The West

Dairy farmer finds willing hands
WA Rural Woman of the Year Jackie Jarvis, who found refugees Erick Ngezahayo and Goiton Hagos jobs at a Scott River dairy.

Two refugees from strife-torn Burundi and a South West dairy farmer are just some of the people to have benefited from the work of WA's Rural Woman of the Year.

Margaret River commercial grape grower Jackie Jarvis spent much of last year connecting refugees struggling to find jobs in Perth with farmers looking for willing workers.

Burundi refugees Erick Ngezahayo and Goiton Hagos found work on a dairy farm at Scott River, a world away from their African nation which emerged from 12 years of civil war in 2005 but remains plagued by violence.

Mrs Jarvis also found work for refugees in Carnarvon and the Wheatbelt under a pilot program funded by the WA Office of Multicultural Interests.

She is acutely aware of the farm labour shortage through her role as State manager of not-for profit group MADEC Australia, which finds backpackers and other travellers seasonal work in the horticulture industry.

"Agriculture has been running on backpacker labour for five to 10 years," Mrs Jarvis said.

"Farmers end up recruiting someone, training them and then they work for three months and then they leave. For one full-time job, farmers are training someone up to four times a year."

Mrs Jarvis said many refugees came from subsistence farming backgrounds but Commonwealth-funded employment agencies based in Perth had been slow to recognise their skills and the demand in rural areas.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston presented Mrs Jarvis with the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation's Rural Woman of the Year Award and a $10,000 bursary last night.

Funding for her pilot program ran out in January but Mrs Jarvis will use the bursary to create video postcards showing the refugees working on farms in the hope it inspires others to follow.

The West Australian

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