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  • Timorese people in high-visibility clothing stand in a berry field.
Case study - Timor-Leste horticulture workers
Queensland Berries goes the extra mile to welcome PALM scheme workers

In February, representatives from Queensland Berries travelled to Timor-Leste to meet some of their new Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme employees. Now these workers have arrived and settled into their new roles and community in Caboolture, Australia.

Timorese men and women stand on a beach.
Timor-Leste staff at Queensland Berries were taken on a trip to the beach.

During their first month, the workers received training in different tasks and across various crops, including strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Through this approach, the employers could understand workers' strengths and select positions that suit them.

"Not everyone is the same and finding the right positions for people is crucial. For example, some workers are faster at picking some crops over others. We've also seen a strong work ethic and leadership potential, with some of the workers training as supervisors," said Ellie, Queensland Berries' Worker Welfare Manager.

"Many of our staff have waited 3 years to get a position in the program. Across the board, they are all very excited and grateful for the opportunity to work for Queensland Berries and be able to support their families back home.

Forming positive relationships in Australia and the Pacific

Outside of work, the PALM scheme workers have been welcomed warmly into their new community. They attend a weekly mass held especially for them by a local priest and have received regular invites to participate in the church's after-mass dinners.

A group of Timorese people stand in a church around a bishop.
Timor-Leste workers have connected with local churches.

Some workers have also created a soccer team and play games at their local sports centre.

As an existing PALM scheme employer with workers from Tonga and Solomon Islands, Queensland Berries staff understand that even with a strong community of care, coming to work in a new country can be daunting.

An initial trip to Timor-Leste to meet their workers meant that company representatives could introduce themselves and answer questions about contracts, the roles and life in Australia.

"It was a very beneficial trip as we were able to finally meet the labour sending unit in-country and establish a positive rapport," said Director Richard McGruddy.

"It was a great opportunity to put faces to names. It gave Ellie and me an insight into life in Timor-Leste, the workers' culture and communities," he said.

Developing skills and knowledge to thrive in Australia

Supporting workers as they arrive in Australia is an integral part of the PALM scheme.

A large group of Timorese men play soccer.
Soccer has also proved a popular form of social connection for Timor-Leste workers at Queensland Berries.

"A strong division of Queensland Berries is its supportive welfare team of 5 full-time staff. Lead by Ellie and Maree, the team provide one-on-one support which covers all facets of daily living," said Director Melissa McGruddy.

Upon arriving in Australia, all PALM scheme workers undertake an on-arrival briefing. At Queensland Berries, this is split into 2 parts.

The first part covers work and life in Australia, including introductions to local services, advice about how to keep healthy, and working well in a team with workers of multiple nationalities.

The second part of the induction covers the site’s health and safety procedures, working in different weather conditions and workplace processes.

"A major part of our induction program is ensuring the staff feel comfortable and know that our team is there for them. Adjusting to new foods, homesickness, diet, climate, shared accommodation and work can be overwhelming," Melissa said.

"The mental and physical health of our staff is paramount."

Since February, Queensland Berries have recruited 130 more workers from Timor-Leste. All workers will undertake the same induction and receive one-on-one support from the welfare team at Queensland Berries.

To learn more about how PALM scheme workers are supported in Australia, please visit: https://www.palmscheme.gov.au/worker-support.