More workers to support Aussie farmers

6th January 2021 | Eativity editors

The Federal Government is providing more flexibility to encourage temporary visa holders to support Australian farmers struggling to find seasonal workers during COVID-19.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud says the changes mean student visa holders will be permitted to work more than the usual 40 hours per fortnight limit during semesters – if they’re working in the agriculture sector. This builds on changes earlier this year for international students working in health and aged care.

“Many regions are expecting bumper crops this year, but with COVID-19 travel restrictions on international movement, there still aren’t enough workers available,” Littleproud says.

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke says the changes won’t just give temporary visa holders the ability to earn more income, they would also help farmers this harvest season and avoid good food going to waste.

With no one to help with the harvest, many farmers are being forced to abandon unpicked crops.

“Australians will always get priority for jobs, but we’re listening to farmers who have been clear that they need many more workers, and they need them now,” Hawke says.

“These temporary visa holders are already in Australia; many do not want to or cannot go home and they will be greatly valued in the agriculture sector.”

It will also be easier for temporary visa holders to access the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa, if they choose to work in the agriculture sector. They can now apply for the COVID-19 visa up to 90 days before their existing visa runs out and they don’t need to demonstrate their attempts to depart Australia. More than 5600 COVID-19 visas have already been granted to support the agriculture sector since they were made available in April last year.

Harvest Trail Services, administered by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, will help temporary visa holders to find harvest work, while continuing its focus on linking Australian jobseekers with jobs in regional horticulture areas.

More info on the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa is available at the Department of Home Affairs website. Looking for agriculture work? Visit Harvest Trail at jobsearch.gov.au/harvest

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