Clifton joined the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme to help his family’s future, but an unexpected promotion has given him the skills to move in a new career direction.
Clifton is one of 24 ni-Vanuatu staff at Discovery Kings Canyon* in the Northern Territory, moving to Australia for seasonal work opportunities in tourism and hospitality.
While he has a background in bartending and making cocktails, staffing requirements led to Clifton trying something new and working in the kitchen.
He approached this role with his usual enthusiasm and efficiency and after just 2 weeks, the sous chef suggested he be promoted to the role of pizza chef - preparing and cooking pizzas for guests in the wood-fired oven.
While at first he was nervous to take on a new position, Clifton has received on-the-job training and is now embracing a different challenge.
“I started as a dishwasher, doing a lot of dishes in the kitchen and I was doing that for 2 weeks. Then the executive chef came and said, ‘I’m impressed with how you do things in the kitchen, you’re so fast and efficient at what you’re doing, would you like to move from there?’” Clifton said.
“I told him, ‘Chef, I’m not a chef, I’m a bartender’, but he said, ‘I will train you … you’ll be my new pizza chef’.”
“I was quite nervous for the first day, he put me doing the pizzas and I told him, ‘I’m nervous, I can’t do this’ but he said that I could do it.”
“I’m happy with it. It’s a big change for me. I’ve learned a lot in the kitchen, learning from chefs who know a lot more than me. I was very happy learning from them and it’s training on the job.”
And the change has him thinking of how his unexpected promotion may contribute to his future back at home.
Clifton said he joined the PALM scheme to help his 2 children complete their schooling and to complete his family home.
While he would like to return to Australia for future seasonal work so he can upskill further, eventually he would like to start businesses back at home.
Clifton has long dreamed of starting a fishing business in his home province of Torba, in Vanuatu’s north, but he is now thinking of starting a pizza shop in Port Vila with his family.
“I’ve been thinking a lot and even discussing with my friends in the kitchen, I think I’m going to go home and try and start a little business selling pizza and stuff. I know the community in Port Vila, a lot of people like eating pizza so I thought I might give it a go,” he said.
*Workers at Discovery Kings Canyon are recruited, trained, and employed through Exact Labour Hire.