Welcoming the first delivery of Niugini Organic Coconut Oil at Santos in Byron Bay are friends Sir Ebia Olewale, from Papua New Guniea, and Simon Hodge, Australian co-ordinator for Fair Trade Australia.
Welcoming the first delivery of Niugini Organic Coconut Oil at Santos in Byron Bay are friends Sir Ebia Olewale, from Papua New Guniea, and Simon Hodge, Australian co-ordinator for Fair Trade Australia. Jacklyn Wagner

Northern Rivers opens its doors to PNG workers

A TWENTY-YEAR frie- ndship and a new Federal Government scheme could lead to a burst of Pacific culture here.

Sir Ebia Olewale and Simon Hodge are working together to bring workers from Papua New Guinea to the Northern Rivers under the Fair Trade Farm Hands Pilot Program.

“It is a cultural and social exchange,” Mr Hodge, the program's co-ordinator, said. “It is to help workers from Papua New Guinea come here under the Workforce From Abroad Employment Scheme.”

A milestone was also reached yesterday with the first batch of virgin coconut oil from Papua New Guinea arriving at the Santos Trading Co in Byron Bay.

Sir Olewale, director of the PNG Sustainable Development Program, made the trip to visit his old friend and discuss the program.

“I believe this will bring ordinary Australians and ordinary Papua New Guineans together,” he said.

Sir Olewale also said visiting workers, accompanied by an elder, would bring full regalia with them to present their culture to the local community.

Mr Hodge said initial interest in the links was strong, especially with coffee growers.

It is planned to base a group of 20 PNG workers on the Northern Rivers, depending on the commitment of local farmers, allowing skills to be shared between the two cultures.

“It is a case of self empowerment for individuals to earn in three months what they usually earn in a year or two,” Mr Hodge said.

If you can help with accommodation, catering or transport, phone him on 0414 664 384.



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