Posted By Staff Reporter
By Hon. Bryan Kramer
Today in the midst of a busy schedule, I took time out to drive to Port Moresby Jacksons International Airport to see off 5 youths, who flew in from my electorate on their way to Brisbane, Australia, to pick vegetables on a farm for 12 months.
Their names are:
1) Samuel K. SAMUEL
2) Itam B. JULIUS
3) Zebedee LUWI
4) Sylvester LEPI
5) Noel U. NINIBIL
Some 6 months ago they were unemployed and members of the Madang Town Patrol Program, a youth law and order program I set up to address the escalating petty crimes and pick pocketing around Madang Town.
The program involved 30 youth who were tasked to provide security around bus stops as well as pick up rubbish around town.
Fast forward 6 months and they are now on their first international flight to Australia to pick fruits and vegetables in Australia.
Under the town patrol program they were paid just K100-K150 as a fortnight allowance while in Australia they can expect be paid K2,500.00 a fortnight before deductions for their airfares, boarding and meals.
All 5 are travelling to Australia under the Seasonal Workers Program, a program established by the Australian Government to assist Australian employers in the agriculture sector fill employment gaps unable to be met by the Australian workforce and to counter illegal workers.
Seasonal workers from the pacific benefit from the opportunity to earn Australian wages and gain valuable on-the-job learning opportunities. Many seasonal workers use the money earned in Australia to pay for their kids’ education, start a small business or build a house. For the workers and their families, this is a life changing opportunity.
Around 11,600 workers from around the Pacific travel to Australia every year to participate in the program. As of June 2019, PNG only made up 107 of these workers.
Why? This is due to bad experiences in the past, PNG workers are considered highly problematic by Australian employers. When we first joined the program there were numerous incidences of PNG workers fighting, drinking and demonstrating poor work ethics.
When word got out, most Australian employers avoided recruiting from PNG, even though we represent 80% of the population in the Pacific.
In 2018, the Australian Government changed the program in PNG with the focus on recruiting through District Development Authorities and Provincial Governments. Four pilot districts and one Province were identified and included:
1) Obura Woneara Electorate
2) Goilala Electorate
3) Madang Electorate
4) Kavieng Electorate
5) Enga Province.
In Madang we took this program seriously and built a robust structure and systems for selecting our workers which included the clan vetting in rural areas and role model youth in urban communities.
As the Member for Madang, I see massive potential benefits to empowering our youth with employment opportunities and having a positive influence among their peers and impact on their community.
This is why we have set up a special team to manage the program. The plan is to secure a placement for 1,000 young men and women in the next two years. It is estimated the average seasonal worker - working 6 months can earn upto K22,000. Now x 1,000 and it equates to K22m.
K22m that is not spent on a highway, airport or major infrastructure by circulating in the pockets of mums and dads, paid for their childrens tertiary fees, building a home or starting a small business.
5 youths who left today represent the second batch to depart for Brisbane in last the 14 days bringing the total to 10. Another 50 are expected to leave in January 2020.