Pacific workers to support Northern Territory aged care

  • Joint media release with:
  • The Hon Greg Hunt, Minister for Health and Aged Care
  • The Hon Richard Colbeck, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Minister for Sport
  • Dr Sam McMahon, Senator for the Northern Territory
05 October 2021

Two hundred and fifteen Samoan workers finishing quarantine today in Darwin, includes 35 aged care and disability support workers who will help fill critical workforce gaps across regional and remote areas of the Northern Territory.

The Samoan workers are participating in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) schemes. Many of the aged care workers will engage in a new skills development pilot, enhancing their skills for care in Australia and when they return home.

Minister for the Pacific and International Development Zed Seselja said today marked a milestone for Pacific labour programs.

“This is the first group of Pacific aged care workers to arrive in Australia since international borders closed, and the first training pilot of this nature. It's also the first group of disability support workers to arrive in the history of our Pacific labour mobility programs.”

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said these workers will provide a much-needed boost to the aged care sector in the Northern Territory.

“This is a fantastic and meaningful opportunity for all involved and will ensure that our aged care residents living in regional and remote parts of the NT will be supported and cared for, while also filling workforce gaps in those facilities,” Minister Hunt said.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said the Samoan workers will offer valuable support.

“These skilled and reliable professionals will help ensure quality levels of care are maintained while offering peace-of-mind for families of loved ones in residential care across the Northern Territory,” Minister Colbeck said.

Senator for the Northern Territory Dr Sam McMahon welcomed the arrival of the Samoan cohort.

“This is fantastic news for the Territory and the aged care sector in the NT,” Dr McMahon said. “It will ensure residents of aged care facilities will get the care and treatment they deserve.

“While this will ease the pressure of staffing at aged care the Territory Government must start aggressively recruiting for other medical staff. The Commonwealth is doing its part but when it comes to fixing the NT health system the NT Government appears to be sitting on its hands with no genuine plan.”

Of the 35 aged care workers, 33 will work for Australian Regional and Remote Community Services (ARRCS) in Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek, while two will work for a separate service in Nhulunbuy. Workers will stay in Australia for up to three years.

While all workers have suitable qualifications to take up their roles, 26 workers will participate in a skills development pilot on-site, including on new COVID-safe practices and the effective delivery of personal care and support in a residential care environment.

A strong sense of community and respect for elders have made Pacific workers highly valued in Australian aged care facilities.

At the Bolton Clarke aged care facilities in Bowen and Longreach, personal care workers from Samoa and other Pacific island countries have developed strong relationships with the residents since starting work there in early 2020.

“I have a natural passion for the elderly,” said Visor Auvele from Samoa.

“Just to give them a smile or to serve them a meal, to give them a good shower, to read them a book or just to have us there for them to talk to is the greatest feeling ever. It's a blessing for us to be here.”

Of the 215 worker cohort, a further 11 workers will support the Northern Territory's tourism sector, and 169 seasonal workers will support the Territory's mango harvest.

The PALM scheme is the Australian Government's new, integrated approach to the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme.

Employers interested in recruiting workers under the PALM scheme should visit for further information.

Northern Territory employers can also contact Ronan Mackey, NT Chamber Commerce on 0487 777 433 or at for advice on joining the scheme.

Media enquiries

Cassandra Choake | 0427 839 164 |