Challenges for seasonal workers


Good Samaritan Sister Taabeia Ibouri sgs has become an important link for seasonal workers coming to Australia from Kiribati, her homeland. Whether it’s through the High Commission or at the airport where when she spots familiar faces leaving, she shares words of wisdom. It’s not the sort of information that the seasonal workers receive from official Australian Government fact sheets. It’s about the day-to-day challenges that so many of her country men and women face when they come to Australia to earn money working on Australian farms, orchards and in other primary industries.

Taabeia spoke at ACRATH’s recent gathering, Hearts Stirred to Action about her work in Australia and Kiribati. If you missed the gathering, you can hear Taabeia here talk about the experiences of seasonal workers. 

She said many of the challenges are practical things that people from Kiribati don’t imagine about life in Australia. Experiences of other workers have highlighted the importance of developing a cultural awareness of life in Australia.

Taabeia, who is ACRATH’s forced labour prevention worker based in Kiribati, said she makes sure seasonal workers coming to Australia are aware of important things that affect their day-to-day life and safety.

They need to find out the contact details for social welfare services in the area where they will be working. This contact is important if something goes wrong with their seasonal work arrangements.

Driving licences are mandatory for workers wanting to drive in Australia. They must not drive without one.

Fishing, which is a national pastime and a form of income and survival for so many in Kiribati, can only be done in Australia with a licences . “My cousin phoned me from Australia to tell me he was in trouble because he and a group of friends, living near the sea, fished for oysters in NSW and an official told him he needed a licences before fishing again”. It is something people from Kiribati would find strange.

Check the weather conditions every day. “In Kiribati it is always the same, always hot each day. But in Australia you can have four seasons in one day. I tell them it can get very cold in Australia and they need a jacket.”

Taabeia said the best way for us and for local communities in Australia to support seasonal workers is to help them connect with communities as they are a long way from their tight family structures and often lonely.

“They love their families. When they are leaving Kiribati they are very excited but in a short time they face the reality that they are far away from their family. They need a lot of support in terms of engagement,” Taabeia said.

“They love to sing and would love to participate in church singing or prayer. Or maybe they could be invited for cultural entertaining – singing and dancing.”

Hear Taabeia’s full talk here.