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Expo builds employment bridges to Tonga

31 October, 2023

Gunnedah Shire business and community representatives have returned from an Employment Expo in Tonga that built practical ways forward for both regions.

The Gunnedah representatives held an Expo that attracted representatives from a large range of industries, including much-needed skill sets such as early childhood learning, nursing, teaching, and trades such as electrical, carpentry, and mechanics. Close to 200 people have registered their formal interest in pursuing employment.

“Early on in our Sister City relationship with Kolomotu’a in Tonga, there was a mutual identification of the need for a focus on employment,” Gunnedah Shire Mayor Jamie Chaffey said.

“What we have learnt over the past two years is that the Tongan economy is heavily reliant on Tongan nationals earning income in other nations, while getting practical experience that is very limited in Tonga in their area of qualification.

“This Expo has taken us to the next level. It has not only connected us to the frontline people we need to reach, it has created an awareness of the jobs that are available in Gunnedah Shire.

“What a great feeling it will be for those who employ people from Kolomotu’a to know that not only are they meeting short-term employment needs in their business, but they are providing practical experience that will help build the skills in Tonga’s workforce.”

The representatives held the Employment Expo at the invitation of Her Royal Highness Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Tukuʻaho, who is also the patron of the Sister City relationship. Councillors, business and community representatives attended at their own expense.

The visit included representatives from aged care, mining, construction, Council and the Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce.

Cr Chaffey said the representatives were warmly welcomed in Tonga and met with the Princess, the Acting High Commissioner for Tonga to Australia Curtis Tu’ihalangingie, and the High Commissioner for Australia in Tonga Rachael Moore, and other officials, including Lose Kuluka, the Principal of the Kolomotu’a Middle School. The Gunnedah Shire community has been helping with fundraising towards a new library for the school.

Representatives from Tonga surprised the contingent from Gunnedah Shire just ahead of their departure with the unveiling of a street named “Gunnedah Avenue”.

“This was a tremendous honour and a great surprise,” Cr Chaffey said. “It’s testament to the family relationship we have with Kolomotu’a and with all of Tonga.

“We will continue to work towards the many benefits this agreement can have for both of our homes. We are hoping for the next reciprocal visit from Kolomotu’a, led by Her Royal Highness, to be in the first half of 2024.”

Caption: Gunnedah Shire representatives at the unveiling of “Gunnedah Avenue” in Tonga.

ENDS

For more information, contact Gunnedah Shire Council’s Communications team on (02) 6740 2100 or communications@infogunnedah.com.au.