THE Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council (SMECC) has received a $450,000 grant to support 600 seasonal workers with work, accommodation and transport.

The grant was announced under the Andrews Government’s $6 million Seasonal Workforce Accommodation Program (SWAP) this week, and will begin to be rolled out by the end of the table grape harvest, SMECC executive officer Alisi Fangaloka said. Ms Fangaloka said SMECC will use the money to listen to workers’ concerns and work with employers and accommodation providers to improve work conditions and housing affordability.

Department of Agriculture spokesperson Myles Gaffney said SMECC pastoral care officers will provide “boots on the ground” to assist workers with accommodation, work and transport concerns “so they have the
info to stay safe”. Through supporting worker wellbeing, the organisation will also provide assurance for farmers that their workforce is “safe and stable”, Mr Gaffney said.

The grant will support communication of COVIDSafe regulations, connection to community and faith leaders, transport advice, employment assistance, youth engagement and play groups. The support will be available for all seasonal workers in Sunraysia, including any that arrive from the Pacific Islands through the Victorian Government’s seasonal worker scheme.

Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas said the services offered by SMECC were “great examples of ideas driven by locals who have the knowledge to meet the needs of local farmers and employers.”

The Cobram and District Fruit Growers’ Association (CDFGA) also received funding through the program to offer accommodation and transport to workers in the Cobram region.

By Else Kennedy

Picture: Ben Gross

Sunraysia Daily, 6 February 2021

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