Solving workforce issues

WORKFORCE: Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt said the AWF is an important avenue for agricultural and processing perspectives to continue to be heard. Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

A new, ongoing group has been established to continue tackling agricultural workforce challenges.

The new Agricultural Workforce Forum (AWF) met for the first time recently in Canberra.

The AWF succeeds the Agricultural Workforce Working Group (AWWG), which was established at last year’s Jobs and Skills Summit with a time-limited term, who finalised their work in September this year.

Over its initial 12-month tenure, the working group:

* Advocated for and secured fee-free TAFE courses in agriculture and processing – with over 9500 enrolments in agriculture related courses in the first half of 2023.

* Secured agreement to a Food Supply Chain Capacity Study to be undertaken by Jobs and Skills Australia in 2023-24 – this study will make a critical contribution to informing Australia’s training, higher education and migration systems to best meet industry needs.

* Advocated for and secured the investigation of an Agriculture Trade Apprenticeship Project – to be undertaken by the agribusiness Jobs and Skills Council – Skills Insight.

* Achieved agreement between employer groups and unions on principles that should underpin labour hire licensing.

* Contributed to key government processes including the Employment White Paper and Migration Review.

The forum continues the momentum and important work of the AWWG, bringing together representatives from unions, employer groups and the Federal Government to find solutions that address our workforce issues, such as upskilling, attracting, retaining and protecting agricultural and processing workers.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt said the AWF is an important avenue for agricultural and processing perspectives to continue to be heard.

“The Albanese Government is doing everything possible to deliver the ag industry the workers it needs,“ Minister Watt said.

“Last week’s inaugural meeting of the AWF was a great opportunity to come together to discuss key priorities across the sector.

“Going forward the forum will work collaboratively to identify opportunities to support careers in our great agriculture industry.

“The ag sector is a major source of jobs in rural and regional Australia, and the Albanese Government has already made great strides in bringing more workers to the industry.

“We have further expanded and improved the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme with more than 38,100 PALM workers currently in Australia, with over 23,000 working in agriculture.

“We have also improved pathways to permanency for Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) (subclass 482) visa holders and extended the current surge in visa processing resources to ensure timely visa processing.

“I look forward to seeing what new ideas the AWF uncovers to continue this good work.”

Membership of the forum includes:

Senator the Hon Murray Watt, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (chair)

National Farmers’ Federation

The Australian Council of Trade Unions

The Australian Worker’s Union

The United Worker’s Union

The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union

The Australian Meat Industry Council

The NFF Horticulture Council

Australian Dairy Farmers

The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance

Independent public policy expert John Azarias.

The forum will meet quarterly with the next meeting scheduled for early 2024.

For more information on the forum and its predecessor, visit the DAFF website at