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  • Three Kiribati workers in blue and turquoise uniforms stand smiling in front of a Bolton Clarke pioneers banner
Former tourism workers fill aged care labour gaps during COVID-19

When Australia’s COVID-19 travel restrictions kicked in, Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) workers Teremita Loeru, Tiein Taite and Maatai Tamaiti were stood down from their roles in the tourism industry.

The Pacific Labour Facility (PLF) has since supported the i-Kiribati citizens through their relocation to Brisbane as they looked for redeployment opportunities, prepared their resumes and applied for new jobs through the PLS.

“To help during our period of unemployment, the PLF provided us with accommodation and food vouchers and helped to find us new roles. Then we received some good news,” Maatai said.

Following Skype video interviews with their new employer, the 3 workers were offered positions as personal carers at Bolton Clarke’s Pioneers aged care community in Longreach, central Queensland.

‘I will do my best for them and treat them well’

Their background in the tourism industry has equipped the group with solid customer service, interpersonal and English skills. This experience, paired with their ingrained empathy for older people, means the i-Kiribati workers are well placed for their new roles in aged care.

“Elderly people are important in our culture … I will do my best for them and treat them well,” Teremita said.

Maatai already holds a Certificate 3 in Aged Care from the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) training college in the Pacific, and Teremita and Tiein will soon undergo training to equip them with Australian-standard aged care qualifications.

Building knowledge and experience to take home

The 3 workers are eager to start work so they can continue to send remittances back to their communities in the Pacific.

“I work really hard. I keep a lot of money to save so I can send money to my family,” said Teremita.

Maatai said his new role allows him to build more knowledge and experience, which he will ultimately take home to Kiribati.

“We’re so lucky to be in Australia where we can do different jobs and get a range of skills … we should take these skills back and teach our family and community,” he said.

Safe in Australia and ready for a new chapter

The three workers stay in contact with their families by calling them every day.

“I tell them we are safe, the PLF team are looking after us and that they don’t need to worry,” said Teremita.

Maatai added: “Everyone is being taken care of. We’re happy to be in Australia during this time because there are really not a lot of COVID-19 cases here.” 

All three said they are ready to learn more about Australian culture, meet new people and see more of Australia, and are happy to have the chance to contribute to their new community in Longreach.

“I’ve done a lot of research about Longreach and there’s a lot I want to do when I get there. It’s time to go and live like a real Australian in the outback!” Maatai said.