Womens fashion

Pacific seasonal workers will feel the warmth of Know Your Roots donation campaign clothing

A community organization in Mooroopna is looking for warm clothing and furniture for Pacific seasonal workers as the cool weather approaches.

Know Your Roots Incorporated was launched in 2018 to advocate for the Pacific Island community and now acts as a voice for all cultural communities in the Victoria region.

Founder Mellissa Silaga said seasonal workers weren’t always prepared for cooler weather.

“They land in Australia when the season is hot and [wearing] what they are used to, which is a lavalava – or what we call a sarong – and t-shirts, singlets and flip flops,” she said.

The organization has launched a donation campaign asking for men’s and women’s warm jackets and pants, socks and furniture.

Ms Silaga said around 500 South Pacific workers were working across the region, including Shepparton, Tatura, Ardmona and Mansfield.

She said most workers arrived in Australia with hand luggage and the items available in their accommodation tended to vary.

“Most arborists have their own little houses built on site,” she said.

“[At] other places they’re in rental properties and it’s an ongoing cost to them.”

Mellissa Silaga (center), Betul Tuna (left) and Ofeira Satele are part of Know Your Roots Incorporated.(Provided: Mellissa Silaga)

More to do

Last month, a Senate inquiry heard that one of Australia’s largest labor hire companies had taken hundreds of dollars from Pacific workers’ weekly paychecks.

Ms Silaga said workers’ wages were often limited in the first few months to cover costs incurred by the contractor in bringing them to Australia.

“I am currently working with a group of women who arrived two weeks ago and found themselves in boxes of beds that had not been assembled and a mattress, so the first night they slept on the floor,” she said.

Ms Silaga said people had already started donating items, but there was more to be done to help.

“They are already arriving feeling isolated and far from home,” she said.