02 April 2020

Fully qualified nurses in Australia on working holiday maker (WHM) visas are being forced to pick fruit to meet their visa requirements rather than being able to continue their life-saving work during the coronavirus crisis.

Nurses in Australia on WHM visas are currently staffing pop-up testing clinic and Acute Medical Respiratory Units across Australia putting their own lives at risk to help our combined efforts during this crisis.

They are also stepping up when Australian nurses have contact with Covid-19 and have to self-isolate for 14 days. Some Sydney hospitals now have 20 per cent of their staff in isolation.

The Prime Minister has already announced 20,000 international nursing students will be able to support the health efforts, which is a good initiative. However, there are roughly 1100 backpackers in Australia with a nursing qualification which Labor believes should be able to help out during this health crisis.

These nurses are being forced to jump through hoops to meet visa requirements they can only work for one employer for 6 months and must complete 3 months of specified work such as picking fruit to qualify for the second year of their visa.

Australia is faced with an unprecedented health crisis and we need and will continue to need more nurses on the frontline as we fight this deadly virus.

These people are qualified nurses and should be working to fight coronavirus; not being forced to pick fruit.

Changing these visa requirements are a simple fix. Following calls from Labor, the Government made similar changes to WHM visas after the bushfire crisis to allow backpackers to work on recovery and construction projects.

Labor wants to work with the Government to do everything we can to protect Australian lives. This is one example of where Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton can quickly act, and they would have Labors full support if they did so.