This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Ni-Vanuatu workers are putting Pacific values into practice in regional Australia through community service

So after moving to Stawell in 2020, Junior Issachar made a conscious effort to get involved with his new community.

"Our passion is to be a blessing … and put a smile on someone's face," he said. 

ABC Pacific reports Issachar is one of a growing number of workers from Vanuatu who have moved to the small town in regional Victoria under the federal government's Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.

And when they are not working at the town's meatworks, they can often be found out in the community visiting the elderly and people living with disabilities.  

Issachar said the volunteer work could involve anything from moving furniture to gardening and yard work to just simple chores around the house.

"I go where they are in their houses or properties, and just give them a helping hand," he said.

Issachar said giving back also helped create a sense of camaraderie for the workers while being a long way from home. 

"It's about looking after each other, especially in tough times when our family is not around," Mr Issachar said. 

"We've just received another 19 [people] … the new recruitment from Vanuatu … and that keeps a positive vibe for our group as well."

Why are Pacific workers in Australia?

Under the PALM scheme, eligible Australian businesses unable to find enough local workers invite workers from the Pacific Islands and Timor-Leste.

Nine Pacific countries are involved: Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. 

About 36,000 Pacific workers are in Australia under the scheme, with around 28 Ni-Vanuatu workers in Stawell.

Many PALM visa holders are separated from children and partners back home for months or even years. 

"So most people, they probably think that our group is here through seasonal working, but it's more … long-term,"  Mr Issachar said, with new workers in the program able to stay for up to four years. 

'Help to sustain the family'

COVID-19 lockdowns meant even more isolation for many of the workers, in addition to the normal struggles that come with settling into a new country.  

"Yeah, it's been hard," said Peni Naros, who came to Stawell from Vanuatu's capital Port Vila. 

"I am married to a beautiful Fijian lady. She's now in Fiji with two of my sons.

"The past two and a half years, we weren't able to meet them because of COVID."

Since the easing of pandemic restrictions, he has been back once for a month to see his young family. 

"But ... yeah, duty calls to return back [to Australia]," he said.

"This is where I am able to get some financial help to sustain the family and work for the future, especially for my little kids."

Issachar's sister Sandra Issachar, who is also working in Stawell, left her son back home.

Because of the pandemic she didn't see him for three years. 

Issachar said being so far from loved ones was the hardest thing about being part of the PALM scheme.

"And I know of some of the boys … actually haven't … had a proper funeral for some of the parents that passed away during COVID-19, and that's really sad for them," he said.

The Ni-Vanuatu PALM scheme workers in Stawell have bookings weeks in advance.(Supplied)