Community is something that Simon has come to appreciate
from his years as a student at the College…
Simon Dornauf (‘04) knows how much cultural diversity can enrich a community. As the Director and Farm Manager of Hillwood Berries, which he operates with parents Karen (nee Smith, MLC, ‘79) and Robin (Scotch, ‘79) and his brother Marcus (‘06), he is surrounded daily by the song, dance and humour of his migrant workers.
Hillwood Berries is a participant in the Australian Government’s Seasonal Worker Program, which recruits workers from Samoa, Tonga and Timor Leste and employs refugees from Nepal and Afghanistan.
The soup-pot of cultures has created a community of fun and respect that Simon and his family are fiercely proud of. Earlier this year, Simon’s workers were integral to the success of the College’s Harvest Harmony event, displaying their cultural songs and dances to the school community.
“Our workers were really excited about it and being able to show off their culture to the wider community,” Simon said.
“A few of the Bhutanese girls cooked some momos – little Nepalese dumplings – and sold those at the event. We really enjoyed being part of it.”
The highlight for Simon and his wife Sarah (nee Pearce, ‘08), son Darcy (EL Elphin), 4, and daughter Zadie, 2, was watching one of his workers’ daughters – a student of Scotch Oakburn – perform at the event.
“After all the Tongans had done their dance, Siosiana (known as Krystaiana at school, in Year 6) got up there in the traditional oiled arms and beautiful costume with her mum and performed a culturally significant dance in front of all her school peers,” Simon said.
“We were there watching with the kids and these girls from the same class were saying ‘oh, is that Krystaiana?’ It was cool that she was dancing with her mum… It was really beautiful to see her engaging with the school community.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived on Australian shores, Simon and his family essentially become the caretakers of 300-400 workers who were unable to return home to their families due to travel restrictions.
Due to the seasonality of the berry business in Tasmania, many of the workers were moved to Queensland so that they could continue to work throughout this time.
Always entrepreneurial, the Dornauf’s thought to expand their berry operation to Bunderberg, diversifying their operation so that their business can grow fruit all year round.
“The workers actually really enjoy the extended opportunity to work and we thought why wouldn’t we do it ourselves with the farm and utilise the skilled workforce that we already have that are willing and able to relocate,” Simon said.
“It’s not easy, I wouldn’t be doing it if it was, but it’s a good option for the business to grow and that’s been a huge opportunity for my brother (who has moved to Queensland).”
Community is something that Simon has come to appreciate from his years as a student at the College and something that he doesn’t define by where you live.
“I see community as the people that you associate with, more so than the community we live in. We have a community on the farm, which is full of a diverse range of people,” Simon said.
“The Tongan guys, they’re pretty laid back… they’re fun… they’re cheeky. “Those from East Timor, all they want to do is please. The women from the Timorese community are hugely capable.
“Even with differences the Samoans and Tongans, have really embraced each other and I define them more like a camaraderie like we might have in our New Zealand neighbours. It’s more of that supportive feel. “I’m incredibly proud of how they have engaged together.”