At Mossmont Nurseries in Griffith, New South Wales, seasonal workers from Timor-Leste are not only learning valuable tree-growing skills, they are also cultivating the future health and wealth of their families back home.
The family-run company was established in 1853 and grows and sells almond, peach, nectarine and plum trees. It employs 17 Timorese workers through the Australian Government’s Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.
As a long-term participant in Pacific labour mobility programs, Mossmont Nurseries has welcomed many of these same workers back season after season over the past 5 years.
For the returning workers, their employment at Mossmont has been a great opportunity to develop their tree cultivation abilities, with many now experts in operating planting machines, grafting cultivars from one variety of fruit tree on to another, and harvesting small trees for sale.
Having the chance to come back to Australia year after year has also meant these workers can help nurture the security and wellbeing of their families in a variety of ways that were not previously possible for them.
Providing support to workers’ families has become more important than ever, as Timor-Leste deals with the COVID-19 outbreak, widespread unemployment and the devastating impact of the worst floods in 40 years.
‘All of the guys have built a house for their parents’
According to Mossmont’s Field Production Manager, Jonathan Moss, all 17 workers have now built at least one house back in Timor-Leste.
“All of these guys have built a house for their parents and most of them are now starting to build a second house for themselves,” Jonathan said. “One of our workers even put a plaque with the name Mossmont on his new home, which was pretty amazing.”
Some of the men have also started their own businesses with the money they have earned in Australia, Jonathan explained.
“One worker, Martinho, has invested his earnings back into an agriculture business, growing and selling melons to support his family.
“Another guy has started a barber shop back home, and yet another has helped his family expand their grocery store business. Then there’s Acacio, who is building a house and has now bought a van to start a taxi business too,” Jonathan said.
“The guys are so proud of what they have achieved for their families. They all do such a terrific job here – we are so happy to be able to give them this opportunity to both learn new skills and make positive changes for themselves and their relatives.”
‘Their contribution has helped keep us going’
For Jonathan, having the Timorese workers at the nursery has also saved the business during what has been a very challenging year.
“If I didn’t have these 17 guys here, we couldn’t have gotten anything done. At peak harvest time I always need around 100 workers and usually employ a lot of backpackers. Over the past year though, of course, this has not been possible,” he said.
“Our seasonal workers who have stayed in Australia throughout the pandemic are so dedicated, they are now doing a range of jobs that would usually require more experience. Their contribution has really helped us keep going.”