Supporting seasonal staff: how our HIML educators assist some of Australia's most crucial workers

HIML team seasonal workers session

Everyone deserves safe and reliable healthcare. But, for seasonal workers in Australia, navigating the healthcare system can be difficult, and the barriers to accessing health services can be high.

Over the last few months, our Health in My Language (HIML) team have worked directly with key Queensland employers to deliver on-site health sessions and resources across the region and increase general healthcare and sexual health knowledge in communities.

Seasonal workers support some of Australia's most crucial industries – our Health in My Language program supports them back

Many of Australia's key economic sectors, like agriculture and tourism, rely on seasonal workers to address labor shortages and keep up with demand during peak seasons. Many of these workers come to Australia from Pacific Island countries and live onsite in regional and rural areas during their working stay. 

These workers provide Australian industries with reliable and skilled work, and in turn, workers often send some of their earnings back to their home countries, which contributes to local economies. It's a relationship that, when supported through community services, is beneficial to both partners. 

HIML is a national health education program originally born out of the need to ensure that migrant and refugee communities could receive accurate, evidence-based information about the COVID-19 vaccine in their own language from trusted professional health educators.

Since its
inception, HIML has grown to include building healthcare literacy across all areas of healthcare, from general information to sexual and reproductive health. In Queensland, the HIML education program is delivered by True's team of expert health educators.

Our bilingual educators are bridging the gap between community and services

Seasonal workers are entitled to the same employment rights and protections as Australian workers, including healthcare. However, because seasonal workers often speak English as a second language, and live and work on-site in regional and remote areas, accessing culturally appropriate healthcare can be challenging. 

Further, understanding the Australian healthcare system can be difficult and isolating. HIML works directly with employers across Queensland to increase healthcare literacy within communities and break down barriers to accessing healthcare in Australia.

Our seasonal worker sessions are delivered on-site, and the majority are delivered in language. Delivering sessions in language is critical to building health literacy and confidence, as well as giving people the space to ask questions they may not feel comfortable asking if the sessions were delivered in English. 

This means that people can access knowledge in the place and language that is easiest for them. Currently, our team can cover four out of the 11 languages spoken by workers who come to Australia through the Pacific Australian Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme. Our sessions cover everything from general healthcare to reproductive and sexual health-specific concerns, such as contraception, sexual health checks, and pregnancy.

There is a huge need for health education sessions and resources in seasonal workers communities. The good news is many companies that hire seasonal workers recognise this need and are looking for ways to make healthcare, and specifically sexual and reproductive healthcare, more accessible. 

Our Project Coordinator, Sarai Tafa explains "Our educators are bridging the gap between services and community. Feedback from employers tells us that our sessions help decrease unwanted pregnancies and STIs, and they also help grow communities' sexual health knowledge and build individuals' confidence when accessing healthcare providers".

Our HIML program was recently refunded to continue through to the end of 2023. We're excited to continue and grow our important work and can't wait to see what the future brings.