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Longreach staff drought forces businesses to look overseas to fill positions

CEO Qantas Founders Museum
Tony Martin from the Qantas Founders Museum has been looking for a head chef since last year.

Supplied: Qantas Founders Museum

Outback business operators in central west Queensland town of Longreach say they are being forced to look overseas to fill staff positions.

"We have been looking for a fulltime beautician since late last year and it's now March and we haven't had any serious interest for a permanent position," Studio Exclusive Longreach hairdresser Adam Crow, said.

"And as of January we have been looking for another senior hairdresser, and we're probably having less luck with that one — no bites with that one at all," he said.

Longreach hairdresser
Longreach hairdresser Adam Crow has been looking to hire a beautician and senior hairdresser for months.

ABC Western Queensland: Nicole Bond

Mr Crow is not alone.

Tony Martin, CEO of the Qantas Founders Museum said despite advertising online, in print, and on social media, he has been unable to find a head chef to work in his awarding winning kitchen.

"We started advertising just before Christmas and we're now March, and we still haven't been successful in filling that position," Mr Martin said.

"We've had difficultly in the past, but we've usually had some sort of interest and response by now, which we haven't had any, and we've been hearing similar stories in the region."

Longreach Motor Inn
Damien Kennedy, co-owner and manager of the Longreach Motor Inn said he is already used the migration to hire staff from overseas when he couldn't find anybody locally.

ABC Western Queensland: Nicole Bond

Damien Kennedy, co-owner and manager of Longreach Motor Inn and Harry's Restaurant, agreed.

"We can't get Australians to come and work for us fulltime, and I know there will be people saying, 'We'd go to Longreach', but the fact is, there are any number of businesses in regional and remote areas of Australia who advertise on a regular basis and are flat out getting one or two applicants."

Questioning the reasons behind shortage

While all three employees quoted Longreach's remote location as one reason behind the staffing shortage, Mr Crow also blamed the drought.

"We always face the challenge of being remote, but I think maybe there's less people out here after the drought and less people wanting to come out here because they can see the drought and the effect it's having on people," he said.

And while Mr Crow said the staff shortage had not yet impacted his business, he said it could damage his reputation.

"We're doing alright at the moment in Longreach because obviously it's a quieter time, but you try and plan ahead for these things so you don't end up with any major issues."

Looking internationally

While business owners across Longreach struggle to recruit staff, Mr Kennedy said he had already started to employ overseas workers.

Unemployment map
The 'outback Queensland' boundary.

Supplied: Queensland Government Statistician's Office.

"We have just employed some fantastic people on the visa program, as well as a very good executive head chef who we were able to entice back from the Philippines, so at the moment things are okay," he said.

But Mr Kennedy said while they had all been excellent staff members, he would rather employ Australian citizens.

"Of course — it's a lot easier [to hire Australians]," he said.

"Whilst we're going through the processes that we are required to go through when we apply for a good visa staff member, we have to employ chefs through a contract company and they cost an absolute fortune."

"You are paying exorbitant amounts of money to provide food to your clients because we can't get Australian to work for us fulltime."

Mr Martin said he will also start looking at employing migrants.

"If we can't find them, then yes we will look towards the migrant visa supporting that to fill the gaps and fill the needs that we have."