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Seasonal Workers Conference

A Black Women in the audience of a conference presentation

The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office’s (ACMRO) 7th National Conference will be held on 18-19 July 2024, at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) Melbourne Campus.

ACMRO has been collaborating with the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) in supporting a network of parishes and ministries doing pastoral care with seasonal workers under the Australian Government’s Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme (the scheme allows eligible Australian businesses to hire workers from nine Pacific Islands (Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) and Timor-Leste when there are not enough local workers available). The purpose of the network is to work closely with parishes and stakeholders and assist with information sharing, capability building, and networking to better understand and facilitate the concerns and welfare of seasonal workers. The network’s quarterly meetings and formation are just some of the activities to ensure the voices of the seasonal workers will be heard so that their concerns and needs can be addressed.

The title of the conference is Welcoming Seasonal Workers in Australia: Gift and Responsibility. This conference will address the issues of seasonal and migrant workers in Australia, emphasising their contributions to Australian society beyond their labour. Seasonal workers not only come to Australia to support their families, but they also bring rich cultural experiences, traditions, language, and faith. The conference will explore how faith communities in Australia and Australian society can welcome and learn from these gifts, fostering positive change.

Furthermore, the conference will emphasise the moral responsibility to ensure that seasonal workers are treated justly and with respect while working in Australia. It will encourage people across the country to actively support seasonal and migrant workers, particularly those from Timor-Leste and the Pacific.

The event will also call upon Australian Catholic agencies, including Catholic Religious Australia (CRA), relevant Bishops Commissions, and other leaders in the Australian Church, as well as broader ecumenical and global stakeholders, to recognise the rights of the low-paid migrant and seasonal workforce as an emerging social justice issue, particularly in the context of global warming. This will also be an opportune time to hear a representative from the Federal Government so as to have the majority of the topic’s facets presented.

In a public stance, the conference will affirm the collaboration of three organisations, ACMRO, the Office for Justice, Ecology, and Peace (OJEP), and Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH), in raising awareness and promoting just outcomes for seasonal and migrant workers. The event will serve as a platform for informed discussions, advocacy, and policy development in support of these vulnerable workers, emphasising the social, cultural, and environmental dimensions of this critical issue.

Registration details and the conference program will be released at a later date.