News & Insights

Changing gender attitudes through seasonal work

For the past three years, a labour mobility program managed by Cardno has provided opportunities for women and men from Pacific countries to work in Australia. In addition to increasing the income and skills of workers, the program has changed how Pacific women and men view gender roles back home.

“We knew that women were struggling to access the Seasonal Worker Programme,” said Kye Taylor, project director for the Labour Mobility Assistance Program (LMAP). “Apart from the work we did to help women enter the program, we also focused on changing attitudes to gender for both men and women, including pre-departure training focused on appropriate gender behaviour in Australia.”

Results from recent LMAP seasonal worker tracer (baseline and end line) studies show the shift in attitudes. Eighty-three per cent of participants from the Solomon Islands said their views on gender issues had changed since returning home; 80 per cent in Timor-Leste; 58 per cent in PNG, and; 68 per cent of women and 72 per cent of men in Vanuatu. Overall the majority of participants reported attitudinal changes since returning home from Australia.

“I believe the experience of working in Australia was formative for Pacific women and men as it gave them a chance to see differences in gender norms,” said Kye.
Smiling seasonal workers from Timor-Leste picking fruit in Tasmania

LMAP seasonal workers from Timor-Leste at a berry farm in Tasmania, Australia

For some men, seeing how women and men interacted in Australia led them to rethink the role of spouses in their own homes. Others said that they had a better understanding of how important it was to educate girls, and some felt that they were more likely to resolve issues through dialogue than through violence.

One male worker from Vanuatu said, "When I came back, everyone noticed a change in my behaviour, especially towards my wife. Sometimes I feel I want to argue very badly and get very angry, but I cool myself down.” Another male worker from PNG reported that “instead of hitting my wife or children when they make me angry, I walk away, breathe fresh air and come back and talk to them.”

The Women in Agriculture pilot run in PNG is a good example of how LMAP was able to create change. The pilot not only worked to break down barriers to women’s participation in the Seasonal Worker Programme, but also identified 'champions' of women's participation within the sending community. The pilot proved so successful that it is being replicated under DFAT's Pacific Labour Facility.

For further information contact:

Kye Taylor
Project Director – LMAP
Phone: +61 3 9831 6146