Skip to main content
  • Tuvaluan ACE workers Pottsville
New opportunities for Tuvalu in Australian aged care

When Pesiki arrived in Pottsville, NSW to work in aged care, she joined a growing trend of Tuvaluan women participating in the workforce – and an increasing number of workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste supporting Australian aged care providers.

Image of Pesiki from Tuvalu

Along with 11 others from Tuvalu, Pesiki is completing her Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) through the Australian Government’s aged care expansion (ACE) program. 

The program aims to help aged care providers secure qualified, long-term staff from the Pacific and Timor-Leste by supporting Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme workers to complete Australian standard qualifications. 

'Women are looking to earn money to provide themselves with what they need'

“Nowadays it’s more common for Tuvaluan women to seek employment where they can and more of us are stepping up and deciding what we want to do in life,” Pesiki said.

“I have 2 daughters living abroad. The youngest is now in Australia studying at university, so by having this opportunity I can give her the support she needs.”

The workers were recruited by PALM scheme employer HealthX after Bupa Pottsville Beach struggled to find local staff, a problem that Bupa’s Chief Operating Officer Phillip Mackney said was particularly felt in regional areas like the Northern Rivers of NSW.

Susana and Pesiki
Susana and Pesiki 

“During COVID, state border closures limited access to skilled workers from southern Queensland,” he said.

“Attracting workers to move back into the area has been further complicated by flooding which has resulted in ongoing displaced populations, high costs of living and lack of affordable housing.” 

Phillip said sourcing any amount of additional support makes a substantial difference to the capacity of care facilities.

“We have room for an additional 30 residents but that would require an additional 35 team members to ensure that standards of care can be met for our residents.

“Having the 12 team members join us through the ACE program goes a long way as we are the only aged care home in a 10km radius and service such a large part of the community,” he said.

A tradition of care for the elderly 

With a population of just 11,000, Tuvalu has struggled to compete with other Pacific island countries for labour mobility opportunities. 


As more aged care operators in Australia face staff shortages, however, new opportunities have arisen for this geographically remote nation - helped by Tuvalu’s tradition of caregiving and respect for the elderly.

“Back home everyone knows each other, we all work together and share everything,” Pesiki said.

“We don’t just look after our direct relatives, but we also help other elderly members in the community with their daily needs.” 

For Tapania, also from Tuvalu, a career helping others is something she has always aspired to. 

“I just love working with people. Back home I used to volunteer for organisations like the Tuvalu Red Cross.

“When I was a public health volunteer during the global pandemic, I met new people, made jokes, and entertained them to help lift their spirits. I soon realised that making people happy is my passion in life.”

Tapania wants to use her experience to help establish early training opportunities for Tuvaluan workers, so they can stand out as exceptional candidates for other aged care recruiters. 

“Looking after other families is as fulfilling as looking after our own, we experience it growing up and it just feels so natural for us,” she said.

“I want to help introduce new concepts and practices from the aged care sector in Australia so that our workers can be well prepared for when they start their formal training.”

While working in Australia has allowed her to support her family and community back home, Pesiki hopes to do something good for herself now that her children have grown up.

“Of course, I am planning to visit my daughters, but I would also like to use the opportunity to travel around the world and be free to visit places that I have always dreamt about.

“That’s one of my goals that I am saving for, to make myself happy,” she said. 




After the success of the ACE program in 2023, the Australian Government has made funding available to support a second phase of the program in 2024, in line with its commitment to enable more PALM scheme workers to gain formal qualifications in aged care. 

With the additional funding, the government aims to expand this training opportunity to a further 500 new aged care workers across regional Australia throughout 2024. 

Employers and other stakeholders interested in learning more about the ACE pilot are encouraged to send an email to ( to ensure their inclusion in future communications.