Monica Wale, Alice Houtoro Tara, Melvina Saueha and Helen Tabe Poloso arrived in Brisbane on 7 March. They were on Solomon Islands Airlines’ last scheduled flight before it folded its wings to help stop COVID-19 at the country’s border. It was around the same time Australia’s federal and state governments closed their borders to control a worrying spread of COVID-19.
Along with their Australian-standard APTC Certificate III in Individual Support and Aged Care in community services, this first group of 4 Solomon Islands women caregivers were able, willing and ready to bring their cultural values to bear big time on Mercy Services in Singleton, 207 kilometres from Sydney, New South Wales (NSW).
Mercy Services provides community and in-home support to older people, people with disabilities, people affected by drug and alcohol abuse, the socially disadvantaged and families across various parts of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Lower Hunter region of NSW.
“You know in our country we don’t have old people’s homes. Our home is their home too. We look after our old people. We do the same here, just like we did and will do at home for our grannies. It’s in the blood.” the smartly-dressed caregivers told the Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Australia, Mr. Robert Sisilo, when he visited them last month.
The 4 caregivers hit the ground running from the day they arrived. And have embraced the opportunity to work in Australia doing themselves and their families proud. Their continued employment throughout the pandemic and lockdowns has meant they can also continue to send money back to help their families in these uncertain times.
They are all on 3-year contracts and are Solomon Islands’ first intakes of health workers under the Pacific Labour Scheme. They miss their families at home - a sacrifice all are prepared to make - and an issue Mr. Sisilo will discuss with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. For 3 years is a long time to separate families and there has to be a reunion of some sort at some time, either in Australia or Solomon Islands.