OPINION: A job in the bush isn’t as simple as it looks on the telly

Raelene HallMidwest Times
Grain harvesting is not a job for the faint-hearted, nor is it a job for the inexperienced.
Camera IconGrain harvesting is not a job for the faint-hearted, nor is it a job for the inexperienced. Credit: Geoff Vivian/Midwest Times

In August, WA had the second highest unemployment rate in the country.

Businesses throughout the State are desperately seeking staff, yet not able to get them. Something doesn’t add up.

Meanwhile, the State Government has started a campaign to encourage West Aussies to go ‘bush’ to help fill the shortages of workers for the upcoming harvest season on farms and orchards.

It has also requested the Federal Government help by allowing them to continue to receive any allowance they currently get.

I can see a few issues with this situation. Firstly, the advertising campaign that I have seen on the TV is so misleading. It makes it all look so easy — just jump in the car (and maybe hook up the caravan), wander out bush, pick up a job and that’s all there is to it.

Now some jobs in the regions may be suitable for unskilled workers, although even those jobs usually involve long hours and hard physical work.

I believe in giving everyone a fair go but employers need people they can rely on for the season, not to be chasing new workers every few days, because staff are constantly leaving.

Grain harvesting is not a job for the faint-hearted, nor is it a job for the inexperienced.

With machinery worth hundreds of thousands of dollars used, farmers want to be certain a worker has the experience and knowledge to drive them correctly.

There isn’t the time to be training someone when your priority is to harvest crops as soon as they are ready.

Not only are farmers not going to be put their machinery at risk but they will not, and should not, risk the health and safety of all their workers, themselves and their family by using a novice operator.

Getting staff for seasonal work in the regions in WA is not a new issue but it’s exacerbated this year by our hard borders, which means interstate workers would have to presumably quarantine for 14 days, with either them or the employer footing that bill. Overseas workers are unlikely to be allowed in at all.

Anyone with real knowledge of the regions, and the agricultural enterprises throughout it, would know a simplistic ‘go hither’ message will not get the capable, experienced and/or willing staff required to work in these areas, for seasonal work or for the long-term.

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