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Need Farm Workers? Are you aware of all the options?

Farm workers can be hard to find at times. If you have done all you can to advertise – in the newspaper, online jobs boards, the Government jobsearch website, social media, notices – you may want to look at other options.

To help, we have put together a list of options that can be accessed across Australia. There may also be programs in your local area. Contact your local representative group to find out more about programs that are specific to your area.

1. Jobactive

Jobactive connects job seekers in Australia with employers. There are a network of jobactive providers in over 1700 locations across Australia who offer a tailored recruitment service at no cost. The jobactive provider will talk to you about your business needs and outline the services they provide, including

  • screened and job ready candidates;
  • pre-employment training and work-related equipment if needed;
  • support while new employees settle in; and
  • access to wage subsidies when you recruit and retain an eligible job seeker.

Jobactive can also be used to find seasonal harvest workers through the Harvest Labour Service.

More information can be found here.

2. Labour hire, labour contractors and trainees

There are a range of private businesses out there who can supply workers through contracting or labour hire. These workers may be either Australian citizens or overseas workers. Some rural training programs also have a practical component with the graduates looking to go on and find work in the industry.

3. Seasonal Work Incentives Trial

If you are a grower in the horticulture industry who needs workers on a short term basis, this trial can put you in contact with jobseekers. The two year trial commenced on 1 July 2017 and offers 3,800 places each financial year for job seekers participating in jobactive, Transition to Work and Disability Employment Services. The jobseekers can earn up to $5,000 each year from seasonal horticultural work without losing their income support payments. They are also eligible for a living away and travel allowance of $300 each year where the job is more than 120km from their home.

This trial is also available to broadacre crop farmers who need harvest workers. A number of information sessions on the Seasonal Work Incentives Trial are being held during October and November 2017.

More information can be found here.

4. Working Holiday Makers

Also known as backpackers, Working Holiday Makers (WHMs) are young adults aged 18 to 30 from eligible partner countries who come to Australia on a holiday. They are able to work in Australia while they are here. WHMs are often looking for short term work to make some money before they continue their travels. To stay a second year in Australia, WHMs must complete 3 months of work in a regional area in agriculture or another approved industry. A WHM can only work for one employer for up to six months at a time.

For more information click here.

5. Seasonal Worker Program

The seasonal worker program lets you employ Pacific Island workers for a short period of time. Workers can stay in Australia for up to 6 months or 9 months if they are from Kiribati, Nauru or Tuvalu. They can come back again in following years, and experience has shown that most choose to return. They can perform lower skilled farm work such as mustering, feeding and watering, fencing, milking cows, collecting eggs, harvesting etc.

You can contact an approved employer to find workers or apply to become one yourself. Before you can employ seasonal workers you need to advertise the job locally to demonstrate that there are no Australian workers who can do the work.

More information can be found here.

6. Employer Sponsored Visa Holder

If you need workers for higher skilled work, you may be able to sponsor an overseas worker to come over to Australia. Visa holders must work in an eligible occupation. There are three sponsored visa types:

The list of eligible occupations for sponsored visas may not have the occupation you need. A labour agreement may be an alternative option for you. This is a negotiated agreement with the government for workers to come in on a sponsored visa.

These visas are currently going through a period of reform, to be completed in March 2018. A migration agent can help you identify which visa you can use and help with the application process. They can also help you negotiate a labour agreement.

7. Pacific Labour Scheme

If you are looking for longer term, low and semi-skilled workers, the recently announced Pacific Labour Scheme might be what you need. It will be open to 2,000 workers to work in rural and regional Australia for up to 3 years. The focus of this program will be non-seasonal agricultural work. Workers from Pacific Island countries need to go home after their 3 year visa expires but there will be an option to return after a certain period. Workers will receive training in their home country to give them skills they need for the job.

The scheme is still under development at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is due to commence in July 2018. The Department is keen to engage with industry to design a scheme which is attractive and useful to employers and which avoids some of the limitations of other programs.

More information is available here.

8. Friendly Nation Initiative

The NFF has partnered with the Migration Council of Australia to link farmers who are interested in employing refugees with settlement agencies. The settlement agency will work with the farmer to connect them with any refugees who may be interested in farm work in the area. The settlement agency will also be responsible for all support services for workers such as housing, initial relocation plans and costs, initial rent and bond costs, familiarisation with the region and links to social services. This option is most suited to permanent or fixed term employment opportunities. Get in touch if you would like to find out more.

What else might be on the horizon?

In line with the Government’s visa simplification agenda, the NFF has been actively pursuing a new, dedicated agriculture visa that combines elements of the programs above to provide access to a stable, overseas workforce that supplements the local workforce.

Kimberly Pearsall is a Senior Advisor, Policy & Legal, National Farmers' Federation

 

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