Leaving your wife and five children to work in Australia is not easy, but for Leonard Ale it’s worth the sacrifice to help realise his dream.
Leonard is one of the many thousands of people who come to work in Australia from the Pacific Islands, through the Federal Government’s Pacific Australia Labour Mobility program. He has just arrived in Australia for his second placement with Costa Berries in Corindi.
Leonard’s goal is to make sure children in his Solomons Islands community have access to education and one day have the chance to become the country’s future doctors, teachers and members of parliament.
Leonard has been instrumental in building the Mount Beata Community Primary School, situated outside of the Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara.
With money earned during his first stint in Australia he was able to donate $2000 (the equivalent of more than $10,000 Solomon Island dollars) to the ongoing development of the school.
It is supported by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which provides teachers. The school, which has classes for prep through to Year 6, now has 154 students. Mojo Surf, which provides accommodation for seasonal workers in Arrawarra, also made a donation to the school last year.
“There are not many primary schools in the Solomon Islands and people can’t afford to pay. The main reason I came here to Australia was to help the school. It’s not just for my wife and children, it’s for the nation as well,” he said.
“My dream is to one day build another classroom and staff facilities,” Leonard said.
Leonard first came to Australia in October 2021, working at the Corindi Berry farm in maintenance and the packing shed.
While he’s in Australia, Leonard’s wife looks after the family piggery and cares for the children. Despite having to leave his family, Leonard said he was grateful for the opportunity to work in Australia.
“I really appreciate the Australian Government and the Australia people because in my country there is no opportunity for jobs.”
Leonard said while there were a lot of university qualified people in the Solomon Islands, many could not find employment.
Through the PALM scheme, approved employers can recruit workers for seasonal jobs for up to nine months or for longer-term roles for between one and 4 years in unskilled, low-skilled and semi-skilled positions.
The PALM scheme is designed to help fill labour shortages in rural and regional Australia. It allows Pacific and Timor-Leste workers to take up jobs in Australia, develop their skills and send income home. Under the Scheme there are a range of requirements and regulations relating to accommodation and transport.
“I am here to work and Australia is such a beautiful and peaceful country. The people here are very friendly and welcoming.”