STRANDED IN AUSTRALIA: 23 Vanuatu seasonal workers are unable to return home as restrictions remain on international travel.
STRANDED IN AUSTRALIA: 23 Vanuatu seasonal workers are unable to return home as restrictions remain on international travel.

Stranded mums don’t know when they’ll see children again

ALMOST three months after they were meant to fly home to their children, a group of mothers stranded on the Granite Belt are facing the grim prospect of not seeing their families this year.

Mothers and grandmothers working at the Stanthorpe Apple Shed were expected to return to their homes in Vanuatu back in May after a six-month stint in the region starting in November.

The outbreak of coronavirus and restrictions on international travel have grounded the 23 workers with mounting fears they won't be able to go home until 2021.

Team leader and mother-of-three Christelle Crowby said the reality of being away from the ones she loved most was devastating.

"It's hard, mainly because most of us are mothers and it's pretty hard to stay here without our family, but we also understand we have no control over the situation or the virus," Mrs Crowby said.

"Everyone is keen to go home but we have to always talk. All we can do is keep the hope, and pray that we can go home soon."

Christelle Crowby celebrating Vanuatu's independence day while unable to return home due to coronavirus restrictions.
Christelle Crowby celebrating Vanuatu's independence day while unable to return home due to coronavirus restrictions.

Mrs Crowby said her three children - aged 16, 8 and 4 - were her motivators for coming to work in Australia on the Seasonal Workers program.

She said the financial stability the program gave her ensured she could put a roof over her family's head.

"We would work (in Vanuatu) - but the money we would earn would only support us for food, other means of transport and school fees, but we couldn't do more," she said.

"In the long run, we also have to take into consideration our economy back home is dropping and us being here is helping our families back home."

While there is no certainty what the future will hold, administrators at the Apple Shed say they are doing everything they can to make sure their workers are comfortable.

Pastoral care manager Kathryn Watson said every day she spends with the 12 women and 11 men, she reminded to be selfless.

"They work so hard and they're working for their families, and know the importance of it," Ms Watson said.

"They've built houses, bought businesses and bought boats back home.

"Luckily they're comfortable and have each other."

While Mrs Crowby and the other workers continue to do seven-days of work, every effort is made to ensure everyone's spirits were high.

"We have to get together every week so we can socialise and we eat together, share laughter or so," she said.

 

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Businesses prepared to gamble on future, workers to win

Border cafes ready to implement new COVID measures

Changes to casual work rules hits businesses hard

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