K&S Contracting specialises in forestry and weed control. The business signed up to the Pacific Labour Scheme in 2018 after struggling to find reliable local labour for forestry work. It currently employs five Tuvaluans who are now active members of the local community.
Matt Kavanagh is the director of K&S Contracting. Based in Kingaroy in Queensland, the business provides weed control, silviculture and fire protection services. After struggling to find reliable local labour for the low skilled forestry work, Matt signed up to the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) in December 2018, recruiting five workers from Tuvalu.
Matt has benefited from the stability provided by the Scheme. “There’s no turnover so you can train the guys up and you know they’re going to be there,” he says.
The workers were given inductions and basic training for their new roles, including first aid, chainsaw operating and maintenance training. Other skills have been learned on the job; for example, tree planting, pruning, weed spraying and equipment maintenance.
Two workers have undertaken their fire crew accreditation, allowing them to contribute to wildfire response services offered by K&S Contracting. The three days of training included units on emergency response, injury prevention and how to work in a team.
With this additional training, the two accredited workers were able to join the response crew in callouts to the September bushfires in Queensland, taking on shifts over the weekend as part of the effort.
Engaging with the community isn’t limited to work hours, and through the local church, sports teams and Tuvaluan diaspora, the men have been made to feel welcome in their new town. For example, the church pastor drives the men to service on Sundays, and they often invite local friends and workmates for dinner.
Maintaining a connection with home is important to all the workers, who video call their families almost daily. They also send back items such as clothing, toys, a laptop, food supplies and even a washing machine.
Under the PLS, the men can stay in Kingaroy for up to three years. This gives them sufficient time to save money, make connections and develop their skills.
“We love our jobs in Australia and we are learning lots, even the Aussie slang,” one worker said.