Backpackers allowed to stay on Kangaroo Island to help with bushfire recovery

Kangaroo Island farmer Bill Roper and daughter Anne Shu Roper with French HelpX farm worker Mathilde Wiss at the recent Races at the Cygnet event.
Kangaroo Island farmer Bill Roper and daughter Anne Shu Roper with French HelpX farm worker Mathilde Wiss at the recent Races at the Cygnet event.

Foreign backpackers and others on working holiday visas will be able to help bushfire-affected Kangaroo Island get back on its feet following changes announced by the Federal Government.

KI Council mayor Michael Pengilly said the new rules for working holiday visas would be welcome news for local farmers and Island businesses.

"The change simply means farmers and local businesses can employ backpackers for six months longer, which will be a huge help for those locals recovering from the recent bushfires," Mayor Pengilly said.

Backpackers on Kangaroo Island are employed across the farming and tourism sectors, including the wine and seed potato industries.

One such backpacker is Mathilde Wiss from France who signed up to work on a KI farm before the bushfires through the HelpX online platform.

The 19-year-old, horse-loving international had experienced and helped the Roper family through the trauma of losing their Bark Hut Road property in the bushfires.

She's struck by all the help and generosity and would be going back to Paris, France with some amazing stories, but first the Roper family hopes she can stay as long as possible to help with rebuilding.

Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge said; "This means working holiday makers can help rebuild homes, fences and farms, they can get onto properties and help with demolition, land clearing, and repairing dams, roads and railways."

"This recovery will be driven locally, by local workers and communities. But this will be a massive recovery effort and we want businesses and charitable organisations to have as many boots on the ground as they need."

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham said these arrangements would provide a much needed boost to fire-affected communities around Australia.

"Every extra working holiday maker that we can get into these communities is one extra visitor to help protect local jobs and keep local businesses alive," Mr Birmingham said.

"We know tourism businesses in fire-affected communities are doing it tough, and the more tourism dollars that these working holiday makers can inject into these economies, the quicker these businesses can get back on their feet."

Summary of Working Holiday Maker (WHM) changes

The time a WHM can work with the same employer has been extended from six months to 12 months for those assisting with bushfire recovery efforts through a change in policy. This is consistent with arrangements put in place for recovery efforts following Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

The definition of "specified work" will be revised for the Work and Holiday Maker (subclass 462) visa, to ensure construction work in a disaster declared area is captured. This is consistent with existing arrangements for Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa holders.

Paid and volunteer disaster recovery work in declared areas impacted in the recent bushfires will count towards the "specified work" needed to apply for a second or third year 417 or 462 visa.