Nurses play a vital role in any country’s healthcare system, and ensuring there is a steady pipeline of local talent is essential. However, according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the ease of access to 457 visas is pushing many home-grown nurses out of the picture.
ACTU President Ged Kearney recently revealed that the number of temporary workers on 457 visas Australian hospitals are hiring is about the same as the number of graduates they are turning away.
“Each year thousands of local nurse graduates complete their degrees and can’t find an employer who will give them a chance, yet these same employers are hiring staff on 457 visas instead,” she said.
“These vital young workers can’t even get a foot in the door and in most cases they are forced to give up on their nursing dream and change careers.”
The ACTU highlighted some “conservative” estimates made by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) in 2013-14, which shows some worrying trends in states and territories around the country. For instance, less than a quarter of graduates in Queensland were employed, while only 40 per cent in Tasmania were able to find work.
Annie Butler, acting federal secretary of the ANMF, said it was concerning that many healthcare providers were opting for temporary workers.
“The number of 457 visa nurses has increased by around 400 per year since 2005 and most recent figures show it’s reached nearly 3,100 temporary workers brought in to fill nursing positions annually,” she revealed.
“We must support and invest in the next generation, not send a message that we don’t need them because, quite frankly, we do.”
She added that an ageing workforce also added to the problem, with almost a quarter (23 per cent) of nurses in Australia over the age of 55.
With their important role in caring for both young and old in Australia, it’s important that as many nursing graduates as possible are given a fair chance.