New Agri-food visa category to bolster regional workforce

Seafood businesses in regional communities desperate for reliable workers will welcome the news that the Federal Government has approved a new agricultural visa that will allow skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers to travel to Australia for work.

The new agriculture visa is seen as a vital lifeline to help secure the future of rural and regional Australia.

Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam said the agriculture visa will be in place by the end of September 2021, with the full implementation of this demand-driven visa complete within three years.

“The visa will be open to applicants from a range of countries and will be available to skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers. It will include meat processing, fisheries and forestry sectors and provides a basis for the ongoing growth of our primary industries,” Jonno Duniam said.

WA Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC) Chief Executive Officer, Darryl Hockey said WAFIC had been pushing the Federal Government for this visa to support regional fishing communities.

“This has been a joint effort and a great example of what can be achieved if we all work together. WAFIC has been working with the Federal Government, State Government and our fisheries partners, including Seafood Industry Australia for months and we now have an outcome that will provide long term policy and employment stability to WA’s fisheries.”

Because of the remoteness and specialised nature of some fishing operations, it is often difficult for fishing companies to retain local crews in the longer term. However, pre-COVID these companies had ongoing success in attracting and retaining highly-trained foreign fishers from Indonesia and the Philippines who are comfortable working in hot and humid conditions.

“This new visa will allow managers to formalise employment relationships with their international crews and provide some long-term stability to their fishing operations. Furthermore, we are encouraged to hear there may potentially be opportunities further down the track for more permanent residency arrangements.”

“The new visa will complement the Working Holiday Maker program and the Pacific programs that are already in place, so while we are still waiting on the final details, we do have agreement on the principles and the outcome, so we can move forward with confidence.”

“During the COVID period it has become apparent that WA’s prosperity has always been more heavily reliant on overseas workers and backpackers than previously understood.  Our economy is currently being held back by worker shortages in many sectors – particularly in agriculture, fishing and hospitality in regional coastal communities.”

“Any moves by the government to sensibly open up new opportunities for these economies to flourish will be thoroughly supported,” Mr Hockey said.