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Hills growers win visa concession

THE Hills Orchard Improvement Group (HOIG) has gained an employment concession moving into the 2016-17 season, which will remove existing red tape which Perth Hill’s producers viewed as discriminatory and limiting the potential to harvest their crops.

HOIG spokesman Brett DelSimone said prior to the 2016 federal election the Perth Hills growing region was classified as a metropolitan area which placed severe limitations on the ability to source 417 visa workers.

“This is a big win for HOIG,” he said.

“We were constantly having to inform backpackers that our region was unable to meet the full conditions required under their working restrictions, as such, in the main, critically required workers would avoid the Hills.

“Groups with the Hills and surrounding producing regions have been advocating for this change for the best part of a decade.”

Mr DelSimone said the changes came after growers met with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to outline their concerns.

“We explained to Mr Dutton that the Perth Hills region was classified as metropolitan whereas the entire states of South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were classified as regional,” he said.

“In essence a 417 visa worker pulling beers on Rundle St, in central Adelaide, was classed as regional yet a fruit picker in our Hills region was not.”

The regulatory changes are expected to be introduced by the end of August.

About Sarah Brookes

Sarah is an award-winning journalist (2016 WA Media Awards - Best Three Suburban Newspaper Stories) who has covered our Mundaring and Kalamunda editions since 2011. She went to Eastern Hills Senior High School before studying chemistry and biology at university. Staring down a microscope two years into her degree she realised a future in science wasn’t for her – journalism was. Sarah lived in Europe before re-settling in Darlington, where her family has lived for three generations, with her two children. She has worked for various government agencies and Media Monitors. Sarah is a media junkie who loves talkback radio and devours the weekend papers.

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