Covid-19 – Update – For anyone looking for agriculture work
It is now around five weeks since the COVID-19 outbreak lead to widespread changes to social interaction and travel in Australia. For anyone looking for agriculture work these changes have had a major impact on how much work is available, and whether you can travel to particular regions to look for work or take up a job offer.
What are the main changes?
As Australia is made up of six states and two territories, some of the new rules may differ as you move across state or territory borders. However most of the changes are basically the same with some of the main ones being:
- People are required to stay at home unless they are:
- going to work or education (if unable to do so at home)
- shopping for essential supplies such as groceries, then return home without delay
- going out for personal exercise in the neighbourhood, on your own or with one other
- attending medical appointments or compassionate visits.
Closure of bars and cafes
As well as making it harder to catch up with friends for a drink, the closure of most of these businesses has resulted in thousands of people being made redundant – and many of these people are keen to get horticulture work.
Non-essential gatherings limited
Only two people are allowed at most indoor and outdoor non-essential gatherings.
The introduction of widespread social distancing rules has resulted in many hostels limiting the number of people that can stay. Some are not accepting new guests and many caravan parks are closed,making it hard to find accommodation in lots of rural towns.
State borders closed
A number of states have effectively closed their borders, making it very difficult for people to enter from other states. However agriculture workers are deemed to be essential workers and can move between states provided certain protocols are complied with.
Visa conditions changed
For anyone on a Working Holiday Visa (417 or 462) and currently working in agriculture you are able to extend your visa, even if you haven’t completed the 3 or 6 months of specified work required to apply for a second or third Working Holidaymaker visa. If you are unable to return to your home country you can apply for a COVID-19 pandemic Temporary Activity Visa (subclass 408). There is no charge for this visa. It will allow you to remain lawfully in Australia, and continue working should you wish to do so, until it is safe and practicable for you to return to your home country.
Looking for agriculture work? While large parts of other industries have either shut down or are operating at reduced capacity, agriculture is basically operating as normal, with large numbers of people needed to pick and pack fruit and vegetables. However due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, many people who already have casual horticulture jobs are electing to continue working and thus there are few new job vacancies at the moment.
DO NOT TRAVEL TO ANY REGIONAL AREAS UNLESS YOU HAVE A CONFIRMED JOB TO GO TO.
Rural communities do not want people arriving in their towns without a job and there is limited accommodation. For up to date information on all aspects of harvest jobs, contact National Harvest Labour – 1800 062 332 or harvesttrail.gov.au. Although jobs are hard to find at the moment, our call centre consultants can assist with information and advice on where to look for upcoming work opportunities. This is a free service.
Can I travel interstate?
If you have found a horticulture job and need to travel interstate to commence work you should be able to, however the requirements vary significantly from state to state. Details are constantly changing so it is important to check with the Commonwealth Department of Health and each state health department before travelling anywhere, either interstate or even within states.
Some of the basic requirements to enter each state:
NSW, Victoria and ACT
No border restrictions exist for people traveling from any state or territory into NSW, Victoria or the ACT. However the requirement to restrict unnecessary travel applies. If you have a confirmed horticulture job to go to it is advisable to have a copy of the confirmed job offer and accommodation arrangements with you when you travel.
Strict border controls apply in the Northern Territory for all access points by road and air. Non-essential travellers arriving at a Northern Territory border must complete 14 days of forced quarantine. Upon entry, you will be escorted to a designated location where you will be monitored and accommodated for the duration and accommodation expenses will be covered by you.
Horticulture workers who have a confirmed job offer may be deemed as essential travellers and thus be exempt from these requirements. You must be able to prove your status as an essential traveller before you will be granted an exemption from self-quarantine.
The Tasmanian Government has declared a State of Emergency and tough border restrictions are in place. All travellers arriving in Tasmania will be required to enter self-isolation for 14 days in government provided accommodation on arrival in Tasmania.
Only people who are approved by the State Controller as Essential Travellers will be exempt. Horticulture workers who have a confirmed job offer should be exempt from these requirements.
Restrictions on non-essential travel apply for anyone arriving in South Australia. You will need to self-isolate for 14 days. Border checkpoints are established at 12 locations along the border, as well as airports. Travellers will be required to sign a declaration about their health and their ability to self-isolate for 14 days. Essential travellers include horticulture workers and they should be exempt from some of these requirements.
Western Australia has introduced restrictions on non-essential travel. Anyone arriving in Western Australia will need to self-isolate for 14 days. Checkpoints have been established along the border, as well as airports, seaports and interstate train stations. Travellers will be required to sign a declaration about their health, and their ability to self-isolate for 14 days. Essential travellers include health workers, freight delivery, emergency services and horticulture workers.
The Sunshine State has introduced restrictions on non-essential travel. Border checkpoints have been established along major highways and at airports. Only residents and people who are exempt will be allowed to enter Queensland. Horticulture workers should be exempt, but will only be allowed to cross if they hold a border pass, have a confirmed letter of employment, and the employer has lodged a health plan with Queensland Health. Anyone who is not a resident or does not hold a border pass will not be allowed to enter Queensland.
It is a challenging time for everyone and restrictions are constantly changing. The most important thing to do is stay up to date. Remember the National Harvest Labour Information Service is there to help with information or to hopefully find you that elusive job – 1800 062 332.
This article is intended to provide access to information and resources to promote an understanding of work and travel restrictions in response to COVID-19.
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