From paradise to paradise: i-Kiribati workers shine on Hamilton


By Nick Volk, Team Leader of the DFAT-funded pastoral care support program, managed by Palladium for the Pacific Microstates – Northern Australia Worker Pilot Program.

One of the best parts of my job is meeting the workers from Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru, involved in the Program. I particularly enjoy seeing them grow into their new jobs and life in Australia. They make an astonishing journey coming to Australia, leaving behind their families, children and community. They do this for the opportunity to gain skills and experience, and ensure that their families have money for education, health and household needs.

I have met individuals who have never left their remote atolls, have had limited educational opportunities and, in most cases, face very few prospects for work in their home country. Their journey is as courageous as it is rewarding. They are also helping Australian farmers and business owners in regional, often remote, Australia to supplement their longer-term labour needs with a reliable, returning Pacific workforce in industries where domestic labour supply is not sufficient to meet the growing demand. 

Staff from Hamilton Island Enterprises

Watching the workers’ growing confidence from the first pre-departure briefing, to winning workplace awards, has been amazing. The financial contributions they make to family and community back home counts for a lot. I have seen them learn to set financial goals, manage budgets and make good financial decisions, and I find that the journey they take is a little like watching your own children grow into young adults.

Tabita Atanimoa proudly displays her award against the backdrop of the Kiribati flag.

My team and I were very proud to hear the news that Tabita Atanimoa and Tukaong Bonrawa were recently recognised for outstanding performance. Hamilton Island Enterprises awarded the two i-Kiribati workers a Silver Eminence Award. This award is given to employees who exemplify the values of leadership, excellence, teamwork, and customer service. To put this in context, Hamilton Island Enterprises employs 1200 staff (26 of which are from Kiribati) and during the last quarter gave out only a limited number of awards. This puts these two in the top one per cent of all employees, a remarkable achievement, given they have only been employed on Hamilton Island for nine months.

As part of their award, Tabita, a housekeeper and Tukaong, a public area attendant, get to choose from a range of prizes. While the prizes are important, the recognition they have received from their employer and fellow workers, far outweighs those. The feedback I have received from their supervisors shows that these workers are an asset to the employer by demonstrating working effectively in a team, showing leadership, managing time well and providing excellent service to guests. The workers were given the opportunity to develop their skills even further and are now enrolled in a Certificate III in Hospitality, provided by Hamilton Island’s Registered Training Organisation. An Australian qualification, along with this remarkable work experience, is a great asset for their future.

Tukaong Bonrawa with his award for outstanding performance.

I would like to personally congratulate Tabita and Tukaong, as well as the other workers on Hamilton Island who have also received awards. Your work represents an outstanding achievement, which reflects on your journey and potential for the future.

On 8 September, Prime Minister Turnbull announced a raft of new measures to support rural and regional Australian businesses wishing to employ semi-skilled workers from the Pacific. Further information on the existing Pacific Labour Mobility programs or the new Pacific Labour Scheme are available here [PDF] or please direct any queries to

Nick Volk is the Team Leader of the DFAT-funded pastoral care support program, managed by Palladium for the Pacific Microstates – Northern Australia Worker Pilot Program. This program is the precursor to the new Pacific Labour Scheme, commencing in 2018. Nick’s team provides support to workers and Australian employers accessing the Program.  They work with participants in the Program to prepare them for the job, manage workers’ expectations about life in Australia, and help workers build social connections in Australia.

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