Tourism Whitsundays has launched a new campaign aimed at bringing school leavers to the region’s farms. Pictured is Japanese backpacker Aki Funada, 31, of Hiroshima, picking tomatoes. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Tourism Whitsundays has launched a new campaign aimed at bringing school leavers to the region’s farms. Pictured is Japanese backpacker Aki Funada, 31, of Hiroshima, picking tomatoes. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

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SCHOOL leavers are being encouraged to swap the Eiffel Tower and Greek islands for the Great Barrier Reef and Big Mango in the region's latest tourism push.

Tourism Whitsundays has launched a new campaign aimed at enticing jobseekers and school leavers to the Whitsundays for a working holiday.

The Work and Play in the Whitsundays campaign is targeted at addressing a shortfall in fruit and vegetable pickers across the region.

The sector typically employs backpackers and people on working holiday visas, however a freeze in travel has meant farmers have to look elsewhere for workers.

With an estimated 75 per cent of the picking workforce in the Bowen region typically from overseas, Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler hoped this campaign would help fill the gap.

"With the closure of international borders, we don't have the same number of backpackers in region ready to do fruit picking work," she said.

The campaign was launched in partnership with Bowen Gumlu Growers Association. The president of the organisation Carl Walker has been pushing for new schemes throughout the year. Picture: Supplied
The campaign was launched in partnership with Bowen Gumlu Growers Association. The president of the organisation Carl Walker has been pushing for new schemes throughout the year. Picture: Supplied

"There is a real fear that many farmers won't have the workforce to get these crops picked over the next 12 months."

She hoped the perk of weekends spent island hopping and exploring the reef would encourage people to sign up for a stint in the Whitsundays.

The harvesting season runs almost year-round across a wide range of agriculture areas including mangoes, prawns, melons, tomatoes, coffee, vegetables, stone fruit and cane.

The campaign was launched in partnership with Bowen Gumlu Growers Association and the organisation's agriculture workforce officer Julia Wheway said it would be perfect for school leavers who were undecided on their next steps.

"Many young school leavers had plans to head overseas for their gap year or get ready to head straight into university and at present, those plans may have changed," she said.

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"Why not visit one of the most idyllic places on earth, take advantage of some great earning potential and tick off some amazing bucket list experiences while you are here … and help an industry in their time of need?"

Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox also threw his support behind the initiative, saying employees could earn more than $1500 per week while living in a idyllic setting.

The Federal Government is also offering a $6000 relocation grant to those who take up a job in short-term agricultural work.

The new campaign joins a raft of other ideas floated in a bid to bolster the picking workforce including a focus on technology, HECS debt reduction and even a scheme for troubled youth.


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