Supporting agricultural industries to secure workers

The WA Government will introduce new measures, based on health advice, to support Western Australia’s agricultural and horticultural industries fill critical labour gaps for this season’s harvest.

The State Government will enable Western Australian growers to access Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme workers, subject to strict conditions to protect the health and safety of the WA community.

The Australia-wide international border closure has cut off the supply of Working Holiday Makers that WA’s primary industries are reliant on for harvest work.

The State Government launched the ‘Work and Wander out Yonder’ campaign and related worker incentives scheme to encourage Western Australians to help fill labour gaps across regional WA.

The campaign has drawn strong interest from local jobseekers and is expected to channel students, school leavers and other Western Australians into agricultural work.

However, requested additional support from the Federal Government – including incentivising those on JobSeeker payments into agricultural work – have not been forthcoming, so the State Government is moving to ensure WA growers have another tool at their disposal to fill labour shortages.

The new measures will initially focus on recruiting Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme workers that have already quarantined in the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory.

The State Government is in discussions with the Northern Territory and Federal Governments on bringing new Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme workers into the country and utilising quarantine facilities in the Northern Territory before being allowed to enter Western Australia.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Western Australian growers employed around 1,000 Seasonal Worker Programme workers – with the majority of remaining harvest jobs filled by Working Holiday Makers (backpackers).

The State Government will also allow for greater movement of critical agricultural workers from interstate, subject to usual isolation and quarantine requirements.

The WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development will place a five-person team within the WA Police Force to help manage the new system.

The Work and Wander out Yonder campaign will continue to roll out and will ramp up activities in November to encourage university students and school leavers into the industry ahead of summer holidays.

Source: WA Government