change.org petition set up to persuade the Australian Government to regulate work visa scheme
A petition has been set up by Rosie Ayliffe (mother of slain backpacker Mia)
Tom Jackson and my daughter Mia were working under extreme duress in a highly charged and aggressive atmosphere at a hostel in Townsville when their lives were tragically cut short. The conditions which these youngsters are enduring in order to obtain a second year visa to stay in Australia are unacceptable. This seems to be ignored by the Australian authorities, but it is also – to date – largely unpublicised in Britain.
The problem seems to be that the farmwork is largely unregulated in terms of health and safety, and due diligence to workers. My daughter was working in cane fields in Queensland, the notorious domain of a variety of poisonous snakes and spiders, and had no health and safety induction.
The injustices towards these young travellers are many and varied across the industry. For example, in some instances young people are not allowed to drink adequate quantities of water while working, and can therefore end up hospitalised from heat exhaustion and sun stroke. Some pay exorbitant fees for unsanitary hostels, others meet injury and even death through inadequate training in the operation of the machinery they are employed to use. Snakes are an everyday threat in Australia generally: Mia had no induction in how to deal with a snake bite, and farms do not keep anti-venom on the premises. There are even cases of financial and sexual exploitation of young people in exchange for the signing off of visa documents.
So what is the Australian government doing?
Australian PM pledge after stabbing
Australia’s Prime Minister has written to the mother of a stabbed backpacker promising to look into her concerns about the safety of travellers.
Mia Ayliffe-Chung, 20, was killed at a workers’ hostel in Home Hill, near Townsville, in Queensland in August.
Mother Rosie Ayliffe, from Derbyshire, called for Australian farm work to be regulated, saying an “aggressive atmosphere” contributed to Mia’s death.
In his letter, Malcolm Turnbull pledged $20m to tackle staff exploitation.
Ms Ayliffe-Chung was doing unpaid work to earn a visa that would allow her to stay longer in the country.
Mrs Ayliffe said her daughter talked about the farm where she worked as if it was a “prison camp” and said “there was a tone of anxiety in her messages”.
On 23 August, she was stabbed to death at the farm’s hostel and another backpacker Thomas Jackson, who was also stabbed, died in hospital.
Smail Ayad, 29, a French national, has been charged with Ms Ayliffe-Chung’s murder and that of Mr Jackson.
Following her daughter’s death Mrs Ayliffe started a campaign and petition calling on the Australian government to introduce basic standards and a duty of care in the industry. Mr Turnbull wrote back and said as well as extra funding for the Fair Work Ombudsman, “higher penalties” would be introduced for those who exploited migrant workers.
He also expressed his sympathy for her loss and thanked Mrs Ayliffe for her interest in protecting young backpackers.
Mrs Ayliffe said: “If you’re up all night and all day suffering the grief I’m suffering, then it’s good to have something to work on.
“It’s a vindication because evidently Malcolm Turnbull recognises there’s an issue in his country, so it’s huge.
“It’s nice to feel we might be making a difference out there.”
Sourced by Chris Harrison