Posted by Trisha Portbury on May 22, 2019
Monday evening the 20th of May, our Speaker, Tim Currell, Operations Manager – Seasonal Workers Australia, spoke about how Pacific Island Fruit Pickers were placed into accredited companies. This is a Federal Government Initiative developed to help our near neighbours access work. These men were from Vanuatu. This program is offered to 8 similar small Nations such as Timor Leste and Fiji. The companies who employed them needed to prove that they could not recruit from the Australian Community first.
Casey Rotary hosted 26 guests who came from different islands of Vanuatu. This company ensures that the men are placed only in Companies that provide suitable housing, Pay Award Wages and appropriate Superannuation. He dispelled many of the myths around this process. 
 
The pickers themselves shared a meal and spoke to Casey Rotarians and our guests of that evening that included District 9820 District Governor Elect, Adrian Foggatt and his wife, Wendy, and Russell Hayes, who many of us know does much for Wheelchairs for Kids.
I was struck by their solidarity of purpose. Their courage to stand up and address Casey  Rotarians in English, their second language. They were humble men who appreciated being invited into our meeting. They were shown fellowship and explained Rotary International values.
 
Some of these men took the opportunity to explain how important it was that Australia enabled them to earn an income that they could take back to Vanuatu and improve the quality of life of their immediate community. Vanuatu people built their houses out of found vegetation meaning they continually repaired their shelter, needing to completely rebuild their homes each 6 to 7 years. The money they took back contributed to building more permanent housing, helped to install a consistent, clean water supply, and paid for their childrens' education. There is no industry on these islands so earning an income is virtually impossible to access. They explained how this program was changing their lives especially in the light of the recent hurricane Pam. They genuinely expressed how Australia was helping them and that this was truly valued. These men were family/community driven and they were selfless in leaving their community for the greater good. The youngest man was about 18 and explained that they did miss their families however understood how positively building and maintaining a collective bond by singing their gospel songs, built a sense of community away from home. You see, they didn't know each other until they arrived here. Their harmonics was impressive and to express their gratitude for attending a Rotary meeting, they all sang 4-5 songs. 
 
As they left, a sense of fellowship reflected their appreciation as they took pics against the RSL wall of poppies, and the Australian Flag. The fruit season was at an end and as they got to trust us, they said how they were were eagerly looking to return home, but knowing that they could return next fruit season and truly make a different to their way of life.
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