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Sesa’s journey of success and surprises through the PALM scheme

Sesa Metui is one of 9 siblings, and until recently, lived in her family home in Nukuleka, Tonga caring for her parents.

In July 2022 Sesa decided to start supporting her family in a different way, taking up a position at a meat processing site in Australia through the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme to earn more money for them.

Sesa with employees from Nolan Meats
Sesa with employees from Nolan Meats

“I was conflicted about joining the PALM scheme because it meant I would have to leave my family. But I was working in hospitality, and it wasn’t enough money to support my parents and siblings,” she said. 

“My parents are getting older now, and money was my focus.”

Gaining new skills and accreditation  

After just one year of employment at Nolan Meats in Gympie, Queensland, Sesa has already achieved her goals and a whole lot more. 

Not only has she been able to send money home to her family, but she has also been promoted to the position of group leader, became a qualified Meat Standards Australia grader, gained a Certificate II in Meat Processing, and acquired an AUS-MEAT chiller accreditation in the process.

“I was so surprised. Before I came here, it was a mystery to think about what kind of work I was entering. It’s my first time in this type of work, but I’m really enjoying it.

“In Tonga, I was working in a café, so the work was always going to be slightly different. But I’m strong, I can do it,” she said. 

Sesa, Pope Francis and youth group
Sesa, Pope Francis and youth group

As well as technical skills in meat processing, her role as a group leader has helped her develop leadership and English language skills.

Sesa now trains new team members at Nolan Meats, running the inductions and teaching them how to sharpen knives, clean equipment and comply with customer procedures. 

“I was confident in Tonga but coming here it’s a different language and different people. 

"Every day I learn a new word and my English has really improved now, so I think that’s a positive.

“All these skills. I didn’t think I would come here and develop so many.”

While Sesa is learning new skills in this role, she has found that her hospitality industry experience has helped her become a better group leader. 

“Because I was working in a café, you had to smile to everyone who entered the room. 

"I am always doing this and trying to make people feel welcome. 

“When you smile, even without saying something, you are already welcoming someone,” she said. 

From Tonga to Australia to Europe

An image of Sesa and Pope Franics
Sesa and Pope Francis

Working in Australia has brought additional benefits for Sesa that she hadn’t anticipated. 

“Not only am I making money and learning, but I enjoy my life here. When I was in Tonga I hadn’t travelled anywhere. 

“In Tonga my youth group was planning to go to Rome, but I wasn’t on the list because I couldn’t afford it. 

"When I got the job here, I sent them a message to let them know I’d be earning money.

“I worked for 3 months, and then I went! I went to Portugal and Rome. 

"My friends and my community were so proud of that,” she said. 

She hadn’t imagined that participating in the PALM scheme would allow her to see Europe, but one moment in particular came as a total surprise. 

“During the trip I came face to face with Pope Francis ... never would I have expected that to happen in my lifetime!

“When I look back, I think how did I get there? And it’s because of this job,” she said.