‘My workplace looks after me’: How these two Samoan aged care workers are coping during COVID-19
Visor Auvele and Rachel Sale from Samoa are personal care workers at Bolton Clarke’s Cunningham Villas, a residential aged care community in the coastal town of Bowen, Queensland.
The two women have worked in Australia since 2019 through the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS). For them, as for many of their fellow PLS workers, Pacific island border closures have meant they have stayed in Australia and continued to work during the COVID-19 crisis.
According to Visor and Rachel, however, coronavirus has not disrupted their lives too much thanks to a safe and supportive environment in both their workplace and in their local community.
“I’m not worried [about COVID-19],” Rachel said. “My workplace looks after me and I feel loved.
“My manager is a good man and always calls us to check in. Our connection as a family here—I’m so proud of it.”
According to Visor, the local environment in north-east Queensland also feels quite familiar.
“Bowen is beautiful, it takes me closer to home. There’s coconut, hibiscus, flowers and no traffic. We’re working in a safe, warm environment—it’s a good thing to wake up to,” Visor said.
The Pacific tradition of caring for the elderly makes this role uniquely suitable for Samoan short term employment
The responsibility of looking after the residents in the Bolton Clarke community has helped Visor cope with the uncertainty of living through the virus crisis, she said.
“There are people who really need care, and with COVID 19 it’s essential we all look after the elderly. That keeps me going!”
Along with Australian-standard Certificate III in Community Services qualifications, Visor and Rachel both said they take pride in bringing Samoan cultural and social traditions around caring for older people to their jobs in Bowen.
“In Samoa we don’t have aged care, we look after our own elderly people. There’s no difference in how I care for people here to how I cared for my granny when she was alive,” Rachel said.
“The best medicine is to entertain them. I sing and dance with them.”
Providing support to their families back home
Visor and Rachel’s continued employment in Australia throughout the pandemic has meant they can also continue to send money back to Samoa to help their families in this uncertain time.
As well as supporting her own children’s education and daily expenses, Visor is aiming to support her extended family to be able to provide for themselves in the longer term.
“We have a lot of land back at home, so I have been sending money to my parents so they can plant more crops for themselves. That way, in six months they won’t have to call me and ask for more money,” she said.
Rachel has also been thinking about her relatives’ long-term prosperity by remitting money to Samoa to purchase livestock and contribute to the upkeep of the family farm.
“To begin with, I saved money for rent and living expenses. Then I sent the rest to my family in Samoa to run our farm. After that I bought them three cows, and I’ve just sent money for a fourth,” she said.
While Visor and Rachel wait for the borders to open so they can travel to see their families, they plan to sit tight, stay safe and continue working to help their communities in both Australia and Samoa.
“This is my blessing, and it is an achievement for my life and my family. I want to promote the standard of my country and keep up the good reputation of my country,” Rachel said.