Farming Workforce Shortage ‘No More’ For NT

Congolese Refugees Getting Their First Jobs

The farming industry’s concern on workforce shortage has been resolved in the Northern Territory’s mango orchards.

It presents a win-win situation as this opportunity has given some Congolese refugees their first job opportunity in the country.

Bachunge Furaha fled civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo five years ago and, since then, struggled to find a job in Australia, until now.

Yet, this season, a door opened for her as she worked in Nutrano Produce’s mango packing shed in Katherine, a Northern Territory town 300 kilometres south of Darwin.

With excitement, Ms Fuhara said “It is my first job in five years, and when I tried to apply, many people asked me to prove my experience, but I didn’t have any experience. Now, I have a job and I am very happy and grateful.”

She is not the only one. Ms Furaha and many others are part of a collaborative program to get refugees working on-farm. It was started this year by recruitment agency The Job Shop, the Darwin-based Melaleuca Refugee Centre, and the NT Farmers Association.

According to Carol Zunker, The Job Shop operation manager, there were 35 participants this year, most of whom were Congolese. “They’re happy people, they can come into the shed and be happy, and they can be in the field and they’re singing and just happy to be given a chance,” she said.

She emphasized that they are hardworking and determined to work, one thing she admires from them.

More so, Nutrano’s packing shed manager Kehran Collingwood said the company would happily employ refugee job seekers again. She saw the excitement as they come, observing how they are particular in getting things rights and intricate with their packing, asserting that she is happy with the outcome of the recruitment so far.

Ms Zunker attributed the seasonal work program’s initial success to perseverance and working closely with farmers and participants. “Because of the lack of backpackers and seasonal workers in the country, we really pushed everything to get some of our new Australians into farm work,” Ms Zunker said.

Some refugees, though, were discouraged by others. For instance, Congolese woman Deborah Hussein revealed that when she first heard about the job opportunity to work during the upcoming mango season, some of her friends were negative about it.

“Some friends told us, ‘You can’t do this, picking and packing mango is a very hard job and maybe only men can do it’. But we could do it. If men can do it, women can do it too. I am a strong mummy.” Ms Hussein said.

Now, she is more determined to return to the Melaleuca Refugee Centre to encourage others to take up seasonal harvesting work in the future.

Also, since arriving in Australia 18 months ago, working in the packing shed this season has also been Bunyemu Mangala’s first job. She said she would use part of her wage to help family still living in the DRC.

Ms Zunker assured that the partnership with Melaleuca Refugee Centre would continue next mango season, as more and more refugees enjoy this incredible provision.

Growing Number Of Saltwater Crocodiles In The Northern Territory

saltwater crocodile

A team of researchers from the Charles Darwin University (CDU) will lead a project of assessing the ecosystem, after a boom of predator population has taken place across Northern Australia in the past half-century.

The scientists are now set to look at the ecological impact on estuarine crocodile numbers.

Saltwater crocodiles were declared a protected species in 1971. Since then, the number is fairly well-known – the estimate has gone from 3,000 in the 1970s to over 100,000 crocodiles in the Northern Territory today.

That being said, ecologist Keller Kopf from the CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods said there has been little formal investigation in the effect of that key conservation decision.

“We are really trying to understand what the ecological role of crocodiles is in waterways up here,” Dr Kopf said. “Surprisingly, for such a large enigmatic animal where we have been doing research on the population numbers for years, we know very little about how they directly influence the environments they are in.” He added.

The ecological study involves estimating the number of food types of prey needed to support river-based, estuarine crocodile populations in the NT. This would be a joint effort by the CDU, Darwin’s Larrakia Rangers and government researchers.

The primary goal was to help inform future policy decisions on saltwater crocodile management and assess how much longer the environment could sustain their population growth. Similar studies have been made in the populations of the wolf in North America and sharks on coral reefs. Some of these researches cited that a larger predatory population is not bad at all.

It was said that unexpected benefits are garnered from having a large predator population. But it is yet to study if that is the case here.

Given the decades when hunting for skins, meat and skulls have been legalized; numerous species of animals have been eradicated. Hence, the crocodile populations in the Northern Territory were depleted.

Since the protection was declared, fatal and not-fatal crocodile attacks have fueled continuous debate about the management of the animals. This worried cattle station owners and Roger Matthews, a commercial crocodile catcher.

With the increase of crocodile numbers and his 30 years in the industry, he cited that they are found in places where he hasn’t seen them before. Adding to the threat is the upcoming wet season where they could have the opportunity to move around places generally.

Given that, the CDE study will take place over three years, and many are starting to worry that the community casualties may occur prior to the conclusion of the said study.