By ANCILLA WRAKUALE
NINE men made history yesterday by becoming the first Papua New Guineans to leave for Australia to work as seasonal workers, The National reports.
The men will be involved in pruning almond trees in Robinvale, Victoria, for four months.
PNG seasonal workers task force committee chairman Alexis Maino said it took some time for the pilot project to start but he was happy to see the first contingent of seasonal workers off to Australia yesterday.
Maino told reporters yesterday more locals would leave to work in Australia if they were needed.
He said the pilot scheme was made possible after the signing of a memorandum of understanding last July in Alotau during the PNG Australia bilateral meeting between then foreign affairs minister Sam Abal and his Australian counterpart Stephen SmithMaino said they secured a K1 million funding from the Department of Finance and Treasury for the pilot scheme.
He said the workers would be paid between A$18 and A$19 (K46-K48.50) an hour.
Department of Labour secretary George Vaso said it was an exciting time as the country exported labour for the first time since independence.
He urged the men to be good ambassadors of PNG while in Australia.
"Be of good behaviour and character, work hard and come back as good ambassadors," Vaso said.
Acting Deputy Australian High Commissioner Adrian Lochrin thanked the task force team, saying it was quite a task given the enormous interest shown.
He encouraged the men to do well as their performance would determine similar interest in future.
Lochrin said PNG was known for its farming and living in communities and hoped that the men would fit in well with the Victorian community.
Workers team leader Nickson Peni said they were happy for the opportunity and promised to work hard and be good ambassadors of PNG.