A solid link forged between a third generation citrus growing family in Mundubbera and chef from the tourist island of Vava’u in Tonga is driving success locally and abroad.
Manase Latu, 36, works as a Team Leader for Ainsley and Troy Emmerton of Quebec Citrus for about six months of each year, and has done so for about six years.
Mr Latu started work with the Emmertons in 2011 when they first connected with the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) – a Federal Government initiative which addresses seasonal labour shortages and contributes to the economic development of participating countries.
The Emmertons, who employ about 50 workers over the course of each year through the initiative, say they don’t know what they’d do without the help of their seasonal workers.
For the Emmertons, it is a great advantage to have someone with Mr Latu’s experience on the farm. As Team Leader, he gives direction to the other seasonal workers and ensures they do the job properly.
We’d love to keep coming – my hope is to help all the farmers in Australia by coming here. I don’t want to stop until I’m at least 60.Manase Latu, Team Leader for Ainsley and Troy Emmerton of Quebec Citrus
For Mr Latu and his immediate and extended family, working for Quebec Citrus has been life-changing.
Before he secured work at Quebec Citrus, his family was living in temporary housing built with aid from Tahiti after Severe Tropical Cyclone Waka destroyed their island home on New Year’s Day, 2001.
Even though Mr Latu works hard back home as a chef, carpenter, fisherman and he is working toward a trade as a mechanic, it was unaffordable to rebuild on those wages.
It was not until he secured work in Australia 10 years later under the SWP that Mr Latu could finally earn the $40,000 he needed to build a permanent home for his family.
Now, Mr Latu and his wife Talita live in their new home with their son Nathanael, 10, daughter Hadasha, 8, and daughter Laiseni, 7.
And the benefits extend beyond Mr Latu’s immediate family. His wife’s parents and her nephew also live with them, and he has used money earned through his work in Australia to establish a new library in his hometown.
This year, his wife has also secured work under the SWP for the first time, and came to work for a season in the packing shed with Quebec Citrus this year.
Mr Latu said he wanted to continue work with the Seasonal Worker Programme well into the future.
“Our kids enjoy living in the house that’s already built on a new foundation – it’s not like the old house – that was a bit scary and whenever there was an earthquake we had to run outside,” he said.
“We’d love to keep coming – my hope is to help all the farmers in Australia by coming here. So we love to keep that trust and that’s why we love working for Troy and Ainsley – I don’t want to stop until I’m at least 60.”
Case study by Susie Cunningham, Senior Communications Officer, Growcom in collaboration with Kimberly Pearsall, Senior Advisor – Policy and Legal, National Farmers’ Federation.