New jobs program aims to help farm workers like Nina settle into a new life in on the land


Nina Goncalve is happy picking strawberries on a farm on Western Australia’s southern coast, and among migrants keen to continue working in the regions.

While the mother from Timor-Leste wants to settle here permanently, visas remain a challenge.

But migrant workers in the Great Southern region like Ms Goncalve have been given a boost with help from a new employment initiative.

The Job Connect Settlement Support (JCSS) program is funded by the Department of Training and Workforce Development and will be managed by the Great Southern Migrant Resource Centre until December 2025.

Ms Goncalve is an international worker from Timor-Leste, currently living in Albany.(ABC Great Southern: Chris Edmondson)

As an international worker at Handasyde Strawberries, Ms Goncalve is seeking support through the JCSS program.

With hopes of working in Western Australia long-term, she wants to eventually bring her family out to live with her.

She has spent nearly five years working on and off in the country due to visa requirements — her current visa allows her nine months in Australia at a time.

“I just use nine months for work in here, and then when I get the salary, I go home and spend and then come back again,” she said.

Ms Goncalve said it is not enough to support her four children.

“When I have a permanent visa, I can bring them here to work and to find good education in here,” she said.

She says the Migrant Resource Centre in Albany has helped her greatly, and she feels confident that one day, she will have permanent residency.

Close up of a ripe strawberry ready to be picked.

Ms Gonclave works at strawberry farm, and hopes to one day bring her family to Australia.(ABC News: Sophie Johnson)

Helping migrant workers stay

Julia Valentin, coordinator at Great Southern Migrant Services, said the program focuses on longer-term workers seeking to reside in Australia.

“There’s people wanting to come here to work, and some of them hope to settle permanently or longer term in Australia, and these are the people who we help,” she said.

“Locally, places like the strawberry farm and others are bringing workers in to get the job done — I think it’s a win-win situation for both sides.”

Some services they provide include casework for international workers, which covers anything from learning how to drive, to finding accommodation, access to healthcare and education, as well as additional financial support.

The program hopes to link migrant workers with different visa options, skills and information to help them and their family members make a new life in the region.

“The settlement program really looks at other migrant categories, such as family visas, people who come from refugee backgrounds, people who are non-English speakers,” Ms Valentin said.

“[JCSS] really focuses on migrants who are coming to work in Australia, which have before just fallen through the cracks of getting any assistance in this region.”

Share post:


More like this