Refugees joining efforts to help Australia’s worker shortage

Two decades ago, when Myanmar refugee Plar Wah Peter was driven off his farm, he could never have dreamed that one day he would be learning to drive tractors in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia.

Mr. Peter, originally from the Shan State in southern Myanmar, fled his home country as the military seized possession of property and land from his people, and finally spent a decade in a Thai refugee camp before settling in Australia in 2008.

He is one of 50 refugees and migrants trained in basic farming skills to help fill a large number of vacancies in the agricultural sector of WA in the midst of border closures due to COVID-19.

“We, the Karen ethnic group, live in community harmony and our main resource is agriculture,” he said.

“We are so happy that there is training on farming.

“We want to find more opportunities to improve our communities, and we want to become an example for others to teach and explain to each other.”

The programme was founded by the Northam-based Muresk Institute, 100 kilometres east of Perth, and the WA Multicultural Services Centre.

Participants are trained in procedures for occupational health and safety, the use of tractors, the basic rules and application of chemical safety, and organisational maintenance.

Trainees will have nationally recognised units of expertise at the completion of the week-long course to operate comfortably at the entry stage.

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