Welcome for Longford fruit workers

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Welcome for Longford fruit workers

Longford Catholic parishioners have rolled out the welcome mat and put on a party for overseas berry farm workers, thanks to a Missionary Sisters of Service grant.

Organiser Denise Talbot said parishioners’ prayers were answered when the weather held and 300 people turned up to the event held in late November. She explained that members of the Kings Meadows Parish, which includes Longford, organised the event to provide support and hospitality to the workers.

They travel from Timor Leste, Vanuatu and Tonga to make their homes in the area for up to six months, from November to May, while picking berries at Cressy, Longford and Perth farms.

“The workers felt very special and that this party was especially for them. There was lots of talking, laughing, music and dancing. It was great that the locals made real efforts to interact with our new friends,” Mrs Talbot said.

“They are a welcome and vibrant presence at the 5.30pm Sunday Mass at Longford, and sometimes this means more than 60 extra people filling our church.

“Two of the four hymns are in their language, and we have acquired three guitars for them to play. We also do prayers of the faithful in both languages and one of the readings in both languages.”

The acoustics at St Augustine’s Church at Longford are particularly good, and the music and singing is a joy to hear, Mrs Talbot added.

The aim of the party on the Longford Village Green and adjacent Memorial Hall was to get locals and visitors to mix and hopefully to promote more outreach; and to encourage locals to be warm and welcoming to the visitors.

“They work six days a week, earning money to put food on their family’s tables and to pay for essential living expenses like education for their children,” Mrs Talbot said. “We do not know how lucky we are.”

The party involved a long-table shared meal, as well as music, dancing, cricket and football, and a lolly scramble.
It was made possible through a Missionary Sisters of Service grant for $2,950 paid to the Kings Meadows Parish under the MSS Highways and Byways small grants program for 2019 to encourage ‘genuine parish and community inclusion of the workers’.

“The MSS had a convent at Longford, and through this grants program, they continue to support important events like this and our local community,” Mrs Talbot added. “It is one of 13 MSS grants to Tasmanian regions this year.”

On Australia Day, the welcome party was named Community Event of the Year by the Northern Midlands Council.

Mrs Talbot is keen to source more instruments, such as guitars, for the berry workers. Anyone who can help with this is asked to email her at denisetalbot46@gmail.com