by Paul Osborne
A group of 40 Fijian aged care trainees are about to find out where in Queensland they will be posted for work.
They’ve been taking part in a course at the Australia Pacific Training Coalition in Suva, funded by the Australian Federal Government.
Shinal Prasad, a registered nurse, says she has been working with older people in hospitals and was motivated to take a further step.
Her trip to Australia will be the first time she has left Fiji.
“It has really opened doors,” she says of the course.
Prasad says she enjoys working with the elderly and “listening to their stories”.
Another student Karalaini Seru says she initially got involved in aged care having looked after her grandparents.
“I would like to share my skills with others — too many people are left alone,” she says.
The trainees will be employed and deployed by nursing service HealthX to regional Queensland locations — including Yeppoon, Mackay, Bundaberg, the Sunshine Coast, Gympie and Toowoomba — in about three weeks as part of the pilot scheme.
Campus executive director Janelle Chapman says the training involved theory and simulated practical components, ranging from using specialised lifting equipment to making beds.
The program is divided into two parts — 12 weeks of training in Suva and 10 weeks of work placement in Australia.
On completion, participants return to Fiji and are interviewed by employers prior to remobilisation to Australia under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.
The scheme, which has traditionally had an agricultural focus, has seen 25,000 workers from the Pacific come to Australia, including 2600 from Fiji.
It is hoped the aged care program can be expanded to other countries in the Pacific.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with the trainees just before he left Suva where he was attending the Pacific Islands Forum last week.
A cross-party Australian parliamentary delegation is in Suva to inspect the training project and others, including a women’s health program run by the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
The program provides reproductive family health services to some of the most remote parts of Fiji.
Nurse Sereana Tikoduadua told the delegation she had to cross a river 21 times travelling by foot and on horseback, taking four hours to reach the sixth and final village, to deliver medical supplies and education to villages in Naitasiri province.
Mothers seeking to attend a clinic had to walk three hours each way and if it rained they could get stuck in river beds.
“If I put myself in their shoes, I just thank them for their courage to seek help,” she said.
(The reporter is travelling to Fiji with the support of Save the Children Australia.)