Mercury (Hobart)

‘We can learn from scandal’

Mayor urges help for migrant workers

- PATRICK GEE

LATROBE Mayor Peter Freshney has said the spotlight shone on his municipali­ty since a migrant worker housing scandal emerged last week was not necessaril­y a bad thing.

About 70 migrant workers were evicted from a single Shearwater house last week after an investigat­ion revealed serious health and safety concerns.

They were mostly from Tonga and had been working on berry farms owned by the Costa Group.

Cr Freshney took to the council’s Facebook page to “prompt a discussion” yesterday, saying the issues would lead to an “immediate and long-lasting improvemen­t in the way the Federal Government’s Seasonal Workers Program is administer­ed”.

His Facebook post suggested seasonal workers might prefer to live in densely populated communal spaces, and the issues were the lack of reticulate­d water, sewage and power at the property, and the location being away from community infrastruc­ture and services.

“If communal living is an environmen­t in which seasonal workers are used to living and feel safe, then why not mirror or replicate that type of accommodat­ion here in Australia during their stay, but ensure at the same time that Federal, State and Local Government statutes are abided by,” the post said.

He said considerat­ion should be given to “alternativ­e accommodat­ion models that are not what we choose to provide but are reflective of the needs of those they are designed to accommodat­e.” Cr Freshney told the Mercury yesterday there needed to be conversati­ons with workers coming to Australia to understand their living needs and “not presuming to know what it is they need”.

He said employers of seasonal workers should be required to investigat­e and build culturally appropriat­e living spaces for their workers.

“If people are used to living in groups of 30, 40 or 50 people, if that is one of the concerns they have when they come here, then why can’t we understand that ... and provide accommodat­ion that allows them to feel comfortabl­e, to feel safe in terms of style of accommodat­ion?

“Don’t provide what we want to provide, provide what they need, but make sure it’s compliant.”

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