Samoan officials participated in the Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting in Honiara, Solomon Islands, last week. Labour mobility, where Pacific workers travel to Australia and New Zealand to fill critical labour shortages, is transforming both sending and receiving countries. The Samoan delegation, Lemalu Nele Leilua, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour and Hermine Raeli-McCarthy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, travelled with Laura McIlhenny, Third Secretary from the Australian High Commission in Apia.

The meeting was the first hosted by a Pacific Island Nation, and the Solomon Islands’ Government did an excellent job bringing together over 150 delegates from across the region to accelerate labour mobility programs. Over three days senior officials, employers of seasonal workers in New Zealand and Australia, employee agents, media and academics considered how the region can work together to maximise the benefits of labour mobility programs.

The meeting was formally opened by Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Rick Houenipwela. The Prime Minister mapped out an ambitious agenda for labour mobility across the region. He said Solomon Islands wanted to work with all Pacific Island countries to increase participation in labour mobility programs ‘for the benefit of current and future generations of our people, our countries and our region.’

Australian National University academic, Professor Richard Curtain, presented on the potential growth in labour mobility programs. Dr Curtain highlighted the growth of the number of Pacific workers travelling to Australia and New Zealand over the past five years. If sending and receiving countries improve efforts to identify, select, mobilise and receive workers, further rapid growth in participation could be realised.

The Australian Government delegation, headed by Assistant Secretary Beth Delaney, communicated to the meeting ‘Australia is strongly committed to expanding labour mobility in the Pacific. It represents a win-win for Australia and our Pacific partners.’

Australian High Commissioner to Samoa, HE Sara Moriarty said, ‘we were delighted to see Samoa join Australia’s Pacific Labour Scheme in September. The meeting in Honiara was an opportunity for Australian and Samoan officials to work together to ensure Samoan workers can make the most of the opportunities—in industries such as non-seasonal agriculture, tourism and aged care—to gain valuable skills and income through the scheme’.

Samoan workers who have returned to Samoa from the Seasonal Worker Programme have used the income they made working on farms in Australia to invest in the future of their families and the country.