16 October, 2018, 10:17 am
SENIOR officials, employers of seasonal workers in New Zealand and Australia, employee agents, media and academics considered how the region can work together to maximise the benefits of labour mobility programs during the Pacific Labour Mobility annual meeting held in Honiara, Solomon Islands last week.
A statement from the Australian High Commission’s Department of Foreign Affairs said this was the first time the annual meeting was hosted by a Pacific Island nation attended by more than 150 delegates from across the region to accelerate labour mobility programs.
It said Solomon Islands Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela officially opened the meeting and mapped out an ambitious agenda for labour mobility across the region.
Mr Houenipwela said Solomon Islands wanted to work with all Pacific Island countries to increase participation in labour mobility programs “for the benefit of current and future generations of our people, our countries and our region.”
According to the statement Australian National University academic, Professor Richard Curtain, presented on the potential growth in labour mobility programs and highlighted the growth of the number of Pacific workers travelling to Australia and New Zealand over the past five years.
“Australia is strongly committed to expanding labour mobility in the Pacific. It represents a win-win for Australia and our Pacific partners,” said assistant secretary Beth Delaney who headed the Australian Government delegation.
The statement said in the past year, Fiji had sent 250 workers to Australia under the Seasonal Worker Program who have worked on farms right across Australia from picking bananas in Queensland to citrus in South Australia.
It said Fijian workers had used the money they saved working in Australia to invest in the future of their families and with support from the Fijian Government, they did a range of activities, from opening small businesses and purchased boats to buying land and building homes.