The Australian government is offering “boutique” visa deals in regions with niche skills shortages as revealed by an SBS report.
The areas of Northern Queensland and Goldfields in Western Australia’s southeast are two regions that will benefit the most in the upcoming months.
According to the report there have already been 322 special labour agreements in place with certain businesses and industries across the country, but the Minister for Citizenship Alan Tudge wants to go further and do arrangements on the basis of geographical locations.
“In the Goldfields, they've got a shortage of drillers. They've got a shortage of people who can work on some of the nearby farms and we want to be able to ensure that those skills gaps can be met so that those businesses can continue to grow."
“In North Queensland, they've got a thriving tourism industry and they've got requirements for things like Chinese-speaking scuba diving instructors," Mr Tudge told SBS News.
What exactly is a boutique visa?
Boutique visas are arrangements that are granted at the government’s discretion when there are vacancies for certain positions that cannot be filled locally or by Australian citizens and the job isn’t within the Skills Shortage List of more than 600 occupations eligible for skilled visa categories.
It is necessary for companies to demonstrate that they are unable to acquire local workers for the positions by publicizing nationally first.
In the majority of the cases, visa holders are given a pathway to permanent residency.
“The good thing about the arrangements of the boutique visas is that it allows to have a personalised arrangement with each company but helps keep the structure same as we are prioritising Australians first as the company needs to show that there is no Australian available to fill the position and it still needs to satisfy the criteria set out in the agreement,” said Mr Tudge.
The visa deals are expected to be in place by the end of this year.
One of the centres out of the dozen that have been granted visas, is the Melbourne aged care centre Fronditha Care to boost staff numbers.
22 Greek aged care workers have been employed by the centre so far and the centre has also been granted an extra 60 visas known as the TSS (Temporary Skill Shortage) visa - to hire more bilingual staff.
According to the centre’s CEO George Lekakis, “They're able to relate to our residents. They also help with the transfer of information to other colleagues who don't speak Greek.”
According to Mr Tudge there is going to be a significant demand for Greek-speaking personal carers because there are about 27,000 people in Australia of Greek heritage who do not speak English and they are typically all above the age of 60.
Dozens of elderly Greek migrants call Fronditha care centre their home. These residents have reverted to their first language as they have aged and so having staff that speaks the language helps in the communication.
“The Greek language builds trust with the residents.”
“If someone is irritated, agitated or in extreme cases, aggressive, the language can calm them down,” Greek care worker Dimitra Xexaki said.