Job Seekers Lend a Helping Hand

Nov 21, 2013

A local Bundaberg lychee farmer is the latest landholder to receive much needed help through an innovative flood recovery project that is helping producers recover from the January floods and giving local job seekers a boost.

Karen Jones’ 20 hectare lychee farm in North Bundaberg was completely inundated following the January flooding. The devastation was complete. She was still struggling to recover from the 2010/2011 floods and again lost most of her farming equipment, her house was damaged and the netting and irrigation infrastructure needed to produce the quality lychees she was renowned for was also destroyed.

Eight months on and uninsured she was facing an uphill battle to return her farm to pre-flood prosperity. Weeds had grown up into her orchard and without irrigation and netting her hopes of producing a crop were slim.

All this has now changed. Two teams of 12 local unemployed job seekers from NEATO Employment Services have been meeting their work for the dole requirements whilst assisting to re-establish Karen’s Lychee orchard. The team have removed more than 7 tonnes of debris from the property, and have sprayed, slashed, removed rubbish and whipper snipped around the entire farm in an attempt to restore the farm to pre-flood condition. They have also restored the irrigation system to this orchard for the first time since the floods, bringing new hope and assuring a crop which will be the first in more than three years.

In return for their labours, the job seekers have gained valuable and relevant work experience, improved their future employment prospects and have received nationally accredited units of competencies and accreditation through the Australian Agricultural College Corporation in a variety of skills in Rural Operations.

The project is being coordinated by the Burnett Mary Regional Group and a host of other agencies including NEATO Employment Services, Australian Agricultural College Corporation, Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers, Industry Recovery Officers, the Department of Employment Education and Workplace Relations, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and the Queensland Reconstruction Authority. Support has also been received through local community organisations such as Bundaberg Lions, Lifeline, Creative Regions and Combined Churches.

Funding for the project was received from the Australian Government Department of Employment through the Local Employment Coordinator Flexible Funding Pool and the joint funded Queensland and Australian government’s Ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald On-farm and Riparian Recovery Program which is helping producers reinstate on-farm productivity and build resilience to future flood events.

BMRG Special Projects Officer, Brad Crosbie, who is coordinating the program said that what started out as a call to help local landholders with their cleanup has turned into a model of community engagement that is encouraging communities to work together.

“In the initial phase of the project we were working with Isis and Bundaberg Canegrowers to remove debris from cane paddocks that was impacting upon this year’s harvest. Once we had finished the cane project, we were contacted by Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers and asked whether we might be able to help Karen Jones.  Additional funding was provided for the teams to undergo additional training in chemical application, OH&S and irrigation repair and, armed with these skills, they were able to help get the lychee farm back on its feet.”

“Without the help we were able to give her, Karen would not have any income and her property would have kept going backwards. It is testimony to the efforts of the many people involved in the program and has proved a resounding success” said Mr Crosbie.

BMRG will be hosting an event to celebrate the completion of the cleanup project and will be presenting the job seekers with their newly earned qualifications on Thursday, November 19. For more information, please contact Brad Crosbie on 4181 2999.

Category: Media Release

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