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LIV Migration Law and Refugee Law Reform Committees call for a flexible approach to the Working Holiday Maker Program

LIV Migration Law and Refugee Law Reform Committees call for a flexible approach to the Working Holiday Maker Program

By Legal Policy

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The LIV Migration Law Committee and Refugee Law Reform Committees provides members a platform to advocate and contribute to law reform on issues pertaining to visa holders and applicants.

As sub-committees under the Administrative Law and Human Rights Section, the Migration Law Committee and Refugee Law Reform Committee have a strong emphasis on access to justice for temporary and permanent residents in Australia. This year, the Committees have focused on ensuring that government has implemented appropriate measures in addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on visa holders and applicants. Our members have strongly advocated to maximise the potential for Australia’s migration programs to continue to run in an orderly way and that the health and safety of temporary residents are considered.

A recent example of the Committees’ work is their advocacy in ensuring that the Working Holiday Maker Program is flexible in extending visas and renewals given the decrease in working holiday makers in Australia. The Committees made a submission to the Inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker Program which seeks to address impact of COVID-19 on the program.

In addition to the submission, the members of the Migration Law Committee and Refugee Law Reform Committee gave evidence at the public hearing on 29 September 2020 in which they also advocated for working holiday makers to have access safe, healthy and favourable conditions at work which include fair wages, equal renumeration and a workplace free from discrimination. The LIV’s Opening Statement at Inquiry into Working Holiday Maker Program is below.

If you wish to be involved in either the Migration Law Committee or the Refugee Law Reform Committee, please contact ALHR@liv.asn.au to apply to join. For more information, please visit the LIV website

LIV’s Opening Statement at Inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker Program

I am Samantha Fitzsimons and I appear in my capacity as the Co-Chair of the Law Institute of Victoria’s Migration Law Committee. I am joined by Carina Ford and Jackson Taylor, fellow lawyers who are members of this Committee. Carina also chairs the LIV’s Refugee Law Committee and Jackson is a regional lawyer in Shepperton. 

We thank the Committee for the opportunity today to contribute to this inquiry and to discuss the Working Holiday Maker Program.

The Law Institute of Victoria is Victoria’s peak body for Lawyers and represents approximately 19,000 people working and studying in the legal sector. The Migration Law Committee and Refugee Law Reform Committee are longstanding Committees which represent a cross section of immigration lawyers. We have a keen interest in ensuring that the Working Holiday Maker Program not only attracts people to regional Australia and boosts the local economies but also that these individuals are employed in a safe environment.

COVID-19 has forced many working holiday makers to leave Australia or they have been unable to enter the country. This has contributed to a substantial labour shortage in the agriculture and horticulture sector. We are aware that approximately 1000 Working Holiday Makers are leaving Australia each week which guarantees a resulting shortage of fresh produce. Our members believe that in order to ensure that the needs of regional Australia are satisfied, the federal government should take a flexible approach by extending the visa of people who hold Working Holiday Maker visas to two years with a further renewal of 2 years. In addition, it is important that the federal government supports offshore working holiday makers who already hold a visa, by granting them a 12-month extension so they can enter the country when it is safe to do so. We submit that the advantage of extending the validity of onshore visas would expand the economy in regional Australia and reduce crop wastage in the short to medium term.

We also recommend the creation of a pathway for onshore WHM applicants to enable onshore students and other temporary visa holders to transition to a longer-term visa with the potential to contribute the economy.  Further, we recommend the extension of existing arrangements for critical work indefinitely and list critical work as ‘specified work’ for the purposes of the program to promote participation.  We recommend a review of the subclass 491 and subclass 494 visa programs to create pathways to permanent residency for long term regional residents on WHM visas.

Another key issue for our members is the prevalence of exploitation within the Working Holiday Maker Program. It is important that the Inquiry balances the needs of regional Australia and also ensures that proper scrutiny and regulations are implemented to guarantee working holiday makers access to safe, healthy and favourable conditions at work which include fair wages, equal renumeration and a workplace free from discrimination in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A meaningful way of addressing this is by educating employers in Fair Work law and implementing monitoring mechanisms within regulatory bodies to ensure that employers are not engaging in unlawful activity. This will further ensure that Working Holiday Maker program is attractive for people overseas into the future.

We welcome any questions on these issues and again we thank the Committee for inviting the Law Institute of Victoria to bring these matters to your attention.


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