Addressing dairy labour shortage

Australian Dairy Farmers works to address labour shortages

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Dairy
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The skilled worker shortage is the main concern for dairy farms and Australian Dairy Farmers is working to tackle this on multiple fronts.

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SHORTAGE: The skilled worker shortage is the main concern for dairy farms. While development of the domestic workforce is a focus for industry, immigration will remain an important pathway for some.

SHORTAGE: The skilled worker shortage is the main concern for dairy farms. While development of the domestic workforce is a focus for industry, immigration will remain an important pathway for some.

Almost one in five dairy farms employs staff from overseas.

Last week's changes to the Dairy Industry Labour Agreement (DILA) by the Commonwealth Government enable dairy farmers to now employ skilled overseas workers on a visa in two roles:

  • Dairy Cattle Farm Operator (new)
  • Senior Dairy Cattle Farm Worker.

The changes also cover:

  • Work experience - reduced levels of work experience are now required to satisfy the relevant visa criterion.
  • English language - the requirement has been reduced to International English Language Testing System (IELTS) grade 5 with no minimum score for certain visas.
  • Age Limits - the age limit for visa holders increases from 45 to 55 years.
  • Labour market testing - only two attempts required over a 12-month period.
  • Salary concessions.

The changes mean dairy businesses can now sponsor migrant staff across a broader range of roles and skills. The changes take effect immediately and apply nationally and follow advocacy by Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) for government action to address the workforce shortage in the sector.

The changes to DILA have been made by the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, in response to submissions from ADF and Dairy Australia. They help to ensure that rural migration policy better reflects the workforce needs of the Australian dairy industry.

The skilled worker shortage is the main concern for dairy farms. While development of the domestic workforce is a focus for industry, immigration will remain an important pathway for some.

ADF's work with the government to address the labour challenge also includes:

On this last point the Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia, David Littleproud, has updated the classifications for agriculture in ANZSCO after a concerted and sustained effort from ADF and Dairy Australia.

ANZSCO is the skill-based classification used to categorise occupations in key government data. This data informs and supports government policy and programs from vocational education and training to skilled migration.

The update recognises the skilled occupations on a modern dairy farm. By taking into account the hierarchy of skill levels in dairy farm occupations, the update to ANZSCO will enable policymakers and program managers to better recognise the wide range of dairy occupations and assist in training and recruitment.

Changing of guard

Last week, we welcomed a new president and three new directors, following the 2021 annual general meeting. South Australian dairy farmer Rick Gladigau is the new president. Mr Gladigau, together with Queensland Dairy Organisation president Brian Tessmann, remain as sitting business directors of the ADF board.

They are joined by two new business directors, NSW Farmers dairy committee member and Norco director Heath Cook and Corangamite United Dairyfarmers of Victoria branch president Ben Bennett, and a new independent director Andreas Clark, the former CEO of Wine Australia, who were elected by members.

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Mr Cook and Mr Bennett fill the positions of outgoing president Terry Richardson, who retired after a five-year term, and NSW Farmers dairy committee chair Colin Thompson, who was not returned to the board. Mr Clark replaces outgoing independent director Victoria Taylor, who had completed her term on the board.

The board of ADF now comprises: Rick Gladigau, SA; Brian Tessmann, Qld; Ben Bennett, Vic; Heath Cook, NSW; and Andreas Clark, a former commercial lawyer with experience in foreign affairs and trade.

Our new president is no stranger to advocacy. Mr Gladigau was first elected to the ADF board in 2019, after being on the SA Dairyfarmers' Association board since 2007. He has held dairy roles on several boards and committees.

We are grateful to retiring president Terry Richardson for his esteemed leadership and to Victoria Taylor and Colin Thompson for their outstanding service for dairy farmers and ADF.

Surplus calves' policy

Establishing a policy on surplus dairy calves is a priority in the ADF Strategic Plan. So, ADF is seeking expressions of interest from suitable people to join a skills-based group tasked with recommending a policy to the ADF board for managing surplus calves in the Australian dairy industry.

The Surplus Calves Taskforce, comprising individuals from across the dairy beef supply chain, will explore the issue and consult with industry.

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This work follows the ADF Dairy Beef Forum in July 2021. This forum, which attracted more than 500 registrations, explored current information, research and business opportunities.

The ADF board will appoint the members of the taskforce, including the chair and deputy chair.

It is expected the taskforce will meet several times between December 2021 and May 2022. The taskforce will be supported by an ADF secretariat and Dairy Australia staff.

To learn more or apply, see "Surplus Calves Taskforce" on the ADF website.

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