Pathway To Permanent Residency For Pacific Islanders

With the creation of the Pacific Engagement Visa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong, has announced that the Australian Government will “provide a pathway to permanency for 3,000 members of our Pacific family per year.” This step towards strengthening Australia’s relationship with Pacific Islanders comes at the same time as Australia looks to provide New Zealand with new citizen options. Penny Wong pledged a commitment to Pacific Islanders, stating, “We will work with you to make our Pacific Family even stronger … We will ensure that those Pacific Islanders who come to work in Australia are treated fairly – with better conditions.” 

The idea of the Pacific Engagement Visa is to adopt a lottery system similar to the one used in New Zealand. Professor Stephen Howes, the director of the Development Policy Centre at the ANU, said, “People will enter the lottery, with their family, if they have a family, and if they are lucky enough to be selected, then they’ll need to find a job … to come to Australia … But once they are here, there is nothing to stop them changing that job.”

While in Suva, Fiji, Australia’s Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, responded to comments that previous governments had a transactional relationship with Pacific communities,

“We want to listen to the priorities of the Pacific from the Pacific. That’s what we want to hear from these nations. We want to provide assistance based upon their needs going forward. And that assistance shouldn’t be matter of transactional arrangements.”


Why is the Pacific Engagement Visa needed and why it will work

Temporary visas like the Seasonal Worker Program and the Pacific Labour Scheme currently in place in Australia have obvious restrictions. Penny Wong said, “One of the issues consistent(ly) raised was on the longer term visa, people found it hard to be without their family, understandable after four years.”

Uncertainties and hardships brought upon Pacific Islanders through temporary visas affect not only the employees, but also their employers. With the number of worker shortages growing each year, it’s in Australia’s best interests to forge these much-needed pathways to citizenship. Furthermore, with less than 1% of the Australian population claiming Pacific ancestry, it is clear there is still lots of work to be done.

Anthony Albanese said of the Pacific Engagement Visa, “With our New Zealand brothers and sisters, it was well-received because the idea that people should just be temporary migrants for a long period of time is something in my view not in the interests of individuals but also not of our nation. I want people in Australia to have that sense of ownership. I want them to be citizens, to be able to participate in all forms of Australian life.” 

A specific pathway will build relations with the people of the Pacific Islands, showing them that Australia values not only what they will contribute to the workforce but also what they and their families will offer Australian society as a whole. Anthony Albanese stated, “We should, where possible, ensure the paths to permanent migration are available where appropriate.”



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