New era for Pacific Islanders in regional Australian workforce
The Morrison government has unveiled exciting reforms to the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and Seasonal Worker Program (SWP). On the 14th September 2021, a joint release from the offices of Senator The Hon Marise Payne, The Hon Stuart Robert MP, and Senator The Hon Zed Seselja, announced that the first stage of reforms have been enacted, and will “make the programs easier to access, protect worker welfare, and better meet the workforce needs of regional Australia”.
The centrepiece of this announcement is a fundamental reform to the application process for both the PLS and SWP, which will aim to “offer more flexibility and less red tape” through the new Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) website which will allow both applicants and employers to become a part of both programs with a single application. Another key piece of the reforms is the removal of the upper age limit of 45 from the programs, and as Minister for Pacific and International Development Zed Seselja put it, “if you're a worker who's in your late 40s or 50s, there will be opportunities there that weren't there before”.
The overarching goal of these reforms is to provide better outreach and more employment opportunities in regional Australia to workers from the Pacific Islands and Timor-Leste, who have been “the lifeblood of many regional businesses” during the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as this, they aim to address and alleviate critical worker shortages in vital regional sectors including meat packing and aged care.
Some other aspects of this stage of reforms include extensions to work VISAs for members of the program who cannot travel home due to COVID restrictions, and the extension of the program to tourist businesses during peak season. Since the PLS and SWP resumed in September of 2020, over 10,600 workers have arrived in Australia as a part of these initiatives, and with these reforms the Australian Government has committed to a target of an additional 12,500 successful applicants by March 2022.
For further information
If you're interested in applying as a worker or a business to be a part of PALM, more information is available on their website.