By QAWN Officer, South East Queensland – Craig Dillon

Recently I have been working closely with HELP Enterprises, a non-for-profit organisation, assisting job seekers from the Karen Community to find work in the horticulture sector around Caboolture.

The Karen, who originated from the region of Mongolia, are a large ethnic group or nationality within the country of Burma. Called Myanmar by the present ruling Junta, Burma in its pre-Second World War period was a wealthy country in Asian terms, “the rice-bowl of Asia”. Now it’s one of the world’s poorest countries.

This new project specifically aims to provide opportunities for people from the Karen Community to enhance their skills and employment options.

We’ve identified one of the main difficulties for horticulture growers is finding and retaining reliable local workers. What’s great about the Karen people is they’re well suited to work in horticulture because the majority of them have a background in farming.

In its early stages, the project has had great success with a team of Karen workers successfully placed across a number of farms in the Caboolture area. The feedback from growers has been very positive with many saying it has helped with the on-boarding process and cut costs of training staff due to the workers having previously worked on the farms earlier in the project.

HELP Enterprises has gone above and beyond to ensure a smooth on-boarding process by assisting with inductions and helping new workers fill out required employment documentations. An on-the-ground representative visits the farms regularly to confirm all parties are happy with the induction and that there are no concerns from either the grower or the worker. HELP has also been able to bridge cultural differences by hiring a Karen speaking consultant to engage with leaders of the local Karen community.

One of the main challenges of this project had been finding suitable work in the horticulture industry all-year-round to ensure good workers are not lost to another industry. In the last few months, QAWN has had a great response from local growers on the Sunshine Coast down to the Gold Coast who have offered up available job positions. We can’t thank these growers enough as they’ve been instrumental to the success of this project so far.

We continue to look for more growers who are looking to fill their workforces. The more growers who are willing to assist, the wider the range of crop varieties which will lead to greater success for the overall project.

If you are a grower in the Caboolture area and would like to know more, please contact me on 0499 833 868 or email cdillon@growcom.com.au

The Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network (QAWN) is an industry-led rural jobs initiative funded by the Queensland Government.