Back­pack­ers told to be ex­tra care­ful

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - JOHN AN­DER­SEN john. an­der­sen@ news. com. au

BACK­PACK­ERS look­ing to travel to Aus­tralia to work on farms have been warned to do their re­search to avoid ex­ploita­tion by farm­ers, labour hire com­pa­nies and dodgy hos­tel op­er­a­tors.

Yes­ter­day Dubliner Emma Sheri­dan, 25, Carys Wil­liams, 24, from Wales, and Benoit Drapier, 30, from France, spoke to the Bul­letin af­ter the ABC’s Aus­tralian Story on Mon­day night cov­ered the 2016 Home Hill mur­der of 20- year- old English back­packer Mia Ayliffe- Chung.

In the first of a two- part se­ries, Ms Ayliffe- Chung’s mother Rosie Ayliffe blamed the stress of un­safe work­ing con­di­tions for be­ing partly re­spon­si­ble for the events that led to Mia’s death.

She re­peated ear­lier de­mands that the Aus­tralian Govern­ment take a greater over­sight of how back­pack­ers are treated by em­ploy­ers in Aus­tralia.

She par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cised the re­quire­ment that back­pack­ers want­ing a sec­ond- year visa had to com­plete 88 days of farm work in their first year.

Ms Wil­liams has com­pleted her 88 days on Ken and Anna Booth’s Bur­dekin farm and is stay­ing on to earn more money.

Both Ms Sheri­dan and Ms Drapier said they were for­tu­nate to have a good em­ployer and ac­com­mo­da­tion on the farm but said they had heard “hor­ror sto­ries”.

They were crit­i­cal of hos­tels which promised work but failed to de­liver.

Ms Wil­liams said she was told there was work by one hos­tel op­er­a­tor, but man­aged to get only one day’s work in six weeks.

They said they had heard vague sto­ries of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and in­tim­i­da­tion.

“You hear about it, but it is not widely spo­ken about,” Ms Sheri­dan said.

Mr Drapier, who picked potatoes and av­o­ca­dos in s o u t h e r n Queens­land be­fore mov­ing north, said he had no com­plaints with how he had been treated.

Farm­ers yes­ter­day ex­pressed concern that scrap­ping the 88 days of farm work re­quire­ment would de­stroy farm­ing.

Ms Booth said the in­dus­try would not be vi­able with­out over­seas labour.

“It is ter­ri­ble what hap­pened to her ( Rosie Ayliffe’s) daugh­ter, but her daugh­ter did not die be­cause she had to work 88 days for a visa. She died be­cause some­one killed her in a hos­tel. I feel sorry for every­one in­volved with all of this,” she said.

Ms Booth and her hus­band em­ploy up to 40 back­pack­ers.

“What if the Govern­ment takes the 88- day re­quire­ment away? That would de­stroy hor­ti­cul­ture. You can’t get Aus­tralians to do this work,” she said.

Dal­beg farmer Lorelle McShane said the deaths of Ms Ayliffe and fel­low Bri­ton Tom Jack­son, who came to her res­cue, was “hor­ren­dous be­yond be­lief”, but had noth­ing to do with farm work.

“This in­ci­dent could have hap­pened in any hos­tel in Aus­tralia or for that mat­ter the world,” she said.

Bur­dekin MP Dale Last said it was dif­fi­cult to make a con­nec­tion be­tween farm­ers and the death of Mia Ayliffe- Chung in a hos­tel.

“The farm­ers can’t be held re­spon­si­ble for the death of her daugh­ter,” he said.

Bur­dekin Mayor Lyn McLaugh­lin said the com­mu­nity had never dealt with any­thing like the two mur­ders at the hos­tel.

“Our com­mu­nity will never for­get what hap­pened,” she said.

French­man Smail Ayad has been charged with two counts of mur­der. He is be­ing held in a men­tal health fa­cil­ity in Bris­bane.

Pic­ture: JOHN AN­DER­SEN

WARY: Back­pack­ers Emma Sheri­dan, Benoit Drapier and Carys Wil­liams, who are work­ing on a Bur­dekin farm.

Ayliffe- Chung.

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