kau ngāue toli ‘o ‘oua toe ngāue’aki ‘a e kau tangata tu’u vaha’a, kau konitulekitoa mo e kau fakafofonga haea leipa ke nau omi ‘o alea ‘i he vā ‘o e kau ngāue mo e kau faama. ‘E lava fakasi’isi’i ai heni e fakamole ‘oku fua ‘e he kau ngaue Tonga, ‘o nau ma’u ‘a e sēniti ko ia. Ne ‘i ai mo e lave ki he lahi e hola ‘a e kau ngaue ‘i ‘Aositelelia, konaa, ‘ikai sai e lea ‘Ingilisi mo e tu’unga mo’ui lelei, ko ha me’a ke toe fai ha vakai ki ai. Kau ki heni mo e mahino ‘oku ‘i ai e ngaahi famili ‘i ‘Aositelelia ‘o e kau toli ‘oku nau faka’aia’ai e kau toli ke nau hola.

Tongans employed in Australia’s Seasonal Workers’ Programme should have access to three year visas, but says workers need to lift their game in several areas.

These are some of the recommendations from an official visit to Australia to investigate the programme led  by Minister for Internal Affairs by Akosita Lavulavu.

A three year visa has been piloted for workers from Kiribati and Nauru.

The Ministry report said a three-year multiple visa would reduce the cost and time of having to do health and police checks every year.

The Ministry’s official report on the  visit also recommended changes in the way Tongans are recruited. It said workers were often ripped off by labour agents. They should avoid using middlemen, contractors or labour hiring agents. This would reduce costs for them.

Major areas of weakness in the programme were the recruiting process and pre-departure training, the report said.

However, the report also noted that workers needed to improve their performance, saying that there were major issues with worker attitudes, hygiene and health both during and after working hours.

Employers were also concerned about problems with alcohol and absconding.

The report said family members in Australia influence seasonal workers to abscond and that this often occurred on arrival in Sydney.

It recommended that seasonal workers be made to sign an agreement with the Ministry before leaving Tonga that if they absconded, their family members would not be able to visit Australia until they returned to Tonga.

The report said there was a need for pastoral care and culture change among the workers. It suggested this could be supported by training group leaders in ways to manage the group and handle issues among workers and employers

The report also recommended that workers be given basic training in IT, first aid and English.

In December last year, the Tongan official responsible for the seasonal workers, Fanau’ifo’ou Akau’ola told Radio Australia that appointing Pacific Island Liaison officers in Australia early in 2018 would help provide safe avenues for complaints to be heard.

Akau’ola said the number of Tongans going to Australia has risen to 2690.

It is estimated that the minimum salary for each worker is Aus$600 per week.  The Ministry estimates Tongan seasonal workers sent home more than Aus$45m remittances in the 2016/2017 financial year.

The main points

  • Tongans employed in Australia’s Seasonal workers’ Programme should have access to three year visas and more staff should be appointed to deal with worker applications.
  • These are some of the recommendations from an official visit to Australia to investigate the programme led by Minister for Internal Affairs by Akosita Lavulavu.
  • A three year visa has been piloted for workers from Kiribati and Nauru.

For more information

Seasonal Worker Program in Australia gets backing from farmers but with concerns about rogue operators

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