Turning back the votes

It takes more than 'tolerance' to ensure we get them adding value to their new country

AUSTRALIA’S level of urban and regional cultural tolerance is arguably comparable with the level of enthusiasm a refugee child has after playing eye-spy at sea for a week: faint-hearted.

With the issue of refugees and asylum seekers dominating the headlines, the merits of utilising refugees in rural and regional areas to assist in the well publicised shortage of 100,000 jobs is also being debated.

Back in 2007, the National Farmers' Federation predicted that by this year we’d be short across our top seven occupations by 2000 shearers, 21,000 farm hands, 4000 machinery operators and 3000 bookkeepers.

With the government spending upwards of $250,000 per person per year on indefinite detention - and now God knows how much to Papua New Guinea to receive the diverted arrivals under the proposed new Regional Settlement Arrangement - it’s been suggested we spend that money on building up skills in regional areas , training refugees in an industry that needs people.

This would fill jobs and stimulate local economies, not to mention adding some spice to the local cuisine.

Whatever your thoughts, such a discussion is based on the assumption we’re actually good at processing, nurturing and integrating these people anyway, and I’m not sure we are.

We’re a country that is seen to give more compassion and resources to how our cattle are handled and processed overseas than working with people and families that are exercising their primeval instinct to survive, "queue jumpers" or not.

If you were to travel to PNG, the Australian Government advises to “exercise a high degree of caution” and notes that Port Moresby is considered one of the most dangerous ports in the world.

A recent study done on Kurdish and Afghani refugees settled in Australia between 1991 to 2002 suggests we have some issues. They were Muslim, spoke English, and were generally well-educated, with 88 per cent having secondary or tertiary education.

Currently this group still show levels of stress around unemployment and struggle with social isolation: a sense of never really "fitting in". Although they’re truly grateful for the re-settlement and value their safe new quality of life, their separation from family, possible discrimination and loss of social and career status long-term made their life very overwhelming some 20 years later.

In WA a study of ex-Yugoslavs, black Africans and people from the Middle East saw us allocate them to secondary labour market jobs regardless of their previous occupations.

That includes jobs us locals might avoid, from cleaners and taxi driving to meat processing and security. Again, after years of work, their morale and self worth was affected in that loss of importance or occupational status.

Those surveyed showed a segmented labour market, where racial and cultural visibility played a part in denying them and ourselves of their existing skill sets.

For example, if a refugee who used to be a shepherd in his home country is allocated to a job on the line in an abattoir, we'll never know if he has some “you beaut” sheep handling technique to share.

From this you can see how and why people congregate and form their own communities. We get pissed off, slam them with “when in Rome”, and then don’t make an effort. But on the other hand, some don’t seem to make an effort in return either. So the split goes on.

Boats or no boats, Labor or Liberal, acceptance or denial: it takes more than “tolerance” to ensure we get immigrants adding value to their new country, for all of our benefit.

We seem to still be a long way from patting a Muslim shearer on the back after cutting out a shed and then both tucking into a steak and chips at the pub.

What do you reckon?

Sam Trethewey

Sam Trethewey

grew up farming down south and now commentates on agriculture across Australia
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


23/07/2013 8:09:30 AM

I am descended from illegal boat person - couldn’t speak English, suspicious religion, no useful trade. Joined a ‘ghetto’ of people from the same ethnic background [maybe they didn’t fit in?], never learned English, the government set him up with a grant. Typical. Eventually my ship-jumping catholic Prussian great grandfather married an Irish girl who had come to his farm with her Irish speaking father at harvest time – had 11 kids and their decedents & the decedents from other people in the German & Irish ghettos are all over Qld – many in regional areas and agriculture.
23/07/2013 10:08:38 AM

Well Sam; you paint an overview of the refugee problem with such simplicity. Do you take into account the conservative nature of the rural industry and let's face it the reason why there is a shortage of skilled / unskilled labour within the rural industry at this time would be wages and conditions that can be better secured within cities and regional towns across Australia. Just consider the mining industry that has changed the rural employment situation, all depends on the $$$$$$$.
Sam's Dad
23/07/2013 3:42:26 PM

angasb I can get you 50k in a piggery with accom 1h and 20 min from Melb, you want it. At the moment 457 visa applicants are filling these jobs, after extensive advertising local campaign. Cheers
23/07/2013 4:02:14 PM

Think there is a line in a song that goes 'I worked in the bulldust on the beef roads out the back' Back then the Gov. paid your passage and you worked were ever you were sent until you paid it back. The descendants of some of those people are still in outback town. angasb; Rural Australia will accept any one who's not afraid to raise a sweat. This whole conservative, racist, stuff is pure B.S. Made up by people who are afraid to raise a sweat.
24/07/2013 1:27:14 AM

Sam, Most of the trades mentioned above are skilled?? Do you presume asylum seekers will have these proven skills? Not likely!! If you are willing to train, AND provide accommodation, and a decent award wage, will cockies and businesses offer he same to Aus workers? Or are you working on the premise of cheap or no wages in exchange for accommodation? Aussies will always work if award pay and conditions apply.
Charles Rural Skills Australia
24/07/2013 7:47:51 AM

Upwards of $250,000 per person per year, and the possibility of 30,000 people arriving on boats in 2013, that's about $7.5 Billion spent, imagine what that money could do to train, educate and integrate people into rural communities as skilled farm workers for our agricultural industries. I wonder if those in decision making positions are considering options such as those suggested by Sam
24/07/2013 9:44:56 AM

REMEMBER these people are illegal immigrants. They are guilty of criminal actions and dishonesty. If we arrived in their country the same way, we would wind up in jail for 20 years , or worse. It's not about race , it's how and why they had to flee their country illegally. The majority have shown themselves to be arrogant and ungrateful. I would not want this mentality , Australian or not in my community. Those that endure the process and arrive legally are grateful to be here , and much more deserving of our attention , and good members of our community. Send the others back.
24/07/2013 12:26:19 PM

Sam, You’ve confounded the issue by combining immigration policy - which includes a quota for refugees and people seeking asylum - with that of boat people and boarder security...So what happens if you take the money used to house people in detention and allocate it as you suggest? . Answer: You greatly increase the number of people drowning at Sea. Good one Einstein!
The earth is round
24/07/2013 5:30:41 PM

To become a citizen quickly, play cricket well especially batting. I very much agree with Sam re the bush needing people, especially those prepared to raise that sweat as per qlander's suggestion. Rural towns are dying & the mining industry encourages this with FIFO.
Get MuddyTo think clearly in farming and about farming, you need to get muddy - commit, roll up your sleeves and get involved. SAM TRETHEWEY gets stuck into some of the issues facing those on the land.


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