A joint operation between the Australian Defence Force and Grain Producers Australia was recently launched to support Australia’s farmers with defence force veterans amid labour shortages in farming communities.
The operation, jointly conducted between the Australian Defence Force and Grain Producers Australia, was launched in late August to provide support to Australia’s struggling farming communities with willing defence force veterans.
The operation was launched amid workforce shortages in the agricultural sector, arising from ongoing travel restrictions from overseas workers.
Operation Grain Harvest Assist is expected to recruit former defence force workers who have transferable skills, especially in working with heavy machinery, to provide support during the September harvest.
Volunteers from the ADF have conducted a holistic communications campaign to find participants, primarily through social media, to provide a channel for veterans to work alongside farmers.
Jessica Wallace, executive manager, policy, advocacy and engagement at WA Farmers, said that the workforce shortages had constrained many parts of the country’s agricultural supply chain.
“The second consecutive year of this global pandemic is presenting many complex challenges to manage for grain producers; especially securing enough workers to harvest and optimise the value of what’s forecast to be a massive $15 billion grain harvest,” Wallace said.
“But it helps ease the burden when major national groups of influence such as the ADF reach out and put their shoulders to the wheel, leading the charge to make a difference on the ground.”
Royal Australian Armoured Corps Lieutenant Colonel (Ret’d) Garry Spencer AM said that the Operation’s robust communications campaign has been an essential element of success, by finding willing veterans and giving them ample information to plan for regional postings.
“We know COVID-19 has greatly reduced the supply of grain harvest workers from overseas, with more than 100,000 fewer backpackers available this year, compared to 2020,” Spencer said.
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“That’s why we’ve put our heads together with grains industry leaders and devised a plan of attack that’ll help not only farmers but also benefit our people with the option to get out and work on-farm to gain a sense of satisfaction, and valuable income, at this vital time.
“Driving a tank or piloting aircraft in a military manoeuvre is surely a great segue to working on-farm using heavy machinery such as harvesters with auto-steer, GPS guidance and air-conditioning?”
The operation utilises two social media channels, one for jobs in WA and SA, and the other for Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
He continued, noting that co-ordinators will continue to provide support throughout the operation to ensure that veterans continued to receive support throughout the task.
Such support includes labour agreements, ample working conditions, sufficient training as well as accommodation and eligibility to travel as "essential workers".
Chair of Grain Producers Australia Andrew Weidemann welcomed the commencement of the operation, outlining that it helped to overcome labour shortages.
“GPA is also calling on rural businesses such as stock agents and agronomists to consider the option of allowing staff members to take leave without pay, to work on-farm this harvest,” Weidemann said.
“We’re also working with QANTAS again this year, and the Regional Aviation Association of Australia, to link workers stood down due to COVID-19, with farm businesses, to provide them with temporary employment options and utilise their complementary skills.”