QLD Farmers Manipulating Female Backpackers Into Sex In Exchange For Visas

The backpacking industry in Australia is absolutely huge, and the conditions placed on travellers certainly rate as challenging at the best of times.

Whilst a one year working holiday visa is reasonably easy to obtain, if people from overseas wish to continue on and extend their stay in the country to two years, they must complete a mandatory period of three months work in regional or rural Australia in order for that to be granted.
This often comes in the form of farm hand work or fruit picking in the more remote areas of the country. The approved areas are determined by postcode, and exclude all greater metropolitan areas entirely. The farmer – or farm employer – has to sign off on each individual application, confirming the three months work was completed, for the application for a second year to even be remotely considered.
And it’s this position of power that some employers hold over backpackers – often young people – that’s starting to cause some worrying and severe problems.
It’s emerged through the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner that some farm employers have been using their position of power to manipulate and coerce young travelling women into sex acts, with the promise of signing off on their visa applications held up in exchange.
Kevin Cocks, the QLD Commissioner, stated that the remote areas and communal living situations often put young women in extremely vulnerable situations, which is where the predatory behaviour manifests.

“Young women are asked for sexual favours to get their visa 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.”

“What’s been indirectly reported to us is more serious criminal sexual exploitation.”

Cocks stated that, officially, at least 12 incidents of indecent contact and sexual predatory conduct have been reported in the past 18 months from the Lockyer Valley region of South-East Queensland alone.

Incidents of harassment (and worse) have been reported to Police, but a number of factors contribute towards a fear of pushing any complaints further, including the fear that visa applications will not be renewed, or experience with authoritative corruption in their home countries.
As such, even though there are farmers whose conduct is known to be predatory, and even those with complaints of sexual harassment on the record with both Police and Immigration Department, the laws in Australia still do not prevent them from employing further backpackers for visa purposes. As the Immigration Department stated:

“While the department has no regulatory ability to exclude Australian employers from employing working holiday visa holders or verify their employment, the department does maintain information on employers of known integrity concern and screens and scrutinises working holiday visa applications accordingly.”

The names and identities of those farmers and employers who exhibit predatory tendencies are well known within hostel circles, and backpackers heading off to work in rural areas are often warned against contact with certain individuals.

Workplace law experts have already called for the industry to undergo major reform in order to weed out dodgy operators, and shield women in vulnerable settings from the threat of sexual predators, sexual harassment, sexual manipulation, and ultimately sexual assault and violence.
If you or someone you know is experiencing physical or sexual abuse, calls can be made 24 hours a day on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) to the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line, or visit www.whiteribbon.org.au.
Photo: Ian Waldie via Getty Images.

via ABC News.