Tongan community leader wants details on how Australian budget will help workers

A Tongan community leader in Australia says the Australian government needs to be clear how new budget measures will help support migrant workers.

Rev. Loni Vaitohi from the Shepparton Uniting Church works closely with Tongan seasonal workers and has welcomed the funding, but has questions about how it will work.

“So it would be good when they say for the welfare of the migrant workers what they think for the physical, spiritual, mental health,” the Tongan-born pastor said.

About Aus$9 million has been allocated over the next three years for the welfare of Pacific seasonal workers, but it is unclear what form that support will take.

“I think the assurance measures should cover pastoral work for migrant workers,” Rev. Vaitohi told the ABC’s Pacific Beat.

Rev. Vaitohi welcomed suggestions that workers employed under the Pacific Labour scheme, like those in his northern Victorian parish,  would have the option to have visas extended for up to 12 months.

He said it would benefit seasonal workers and farmers, many of whom are dealing with a shortage of farm workers.

“Most of the people who have come to this area have been here before so the farmers are happy because they are learning new skills and they don’t want to have to teach them every year,” he said.

Many Tongan workers have been stranded in Australia because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

However, the government has relaxed restrictions that have allowed them to find new jobs with different farms and employers.

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