Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Kevin Cocks has detailed disturbing allegations of farmers using their position to sexually exploit female backpackers seeking visas.
Foreigners who have arrived on one-year Working Holiday visas are required by law to complete three months farm work in order to qualify for a second year in Australia.
Farmers are tasked with “signing off” and confirming the backpackers have completed the work.
But Mr Cocks told the ABC “at least a dozen” cases had been reported of backpackers being asked to perform sexual favours in exchange for having their work signed off
“Often the contractors provide accommodation as well, so women are being put in quite vulnerable situations.
“We’ve had a number of direct or indirect issues raised with us by the community members, police and other government agencies.
“At least a dozen over the past 18 months, and that’s just in the area that we’ve worked in [the Lockyer Valley in south-east Queensland].
“What’s been indirectly reported to us is more serious criminal sexual exploitation.”
The areas singled out for farm work are often isolated and unfamiliar for backpackers visiting Australia.
Daphne, a German sent to work on various fruit-picking farms, said at one farm women were sent to sleep on a “far corner” of the property.
“[Some] were pretty bad. Even the hostel staff originally told us, ‘Stay away from this guy, stay away from that guy, because they are going to touch you’.”
“The last week, when I got to the farm, I asked straight away, ‘Can you sign it (the visa application), I’m going to work on your farm today’,” she said.
“He (the farmer) went straight away, ‘I’m going to sign this, but only if you sleep with me’.
When asked about the allegations of farmers sexually coercing backpackers, a Department of Immigration Spokesperson declined to comment, as “there are ongoing investigations of farms identified”.
Second year Working Holiday Visas were given to 38,000 backpackers from 2014 to 2015.
– With ABC