Australia's new working holiday maker visa a success

28 November 2005

Rural Australian fruit growers desperate for workers have been helped out by the large number of backpackers who took advantage of changes to the working holiday maker visa scheme.

Three weeks after the Government allowed visitors to extend their visa to stay on and pick fruit in the bush, the Immigration Department revealed yesterday that 500 working holidaymakers had already taken up the option. The changes to the scheme came after pleas from Coalition MPs in regional areas.

The new rules allow people who do harvest work for at least three months in regional Australia to apply for another 12 months on their visa.

"The horticultural industry has been boosted in numbers at a time that, in recent years, had proven difficult to find people to pick fruit and other crops during seasonal peaks," Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said.

The National Farmers Federation welcomed the expansion of the working holidaymaker visa scheme.

The Government came under pressure to address labour shortages in rural and regional Australia after farmers complained that fruit was left to rot on trees.

Immigration raids have this year netted more than 100 illegal workers in fruit-growing areas.