16 Feb 2009

Better pastoral support expected for Tongan workers under new Australian labour scheme

2:35 pm on 16 February 2009

Tonga's Prime Minister says the new Australian Government seasonal work scheme will provide improved pastoral support for the workers.

The first 50 Tongan workers taking part in the scheme left today for Victoria's Swanhill region where they will work for up to seven months.

Dr Feleti Sevele says the causes of the difficulties encountered with Tongans who joined a similar New Zealand scheme have been addressed.

He says Tonga has worked with the Australian authorities to design a scheme that ensures Tongan workers' interests are taken into account.

"Those issues have been addressed by both sides, it's not just an Australia Government problem.... it is also our issue and together, those who are responsible for the arrangements made arrangements to ensure that the pastoral care side is taken care of as well. And one of the leaders of the company to which they're going is a Tongan and he's been involved in the recruiting."

Tonga's Prime Minister, Dr Feleti Sevele.

The project will see about 2-thousand people from Tonga, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu employed in Australia in its first year.