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  • A ni-Vanuatu worker wearing an orange reflective jumper stands in a packing shed. She is smiling and looking at the camera.
Why this business is recruiting more women through the PALM scheme

Simfresh is a family-owned farm that employs around 100 Pacific island workers across 2 sites in Queensland and Victoria. Approximately 60% of these workers are women.

A Tongan worker holding a tray of freshly picked fruit smiles at the camera. She is standing in a covered fruit orchard and wearing a black jumper with a reflective orange vest and blue plastic arm protectors.
Ana is enjoying learning new skills in Australia through the Pacific Labour Scheme. With the money she is earning at Simfresh, she can support her 3 children back in Tonga.

Owner Amanda Cini says the motivation for recruiting women through the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme was initially to "give Pacific women a go" but they were such good workers that they ended up recruiting more.

"The women are well suited to picking citrus. They are resilient in their roles and have good attention to detail," she said.

"We now have women in semi-skilled roles across the business, including line leaders and quality assurance."

Laurel from Vanuatu is one of the women working in a semi-skilled role for Simfresh.

"I'm a dispatch manager,” she said. “I've learnt the system, how to use the iPad and talk on the 2- way. I give an update every hour on the orders coming in. You've got to keep up to speed and be ahead of time."

'So far, the experience has been incredible'

Amanda said the desire to learn is something that she looks for in an employee.

"We want people who are friendly, willing to take advice, listen and learn. The women have worked out really well in that respect," she said.

Ana Ali from Tonga is another worker who has embraced the opportunity to learn at Simfresh.

"We started by picking figs, which was a great experience,” she said. “We had never seen figs before, let alone know how to pick them. So far, the experience has been incredible ... we all learned so fast.

"Then we worked in the shed and learnt about oranges, Valencia and then Naval. We also learned about lemons and limes.”

As well as gaining new skills and knowledge, women in the PALM scheme are sending home money to support their families and communities.

Ana has 3 children in Tonga. By working in Australia, she is hoping to give them the best education she can.

"My daughter is about to start high school and I want her to go to university and do further studies,” she said.

“Education is so important and working here is a way to make this happen. I want the next generation to accomplish what they want in life.”

Laurel is also a mother who is using the opportunity in Australia to support her family. 

"My family and my kids have shelter over their heads and have food. They can go to school. I'm so proud of myself," she said.

Seeing this kind of impact has a significant effect on Laurel and the other staff at Simfresh.

“The PLS (Pacific Labour Scheme) has helped us hugely but equally it makes us feel really good to know we are changing people's lives," she said.