The Regional Wellbeing Survey’s mission is to improve the wellbeing and quality of life of people living in rural and regional Australia.
Taking part lets you have your say on issues ranging from your access to the internet and key services, to how events such as floods and drought are affecting you, and how your community is changing. This year we also have some questions for people who care for others, about experiences of caring and the types of support needed by carers.
The results of the previous survey are being used by organisations across Australia to help improve quality of life in rural and regional communities, including local governments, farming organisations and community groups, as well as government agencies.
Do the survey online at www.regionalwellbeing.org.au
Call us on 1800 981 499 if you’d like a paper survey posted to you.
The survey is voluntary, confidential and anonymous. Thank you for taking the time to participate and sharing your valuable insights.
WORKPLACE RELATIONS UPDATE:
LABOUR HIRE ARRANGEMENTS IN HORTICULTURE
Recent media reports and court cases have highlighted the risks associated with utilising labour hire providers who undercut statutory wages and conditions of workers they supply to farms.
The VFF Workplace Relations Department has been active over the past two and a half years warning members of the legal risks associated with commercial labour hire arrangements that may lead to non-compliance of workplace laws.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is routinely demonstrating its willingness to use accessorial liability provisions under the Fair Work Act to penalise rogue labour hire operators in Victoria and in turn prosecute host farms.
Recently, a Victorian business in the cleaning industry had to recoup more than $130,000 dollars in underpayments and a sole director and HR Manager of the host company were handed more than $25,000 in individual penalties, despite the underpayments relating to the contractor.
The contracting business had made illegal deductions and falsified documents to conceal the deductions.
What this decision shows however, is that the FWO will use accessorial liability provisions of the Fair Work Act to penalise host employers and to individually target directors and staff of businesses who engage in illegal practices.
Recent media exposure has also highlighted that negative media exposure on the issue can have a detrimental impact on your business.
The Fair Work Ombudsman and the Court system hold an extremely dim view of labour hire arrangements that result in workers not receiving their statutory entitlements.
What VFF members should take away from recent court decisions and media exposure is that:
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is increasing their use of accessorial liability provisions to target employers who use dodgy labour hire suppliers
In order to act as a deterrent, the FWO is specifically targeting and fining individuals who are party to the underpayment of workers; and
The FWO and other parties will name and shame businesses under suspicion of non-compliance. They will pursue any businesses that involve themselves with labour hire operators who do not pay statutory entitlements to their own workers.
VFF members must be aware that even though you are not the legal employer of workers supplied by labour hire – accessorial liability provisions can rope you into the non-compliance of a labour hire provider.
VFF members must also be aware that reputational risk is also associated with dodgy labour hire providers.
Members must exercise caution whether or not commercial service fees and charge rates issued to them by the contractor/labour hire provider are adequate for the contractor to meet their obligations under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to their own staff.
For more information all members are urged to contact the VFF Workplace Relations Department on 1300 442 481.
Be wary of charge rates offered to you by contract labour suppliers- and remember "if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is".
FAIR WORK OMBUDSMAN REGIONAL CAMPAIGN SHEPPARTON
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) will shortly commence a regional campaign in the Shepparton region, involving audits of businesses in industries such as agriculture, forestry and fishing, manufacturing, retail, dairy, accommodation and food services and construction. A series of such campaigns are run each year in different regions around the county based on an assessment of internal FWO data and external demographic data.
FWO has received an increase in Request for Assistance from employees (and particularly younger employees) in the dairy farming industry around the region, hence its inclusion as a small part of this broader campaign. All businesses are randomly selected.
VFF members who receive contact about this campaign can contact the VFF Industrial Relations Hotline 1300 442 481.
monit's cloud based app
Monit is excited and proud to announce the launch of its cloud based app using smart phones to drive the system.
World firsts behind the app include:
• Use your smart phone, any type, to take photos, as many as you wish, of your premises, the answers to your checklist questions, supporting documentation and more with no interference to your phone plan
• Your photos will be reviewed by a permanent & qualified OHS/WHS person on receipt we call a support rep. Your support rep is your virtual consultant…what you see they see and can offer assistance remotely
• Your data is securely stored on the cloud, available for recall at any time for any reason
• Your photos are stored with no degradation of pixel definition, ensuring their availability to be used as court evidence, if needed
• OHS/WHS Guidelines and training videos are all accessible from your phone
• To see how the Monit app works, go to: www.monit.com.au and view the Monit video.
REGIONAL PARTNERSHIPS PROGRAM
The Victorian government recently established the Regional Partnerships program, to engage with people who live within regional Victoria, to explore the priorities for the region and discuss their ideas to address the opportunities and challenges facing their region.
Regional Assemblies are the first part of the process for developing ideas for input in the advice that will be provided back to government.
Regional Partnership members will be joined by representatives of the Victorian Government at the Assemblies, including ministers and senior department officials, as well as representatives from local government. It’s a unique opportunity to bring together government with a broader group from different sections of the community in each region and have a genuine conversation at a local level. Following the Assemblies, each Partnership will deliver key recommendations straight into the heart of government through the new Rural and Regional Ministerial Committee made up of seven members of Cabinet and chaired by Minister Pulford.
• The people who live in the region know the opportunities and challenges facing their communities better than anyone
• The Regional Partnership is your voice direct into the heart of Victorian Government, and this is your chance to tell them what you think really matters
• Share your thoughts and offer ideas about local opportunities and issues affecting your region at http://engage.regions.vic.gov.au
• Your feedback here will be a key input into the Regional Assemblies being held across regional Victoria
• There’s been a lot of great work done over the years by state and local government, committees, planning bodies and boards to identify what we need to do to address the challenges and opportunities in our region
• The Regional Partnerships are bringing that together and asking the community to tell us what’s right, what’s wrong and what’s missing
• Over the coming weeks, the Regional Partnership members will also be engaging with key community representatives across the region
• If you don’t have access to the internet, you can send in your written feedback via your local Regional Development Victoria office (http://www.rdv.vic.gov.au/contact-us).
Assembly and engagement details
Assembly: 15 November in Ballarat
Register EOI: https://engage.vic.gov.au/central-highlands/regional-assembly-expression-interest
Assembly: 17 November in Moe
Register EOI: https://engage.vic.gov.au/gippsland-regional-partnership/regional-assembly-expression-interest
Assembly: 30 November in Benalla
Register EOI: https://engage.vic.gov.au/ovens-murray/regional-assembly-expression-interest
Assembly: 1 December in Mildura
Register EOI: https://engage.vic.gov.au/mallee/regional-assembly-expression-interest
Assembly: 15 December in Shepparton
Register EOI: https://engage.vic.gov.au/goulburn/regional-assembly-expression-interest
Engagement: https://engage.vic.gov.au/goulburn (opening soon)
SHACKY TINY HOUSES – IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS
Want to develop tourism on your farm? Tiny Houses are the answer.
Introducing Shacky – tiny houses specially designed to accommodate short-term visitors on rural properties. Capitalising on the tourism potential of rural land - showcasing the beautiful Australian landscape.
Shacky was first started by Joep Pennartz, a 26-year-old Dutchman with a passion for tiny buildings and sustainable forms of tourism. The one-man-band was later joined by Rosie Downie to accelerate its development.
Experiencing city life in Melbourne for the past five years, after growing up in rural Tasmania, highlighted to Rosie the disconnect between country and city living.
“I believe Shacky’s tiny houses have the ability to help bridge this disconnect. Our Tiny Houses are deliberately tiny, which encourages visitors to completely immerse themselves in the surrounding landscape, whilst remaining warm, dry and cosy,” she said.
The Shacky encourages users to adopt a minimalistic mindset and go back to basics. Guests have commented on the little things; the pleasure that comes from reading a non-digital book, from watching the sheep graze in the paddocks and from escaping the distractions of city life. Like everything with Shacky, it’s the little things that make the experience.
Shacky are looking for a new generation of young and innovative landowners to join their community. Their Tiny Houses are off-grid, with solar powered electricity, a state-approved composting toilet and a hot outdoor shower. All you need is a water connection.
The Shackys are also relocatable, using certified footings for a secure foundation.
A Shacky costs around $40,000 and based on previous trials, will provide a return on investment within two years.
Shacky know it’s the small things that count. They want to make the process as easy as possible for you, which is why they offer additional services such as marketing your tiny house and managing your bookings.
Your Shacky can be installed within a day, which means you can begin hosting guests the next morning.
It’s time to shack up! Feel inspired? E-mail email@example.com and get your free Shacky brochure. See a tiny house in action here: http://www.shacky.org/properties/the-tiny-house/. Complete the survey here.
FARMERS' FUND UPDATE
DAIRY farmers across Victoria and NSW will benefit from the first grants the Victorian Farmers Federation’s Farmers Fund initiative. COLES Supermarkets donated the $1 million for this first round from its Nurture Fund.
More than 600 applications for the grants were received with 60 of these selected to receive grants of between $5,000 and $20,000.
The successful applications were chosen by an advisory panel chaired by VFF President David Jochinke and including members of the National Farmers Federation and the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria. The selection process was conducted anonymously with all applications being de-identified before being assessed by the panel
“It was a tough ask to select the best applications from 600, but all projects were considered on their merit, how they would sustain the dairy business and the commitment of the applicants to improving their farm practices over time,” Mr Jochinke said.
The selected projects covered a diverse range including;
• Upgrades to effluent ponds
• Building calf rearing facilities
• Irrigation infrastructure
• Succession planning
• Establishing shelter belts
• Dairy equipment
• Feeding systems.
The range of projects put forward and the sheer number of applications made to the Fund demonstrates the challenges farmers are facing as they manage a significant drop in income as a result of the global milk price decrease.
“With a finite amount of funding available, hard choices had to be made,” Mr Jochinke said. “No doubt some farmers will be disappointed to miss out on this round but we are opening the second round and will be able to distribute more grants early next year.”
The amount of funding available in the next round of grants will be determined by the sales of the Farmers Fund milk in Coles Supermarkets.
Applications for the next round of funding are open now and will close on December 31.
Labour Hire Licensing Scheme to be Established
The Victorian Government has just released its final report on the Victorian Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work (the Victorian Report). The report has recommended to the State Government that it introduce a labour hire licensing scheme for labour hire suppliers to the horticultural, meat and cleaning industries.
The report also recommended that Victoria advocate through COAG for a national sector-specific licensing scheme. While a national scheme may take some time to develop, the state of Victoria should take the lead by the introduction of its own sector-specific licensing scheme. The South Australian, Parliamentary Economic and Finance Committee released its final report on 18 October 2016, to the Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry.
The South Australian report also recommends a national licensing and registration scheme.
The Victoria report is very lengthy, with thirty five recommendations. In the report, the role of piece rates in the horticultural industry is discussed.
Members can call the VFF Workplace Relations Department for further information.
LAND VALUATION CHALLENGES
Members are reminded that the time frame for challenging a land valuation they have received this year is coming to a close.
If farmers believe that the valuation that has been provided for their property is too high or too low, and objection can be lodged with two months of receiving your rates notice. For many councils this time period is just around the corner.
You may object to the land valuation you have been provided on the following grounds:
the value assigned is too high or too low;
interests in the land have not been correctly apportioned;
the apportionment of the valuation is incorrect;
lands that should have been included in one valuation have been valued separately;
lands that should have been valued separately have been included in one valuation;
the person named in the notice of valuation, assessment notice or other document is not liable to be so named; and/or
the area, dimensions or description of the land are incorrectly stated
The VFF has produced a factsheet on the process. Click here:
The Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, the Hon Lily D’Ambrosio visited Geoff and Lin Postlethwaite at their farm in Coonooer West. VFF Vice President Brett Hosking and the Postlethwaites discussed the impact of the current native vegetation controls on farming and the need for a simpler system that balances agricultural production and long term environmental outcomes.
The VFF is continuing discussions with DELWP prior to the release of the proposed changes to the Native Vegetation Regulations. DELWP is also currently reviewing its Biodiversity Strategy and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
30 year strategy report
Infrastructure Victoria have released a draft 30 year strategy report, on future infrastructure in Victoria. This outlines a series of infrastructure priorities for Victoria. Following a period of community consultation, this report will be presented to government.
The report can be accessed here http://yoursay.infrastructurevictoria.com.au/30-year-strategy/. As an individual, you can provided comments directly back into the report online.
The VFF will be providing a submission to the process (by 31 October) and are calling for feedback on the priorities you wish to see invested in in the future. Please provide any comments to Melanie Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shaping The Future - Central Highlands Region
Minister for Regional Development Jaala Pulford announced the start of online consultation for the Central Highlands Regional Partnership community ahead of their first Regional Assembly to be held in Ballarat on November 15.
A new website recently launched by the Andrews Labor Government now gives people living, working and studying in Central Highlands the chance to share their thoughts on local opportunities and challenges that span every government portfolio.
Each of the nine Regional Partnerships will host an assembly involving at least 100 people, including community members, government representatives and local government, to discuss priorities for each region.
They can also use the website to register their interest in attending the Central Highlands Regional Assembly.
Following the assemblies, each Partnership will deliver key recommendations straight into the heart of government through the new Rural and Regional Ministerial Committee made up of seven members of Cabinet and chaired by Ms Pulford.
The Central Highlands Regional Partnership includes the shires of Golden Plains, Hepburn, Moorabool and Pyrenees, as well as the City of Ballarat and Ararat Rural City.
Capitalising on tourism opportunities, and ideas and actions that will make the region an even greater place to live – driving jobs and economic growth – are likely to be among the issues addressed by the Central Highlands Regional Partnership.
Be part of the conversation by visiting http://engage.regions.vic.gov.au
animal welfare submission template
To Whom It May Concern,
I wanted to express my concerns on the Draft Animal Action Plan released by the Victorian Government. As a farmer who looks after animals on a daily basis, I am acutely aware of the need to ensure my animals are cared for and protected.
I’m concerned about the general nature of the plan. The lack of detail makes it unclear if current, established regulatory review processes and programs which promote animal welfare will be continued to be used or whether the entire system will be overhauled.
I have witnessed that our current system for reviewing codes of practice at a national level is a good system which balances the different concerns of the industry, scientists and the community.
I am also concerned about the emphasis on meeting community expectations. As producers for consumers we take consume expectations of the quality of our welfare systems into direct account when making decisions on the farm. However I have seen that consumers don’t necessarily understand the purpose behind some of our practices. Some practices which are for the long term benefit of the animal are seen as being a poor animal welfare outcome by consumers.
Rather than focusing solely on community expectations any animal welfare legislative framework needs to be complimented by educating the community on the choices farmers need to make between short term benefit and long term benefit for our animals. Industry is looking to better inform consumers and this should be complimented by government education if community expectations are to hold such weight in government legislation.
Any plan should take into account the following:
• The agricultural industry has had a long term commitment to improving animal welfare outcomes for production animals.
• The Australian environment is unique, farmers and industry strive to minimise the impacts of this environment on animal welfare outcomes.
• Our society has very different expectations for animal welfare between production and companion animals. This difference in expectations needs to be reflected in legislation.
• The productive sector has always worked closely with all stakeholders to produce an acceptable legislative framework and would be keen to continue this process.
• Australian farmers continue to supply funding towards improving animal welfare as we see the benefit to funding cutting edge science to support their on farm practices.
Thank you for considering my submission.