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Dozens of aged care trainees in Fiji are currently being recruited to work in Australia. Picture: Twitter / @AlboMP

Urgent visa change to fill aged care gap

The government will fast-track the processing of 60,000 permanent visa applications by overseas skilled workers in a bid to fill urgent staff shortages in health and aged care.

The move comes as research shows that labour shortages in aged care homes have nearly doubled since 2021, with hundreds of shifts being left vacant due to rising Covid-19 and flu infections.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said while job vacancies have hit most of Australia, there is an "acute national need" to fill jobs in aged care, health and nursing.

"Everyone is having an issue finding workers at the moment,” Clare told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“Areas like our health workers, nurses, aged-care workers, teaching. These are areas which are a pivotal priority for us.”

Due to the impact of Covid-19 border closures, there are close to a million unprocessed visas sitting in the government's backlog.

Claire said more staff have been recruited to oversee the new prioritisation process to push skilled applicants to the front of the queue.

"The change is prioritising people who are offshore who are wanting to come here to work and working through those applications as quickly as we can," she said.

“The real priority for me is what we can do within the constraints of the system to quickly work through that backlog."

The federal government recently announced the expansion of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme to include the aged care sector.

The program, which has seen 25,000 workers from the Pacific come to Australia, launched its first aged care training course in Fiji earlier this month.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with 40 aged care trainees during his trip to Suva this week.

The trainees are set to graduate with certificate three qualifications and will be recruited into struggling aged care homes across regional Queensland.

"One of the things about the Pacific that I know from my practical experience in both visiting here, but also with the diaspora in Australia, is that part of the culture here is respect for elders," Albanese said.

"That is something that is really important when it comes to people working in aged care, getting satisfaction about assisting people who need that assistance in their later years."

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