Backpackers told to be extra careful
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.
WARY: Backpackers Emma Sheridan, Benoit Drapier and Carys Williams, who are working on a Burdekin farm.