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  • Pacific Island men in white clothing in a breakroom.
Case study - Caring communities
Harvey Beef helps PALM scheme workers settle into life in a new country

PALM scheme approved employer Harvey Beef has taken a model approach to ensure its workers from the Pacific islands adjust to life in Australia.

A group of Pacific Islander men in Harvey Beef outfits.
Harvey Beef has strategies in place to make the transition to life in Australia as smooth as possible.

The Western Australia-based meat processing company turned to the PALM scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting more than 100 staff from Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu as border closures put a strain on businesses across the country.

“To be honest, without this program, we would have struggled to maintain our full operations.

"We’re thankful for the program and we will be using it in the future,” said Jane Kelly, Harvey Beef’s Human Resources Manager.

Harvey Beef’s parent company Harvest Road has a strict code of conduct for worker welfare that informs procedures to ensure that workers who arrive in the country are well looked after.

The company has dedicated staff to support PALM scheme workers who source suitable accommodation in the local community and furnish it with quality furniture.

All utilities are connected before workers arrive and the fridge and pantry are stocked with food.

Workers are met at the airport and transported to Harvey, 90 minutes south-east of Perth, and they are introduced to their accommodation, the town and the workplace.

Helping workers find local support networks

The workers are shown local doctors, banks, stores and places to buy warm clothing. On their first weekend in Australia, they are given a tour of beaches and attractions in the region.

The company hires a professional driving instructor to assess workers’ driving skills, and those that pass can use a company-supplied van to get to work, run errands or go about the community.

Harvey Beef also connects the arriving workers with local sporting clubs and churches, which helps the workers integrate into the community and find the local support networks they need.

Ms Kelly said they wanted to make things as smooth as possible for workers, who were living away from their families and adapting to a new country, culture and way of life.

“When you bring someone out, you’ve got to have that support there and getting them into the township and the churches helps,” she said.

Building trust and maintaining open communication

Harvey Beef has found that building trust and maintaining open communication are key to supporting new staff.

Pacific islanders in orange high visibility clothing.
The arrival of people from the Pacific has also provided a boost to the community around Harvey, Western Australia.

Relevant company policies and a portion of workers’ contracts have been translated into relevant languages to ensure understanding.

Key messages are also translated and sent out directly to workers on their phones.

Ms Kelly said that devoting staff to support the workers had been crucial, with Events and Services Manager Heather Thompson on hand to help integrate.

“If bigger companies are looking at these programs, I think it’s very important to have another person solely looking after these groups,” Ms Kelly said.

Recruiting in country has also been important. Harvey Beef travels to the Pacific to meet recruits face to face and give them an idea of the company, the role and where they would be moving.

“When we were trying to recruit over a Zoom call, it just wasn’t working. The translation got lost and we felt they weren’t getting a really good understanding of what the job was.

"It's very important for employers to go to country to recruit. I think the workers feel a little more important as well," Ms Kelly said.

Benefits extend to the wider community

The arrival of people through the PALM scheme has not only helped the company maintain its full operations but has also provided a boost to the local community.

The churches have welcomed the extra attendances, a local rugby club team made the grand final and stores in the small town have enjoyed increased trade, Ms Thompson said.

“Overall, the town has been really grateful that they’re there. You’ll see something like 50 or 60 people going into the local grocery market. Talking to them, they’ve said they had to get in more stock than they would normally get in so for the town, it’s going well,” she said.