Article by: Hari Yellina
A former high-profile dual-code football international is assisting in the resolution of Australia’s labour shortage. Lote Tuqiri, a former Wallaby and Kangaroo, has been named the new Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) cultural ambassador for Agri Labour Australia, one of the country’s leading dedicated agricultural labour providers. The PALM initiative was established by the Australian government to assist rural and regional enterprises by filling labour shortfalls and providing access to a pool of trustworthy workers from nine Pacific islands and Timor-Leste. Casey Brown, general director of Agri Labour Australia, said his company has employed hundreds of PALM scheme members across Australia in the past year, with 95% of them eager to return.
“Australia already had a significant labour shortage in the agriculture sector before COVID,” Mr Brown added. “Since early 2020, the situation has worsened, putting the agriculture sector in jeopardy. “We are always searching for new methods to serve our clients and go the additional mile in interacting with workers who participate in innovative programmes like PALM Scheme as a trusted partner in the field. “Lote’s involvement will have such a good impact in interacting with workers, while Australian firms engage with productive people who can meet the country’s labour shortage demands,” says the author. Mr Brown said he was ecstatic to have Tuqiri on board to lead the initiative, which connects, engages, and promotes health, wellbeing, and fitness and productivity goals.
“We are ecstatic to welcome Lote aboard,” he remarked. “His exciting goal-driven tale of relocating to Australia to pursue a career as a professional athlete, as well as his passion for promoting wellbeing activities to help PALM scheme employees integrate positively into their new communities in Australia, enriches our existing programme.” Tuqiri, who was born in Fiji, said it was an honour to be given the post and that he was looking forwards to meeting with and directing the PALM scheme workers’ broad community engagement programme. “I know it can be quite difficult for them to leave their homes and family to come to a new nation,” Tuqiri said after interacting with many of the employees and communities.
A privately owned enterprise that operates one of Australia’s largest poultry farms has commended the PALM scheme for raising its production dramatically. COVID provided a phenomenal change in labour supply, according to Eliz Quinlan, human resources manager of DA Hall & Co. “We used to have a large backpacker community, but that has certainly changed.” “Without the PALM plan, the business would have been in a lot of trouble,” Ms Quinlan added. “I believe it is critical to recognise that everyone’s life journey is unique, as are their struggles, sacrifices, and family structures. “Lote’s participation will make a significant difference and will go a long way towards increasing the workers’ excitement and fortitude to face their own issues.”
Tuqiri will collaborate with Agri Labor Australia’s welfare officers, who engage with PALM Scheme workers, businesses, and communities in regional and rural Australia. Officers ensure that workers are integrated into their new communities, are connected to local churches and community groups, and are given regular training. They also offer inductions and regular training in the areas of work, health, and safety. Regular social gatherings, quarterly prizes, and the formation of local football organisations are all part of the engagement programme, as is the creation of interesting new content and training.