Aged care and retirement living provider Warrigal has welcomed Pacific Island staff to its sites in country New South Wales.
The overseas workers have joined Warrigal under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme. Warrigal registered as a PALM-approved employer in 2018 due to an inability to fill vacant positions for aged care workers in its facilities across the Southern Highlands and Queanbeyan.
“The loss of visa holders seeking work or higher education during the pandemic has created significant gaps in the aged care staffing levels,” Warrigal CEO Mark Sewell told Australian Ageing Agenda. “This program allows for upskilling staff from the Pacific Islands, and in return provides the staff we need to care for our residents.”
The PALM scheme is the Australian Government’s new integrated approach to Pacific labour mobility. It consolidates the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Program into a single, streamlined arrangement.
Managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the PALM scheme aims to provide both seasonal and long-term worker streams under a single visa.
Originally intending to work at Warrigal for three years, due to the pandemic and border closures, the Pacific Islanders’ visas have been extended to four years. The workers are from Kiribati, Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu and Tuvalu.
The Pacific Island staff are working across Warrigal’s aged care homes in regional NSW at Bunadoon, Goulburn and Queanbeyan.
When they arrive at a Warrigal site they participate in an induction program, Mr Sewell told AAA. “They all participate in our WOW program – Warrigal Onboarding Week – where they receive training in Warrigal’s philosophies and policies, as well as general aged care training, infection management, and the use of our other care systems.”
Warrigal is currently waiting for formal approval from DFAT to allow recruitment into its Illawarra aged care homes in Wollongong, Shellharbour and Albion Park.
“While we are struggling to find enough staff from the local labour market, we will continue to utilise the PALM scheme to help us provide the necessary care for residents,” said Mr Sewell.
Main image: Warrigal’s Pacific Islander recruits arrive in Australia