Friday, September 30, 2022

These women are on a mission to save South Pacific seasonal workers from the cold

A community organization in Muropana is soliciting warm clothing and furniture for seasonal workers from the Pacific Ocean when the cold weather arrives.

Know Your Roots Incorporated was started in 2018 to advocate for the Pacific Island community and now serves as a voice for all cultural communities in regional Victoria.

Founder Melissa Silaga said seasonal workers aren’t always prepared for cold weather.

“They come to Australia when the weather is warm and [wearing] What they’re used to is a lovlava — or what we call a sarong — and T-shirts and singles and thongs,” she said.

The organization has started a charity campaign soliciting heated jackets and pants, socks and furniture for men and women.

Ms Silaga said about 500 workers from the South Pacific worked across the region, which includes Shepparton, Tatura, Ardmona and Mansfield.

She said most workers arrived in Australia with carry-on luggage and that the items available at their residences varied.

“Most gardeners have their own tiny houses built on site,” she said.

,[At] Elsewhere they are in rental properties and that is an ongoing cost to them.”

Three women smiling.
Melissa Silaga (center), Betul Tuna (left) and Ophira Satele are part of Know Your Roots Incorporated.,Supplied By: Melissa Silaga,

more to be done

A Senate investigation last month saw one of Australia’s largest worker-hire firms deduct hundreds of dollars from Pacific workers’ weekly wage checks.

Ms Silaga said the first few months were often limited to cover the expenses incurred by the contractor in bringing workers to Australia.

“I’m currently working with a group of women who came in two weeks ago and they changed into bed boxes and mattresses so they slept on the ground for the first night.”

Ms Silaga said people have already started donating items, but there is much more that can be done to help.

“They already feel isolated and away from home,” she said.

Nation World News Desk
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