PALM departures: 147 workers bound for aged care, horticulture and other jobs

Last week, 147 Fijians underwent pre-departure training prior to working in Australia, amongst them, 56-year-old Ema Navunisaravi, who is going as carer to Western Australia.

She says looking after the vulnerable in the community is something she is passionate about.

“I’m currently looking after my son, who has mental illness, and his three daughters after his wife left him, and to me, it is something I love doing. But applying for this programme was something my husband told me to go into to help my family,” Navunisaravi said.

Navunisaravi holds APTC (Australia Pacific Training Coalition) qualifications which makes her an attractive recruit under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.

“One of the boys called me for an interview, and when I passed that interview, I was told to come with my $96 for police clearance, and after three weeks, they called again to come for a medical check-up, so we collected $420 to pay for the medical check-up,” she said.

After a further three weeks wait, she was asked to attend pre-departure training.

Navunisaravi said, “I know I will be working from Monday to Sunday and get the normal 12 days of leave. I want to earn good money so I can help my husband, my son, and my grandchildren.

“I’m excited, but I’m also scared; we were told that there are crocodiles and deadly spiders, and if we see a snake in the toilet to flush the toilet so it goes back down, I’m terrified of that, and my grandchildren are scared for me too, but I want to do this for my family.”

The same motivation drives Sumit Avinash Naidu, who is leaving behind his wife and three children to join Costa Pty Ltd. and is the only Fijian seasonal worker going to Adelaide in this cohort under the PALM scheme.

“I have a six-month employment contract with Costa as a horticulture staff member, and after that, I will join the Costa group of companies for another three months,” Naidu said.

The former EFL student told Islands Business that though his contract is for nine months, his working visa is for four years, and depending on his performance, he could be brought back to work.

Naidu says he has been with Energy Fiji Limited (EFL) for two years and wanted a change. “I applied for the seasonal worker programme because I want a better quality of life for my family. I’m used to working outside in the early morning, but now I’m able to still work hard and with better pay.”

Naidu says he was also attracted by the working conditions. With Costa, he will be working five days a week from Monday to Friday, with weekends off. He will be sharing accommodation.

According to Naidu, expenses will be deducted from their wages after the first three weeks of working. “After we settle down, then our deduction will start from transportation, accommodation, visa application, and the $200 in cash in advance that we will be given upon arrival.”

Naidu is excited about what going abroad will mean to his family, and the wonder of seeing Australia.

“I’m excited to see the lights and the life in Australia, but I fear going there too because today I learned in the farms there will be snakes and spiders; in Fiji we don’t see venomous spiders, so it can be risky, but I’m going in with an open mind, and I don’t have any problems working hard.”

The nine different companies hiring under this round of PALM scheme are Goodwin Age-care , AGRIFRESH , Mulpha Group – Intercon Hayman Island Resort , K&S Contracting , Juniper , Bartle Frere Bananas PTY LTD, Fresh Water Quality Management, Thomas Foods International and Costa Pty Ltd ; workers are expected to depart Fiji shores next month. These employers cover aged care, agriculture and horticulture, meat works, and hospitality and accommodation industries in Australia.

Meanwhile the acting minister of employment, productivity, and industrial relations, Maciu Katamotu Nalumisa, called on the workers to: “Always remember to call home and stay connected with your families, friends, and loved ones.

“When you face any difficult situation while in Australia, always keep in mind to call the man upstairs and then call your loved ones at home for their words of encouragement.”

The minister states that while the workers have developed financial plans as part of financial literacy training, many have their attention diverted when they meet the ‘bright lights of Australia’.

“As adults, please understand the consequences of your actions in Australia and the impact that they will have on your families, villages, communities, churches, and, of course, your children.

“If you have a positive mindset, you will achieve your goals and dreams, but if you divert your attention to other things, this will lead to many problems,” Nalumisa said.