Pacific seasonal workers to feel the warmth of clothes from Know Your Roots donation drive

Pacific seasonal workers to feel the warmth of clothes from Know Your Roots donation drive


A community organisation in Mooroopna is seeking warm clothes and furniture for seasonal workers from the Pacific as cool weather approaches.

Know Your Roots Incorporated was started in 2018 to advocate for the Pacific Island community and now acts as a voice for all cultural communities in regional Victoria.

Founder Mellissa Silaga said seasonal workers were not always prepared for cooler weather.

“They turn up in Australia when the season is hot and [wearing] what they are used to, which is a lavalava – or what we call a sarong – and T-shirts and singlets and thongs,” she said.

The organisation has started a donations drive asking for warm jackets and pants for men and women, socks, and furniture.

Ms Silaga said about 500 workers from the South Pacific worked throughout the region, including in Shepparton, Tatura, Ardmona and Mansfield.

She said most workers arrived in Australia with carry-on luggage and that the items available at their accommodation tended to vary.

“Most orchardists have their own little homes built on site,” she said.

“[At] other places they are in rental properties and that’s an ongoing cost to them.”

Three women smiling.
Mellissa Silaga (centre), Betul Tuna (left) and Ofeira Satele are part of Know Your Roots Incorporated.(Supplied: Mellissa Silaga)

More to be done

Last month a Senate inquiry heard one of Australia’s largest labour-hire firms made hundreds of dollars of deductions from Pacific workers’ weekly pay cheques.

Ms Silaga said workers’ pay was often limited in the first few months to cover the costs incurred by the contractor in bringing them to Australia.

“I’m currently working with a group of women that arrived two weeks ago and they turned up to boxes of beds that hadn’t been put together and a mattress, so for the first night they slept on the ground,” she said.

Ms Silaga said people had already started donating items, but there was more that could be done to help.

“They are already arriving feeling isolated and away from home,” she said.

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