Tanks to Tractors



The Problem

  • Australia is facing a chronic skilled farm labour shortage, following our international border closure and the nation’s hard border stance during the ongoing COVID19 pandemic.
  •  Our Grains sector is at risk of reputational harm and market failure especially from a lack of skilled heavy farm machinery operators as well as truck and other farm workers, who are central to the proper functioning of the entire grains supply chain. Potential losses on some farms could be many $millions, with $billions at risk on a national level.
  •  Australia is at or close to the technical threshold of "full employment", putting the grains industry in the difficult situation of competing for workers in a very tight labour market, particularly with a booming mining economy that also requires workers with the same or similar skill sets.
  •  The industry, initially in WA and Queensland, requires access to a suitable workforce by early-mid September 2021 in preparation for the upcoming harvest season. The situation in most other States is similar, if slightly delayed as the grains in WA are the first due for harvesting. Please note the short lead time.
  • Australian broadacre agriculture urgently requires thousands of experienced heavy farm machinery operators and truck drivers as well as a range of other trades.
  • It is vital to have these people, to ensure our grains sector remains globally competitive, and to avoid losing our markets to international competitors – this is a likely scenario if the required tonnages are unable to move into port to meet the needs of overseas markets.

Proposed solution

The plan is to motivate and mobilise retired and former ADF servicemen and women, as the key focus for Operation Grain Harvest Assist, especially those with competence on complex machinery, to support farmers across the nation to harvest their grain.

It is being organized by former-ADF volunteers to meet a pressing national need, as stated above.

Former ADF servicemen will be connected to farmers, contract harvesters and grain supply chain businesses via designated Facebook pages.  They will be directed to these pages via a range of Defence information sites, Corp and Regimental Associations and their newsletters, Facebook pages and also through emails and phone calls. 

Strong media and Government support will be requested due to the need to get the message out promptly so people have enough time to decide on their support for the project and then to get to the farms on time to do the work.

The Facebook pages are in the process of being set up and then populated with data on the detailed needs of each farm. The official start date for Operation Grain Harvest Assist is 6 September 2021 but action locally in some States is planned before that date.

Support, guidance and advice will be available to the former ADF servicemen and women, via a number of volunteer State and Regional Co-ordinators; their contact details will be on the Facebook pages.   The Co-ordinators will also assist with managing/resolving any State/regional issues that arise between the farmers/contract harvesters and those doing the work.

Facebook pages

Two Facebook pages are proposed – one for WA/SA and another one for the three Eastern States, as follows:. 

Operation Grain Harvest Assist - WA/SA - https://www.facebook.com/groups/360895489034795/about


Operation Grain Harvest Assist – Qld/NSW/Vic - https://www.facebook.com/groups/1741781399347127/about

Training for those doing the work will be provided via the employer; this is likely to be a combination of on-site training and farm inductions; on-line training can be accessed through Grain Producers Australia  https://gpatraining.com.au/

Duration of the work on-site will depend on individual availability and the needs of the individual farmer/harvest contractor. 

Due to the Covid-based restrictions on moving across State borders, it is most likely that jobs will be within the worker’s State though Federal assistance is being requested to assist any cross-border movement that is required to get the job done.

The type of people being sought

- Experienced vehicle operators (A, B, C, MC and HR classes of vehicles)

- Vehicle and other mechanics, with ADF experience

- There are a wide range of other farm jobs available for those without the relevant ADF vehicle experience

Typical jobs on the farms

- Harvester and Header Drivers   - MC and HR Truck Drivers
 - Chaser Bin Drivers  - Spray Rig Operators
 - Mechanic / Engineer  - Also Farm Hands

Getting there

 It is expected that people would drive their own vehicle to site and caravans and partners may also be permitted for the duration of the job, of course subject to the prior agreement of the hiring farmer or harvest contractor.

Indicative rates:

The pay scale varies depending on experience. Potential employees can expect a minimum pay of $25+/hour (the Award rate); this can vary upward depending on skill level, experience and on the job performance; strongly suggest that workers discuss all aspects of this with their State/Regional Coordinator before conducting individual negotiations with farmers/harvest contractors.

Rations & Quarters are usually provided on site as is appropriate safety gear; though suggest people consider taking your own gear (if they already have it) as a back-up.

More information can be found here:

Garry Spencer, AM

(Volunteer) National Facilitator

LtCol (Retired)

Royal Australian Armoured Corps

0418 996 856

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.            

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