A Melbourne aged care operator has a ‘special agreement’ with the Federal Government for ‘boutique visas’ that has enabled it to recruit 22 aged care workers from Greece, after it wasn’t able to find enough Greek-speaking carers from within Australia.
Under the agreement, Fronditha Care is allowed to nominate Greek speaking people for visas to work as carers. To date, it has been granted 60 of the special visas by the government.
‘Special agreements’ with businesses or industries are offered at the government’s discretion, and only apply to jobs that have been advertised nationally but not filled.
The role must also not be on the government’s Skills Shortage List – a list of 600 occupations that are eligible for skilled visas.
The Fronditha agreement was the first of its kind in Australia and was “instrumental” in helping the company hire more Greek speaking carers, according to the company’s website.
Fronditha has dozens of residents who are originally from Greece, and the company struggled to find staff who could speak to them in their native language. Though the provider is still advertising for Greek speaking personal care assistants on its website, the ‘boutique’ visas mean it has been able to hire staff who can speak to residents in their native tongue.
Regions with skill shortages could be next for ‘special agreement’
The Federal Government could now be set to grant ‘boutique’ visas through ‘special agreements’ with businesses and industries in targeted regions across Australia where it is difficult to find appropriately skilled staff.
The government has 322 special labour agreements in place across Australia, and Minister for Citizenship Alan Tudge told SBS he’d like to see the policy extended.
“These boutique arrangements which we can enter into allow us to have very personalised arrangements for particular companies but the essence is still the same: A, we’re prioritising Australians first and the company has to demonstrate that there’s no Australian available. B, they still need to satisfy the criteria which will be set out in the agreement,” Mr Tudge told SBS.
Regions where there are shortages of staff with specific skills include north Queensland, where there is a shortage of Chinese-speaking scuba diving instructors, and the Western Australian goldfields, where it is difficult to recruit drill operators.
Why is it important to have bilingual aged care staff?
- People living with dementia sometimes revert to their native language.
- People living with dementia can lose the ability to speak a second language.
- Elderly people may revert to their native language as they grow older, especially in stressful situations.
- Bilingual staff may have a better understanding of residents’ cultural and spiritual preferences.