Francis had only intended to come to Australia as part of the PALM scheme for 6 months with the goal of helping his family build a home.
But the COVID-19 pandemic and international border closures meant the Solomon Islands man ended up staying nearly 2 and a half years, working mainly in mushroom and strawberry picking in South Australia.
The sacrifices the father of 2 from the village of Karaka on Vella Lavella Island in Solomon Island’s Western Province made during his unexpected delay meant he was able to save towards new goals, and the money he sent home has helped his extended family.
The 28-year-old has not only built a home for his wife and children but has also helped his parents, sister and in-laws build their own homes.
Francis worked as a security guard before joining the program in January 2020 and he had not been able to support his family with a stable income.
He is thankful to the Australian and Solomon Islands governments for the labour mobility program and says it has transformed the lives of his family.
"Without this scheme, I would not have been able to achieve what I have achieved in the last 2 years and 4 months," he says.
Francis encourages others to join the PALM scheme but recommended people come in with clear goals.
"Working in Australia can be very hard at times, however, if anyone plans to go, they have to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve their goals," he says.
"The work is hard but once you put your mind to it, it becomes easier and enjoyable."
He says his supervisors and bosses were there to resolve any issues and he enjoyed working alongside Australian staff.
"As long as you’re respectful, work hard and are honest in what you do, you will not have any major issues or problems that can’t be resolved," he said.
Francis plans to enjoy a well-earned break with his family and friends and hopes to come back to Australia to work again in the future.
The PALM scheme helps Pacific island workers gain skills, experience and income that they can send back to their families and communities, as well as helping Australian businesses solve local labour shortages and injecting life back into regional towns.
Solomon Islands is now the biggest source country for the Pacific Labour Scheme, bringing economic benefits and helping to forge people to people links between Australia and Solomon Islands.