News Item

Pacific Voice Special: Vanuatu RSE workers

Media 30 Jul 2021

Vanuatu RSE workers by RSE Representative based in Vanuatu

*The names in this article have been changed for privacy.

Vanuatu’s greatest resources are its people. They have learned to mitigate challenges over the years by learning, growing, communicating, negotiating, and navigating, especially when facing the unknown.

And facing the unknown is a journey that a handful of men in 2007 took when they embarked on a trip to Central Otago in New Zealand to participate in the Recognised Employers Scheme (RSE).

RSE worker George says, “The fact we had our families in our heart and God watching over us, made us believe we were headed to the land of milk and honey.

Tom, who is based in New Zealand as a team leader overlooking 40 men, says, “We have experienced the good and the not so good, but we always look to the positives which have outweighed the negatives.

Back home in Vanuatu, his wife plays an advocacy role in gathering the wives of RSE workers, for regular meetings, whether it be a mentorship session, an arts and crafts afternoon, or an eventful day at the beach with the kids.

These gatherings have become what is known as the SSWFP – Strengthening Seasonal Worker Family Programme, a self-funded entity that supports families, such as providing accessible educational programmes, and family relationship support.

Pre-Covid numbers of Ni-Vanuatu workers participating in the RSE scheme reached approximately 5,000 workers per annum, providing direct income into the remotest parts of Vanuatu. This number has been reduced to an estimated 2,000.

Tom says, “RSE employers have had to bear the rising cost of bringing in workers while also facing the threat of losing trained Ni Vanuatu workers to other Labour Mobility Schemes in Australia…and before we know it - possible man versus machine scenario where the human touch will only be a distant memory.

People have learned to readjust their priorities and long-term goals, but we do hope that there will be clear communication and collaboration soon between our governments so we can plan ahead."

Photo: Otago Daily Times: Vanuatu workers shortly after arrival to Central Otago in 2007 to what they found was a chilly summer. Read the Pacific Connection Issue 11, March - May 2007 edition featuring the first Vanuatu workers who came to New Zealand under the RSE scheme.