Millions and millions of people travel worldwide each year, some just for a quick holiday, others for a few months and then there are those that want to migrate. For those moving to Australia and wishing to stay longer than a year, working in an isolated location doing regional work is a real possibility.
Under Australian law, to gain a one-year extension on a working holiday visa, a traveller without a “sponsor”, a company willing to employ and pay for their visa, or without a partner holding a valid visa, must complete regional / farm work. 88 days spent working in an isolated part of the country. Most travellers work on farms, but others can find themselves working in bars or hotels.
It’s tough work and long days, but even worse, many backpackers are exploited each year in the industry. Tales of deaths, rapes and violence while working in extreme conditions are common place.
As reported in several media outlets, the poor treatment of workers is well known. Isolated farms, with owners desperate for money and happy to take advantage of anyone who walks through their door, provide basic working and living conditions for the 3 or so months that they work there. There’s no pay that is too little, no day too long to ask travellers to work. And when they finish earning their dollar/ per kilo wage, they go to sleep in crowded dorm rooms stacked with bunk beds, both unsanitary and unsafe.
Not all farmers are like this but there are plenty that are. Too many. Year after year, horror stories are released to the media, but changes don’t seem to occur. In November 2017, a young Belgian collapsed and died while working on a farm in Queensland after complaining of tiredness. His irritated boss told him to continue working and a few hours later he collapsed under the 35-degree heat.
With increasingly stringent procedures being implemented in order to obtain a visa in Australia, it’s becoming more difficult find sponsorship for a second year. This is pushing many travellers to the countryside into the hands of immoral farmers.
In a country as developed as Australia, with strict laws regarding every aspect of life in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, it appears a blind eye is being turned when it comes to regional businesses. The Australian Workers Union have commented that there needs to be more protection for backpackers but when things will begin to change remains to be seen.