The quartet – Beta, Aggie, Kaeko and Tunane – have arrived in WA from Kiribati, a group of small coral islands in the Pacific. 

Hired through the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme, the Pacific Islanders are currently completing their Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing). Once they’ve received their certificates, they will become fully-fledged members of the Capecare team.

Acting chief executive officer Philippa Ayre told Australian Ageing Agenda Capecare is fortunate to have them. “Having the Pacific Island carers provides us with a sustainable and consistent workforce,” she said. “It has provided a direct response to the workforce shortages in aged care and in our geographical location in WA’s southwest.

As for the benefits for the PALM workers, Ms Ayre said there are many. “They are provided with ongoing training and development in their chosen career and can take these skills home, which will benefit their communities. Wages are the same as our Australian staff in the same role, and they are able to financially support their families back home.”

Capecare Acting CEO Philippa Ayre said the program had been extremely successful and made a significant difference to Capecare’s ability to source a sustainable workforce.

With Kiribati almost 8,000 kilometres away, and the Pacific Islanders placed at Capecare for four years, Ms Ayre told AAA the provider does all it can to ensure they feel at home.

“Our existing staff have embraced the women and they have individually made friendships, providing further connection into the community,” she said. “We treat them like our own staff. They are invited to all our staff activities and involved in all our programs. We put on a barbecue welcome lunch on their arrival and buddied the new group with the existing Pacific Island team to help them settle into a new culture.”

Capecare – an independent not-for-profit provider in the Capes Region of WA – partnered with approved PALM employer HealthX for the recruitment process. 

Capecare is Western Australia’s largest regional-based independent aged care provider, serving the needs of older individuals in the Capes Region for over 60 years.

Director of people and welfare Naomi Dunne said Pacific Islanders make perfect applicants. “As a people, Pacific Islanders exude warmth and compassion, making them the ideal candidates for roles in aged care.”

Ms Dunne said HealthX takes care to make PALM workers feel welcome and helps them to acclimatise to life down under. “We spend significant time preparing our employees for the change of culture and life in Australia.”

This is Capecare’s second intake of care workers through the PALM scheme, last year the provider recruited a team from Fiji.

"Since their arrival in April, the Fijians’ skills have grown considerably" said Ms Ayre. “It has been extremely pleasing to see the increasing confidence of this original group who at first were so shy and reserved as their skills have grown along with the care they provide.”

Several members of the Fijian team have recently returned to Australia after taking planned leave to spend time with their families. “Most have kids or grandchildren so it’s not easy for them to go home and then have to leave again.”

Nevertheless, Ms Ayre told AAA that all of the original Fijian team members have accepted an extension of their original contract from three years to four years. 

The residents will be pleased the Fijians will be extending their stay. “Our residents love them. They enjoy hearing about stories from home and take interest in the work the women are doing with us,” said Ms Ayre. “They have quickly become part of the team.”

Main image L to R: Beta, Aggie, Kaeko and Tuane with Philippa Ayre