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How a postcode glitch means farmers are turning backpackers away

November 6th, 2017 | | industry

For backpackers trying to obtain a second year work visa, the numbers are very important. The hours, the dates, and especially the (regional) postcode. One remote farming area in southern Queensland knows this only too well – as according to the government, it does not fall into a regional area.

Mount Binga is a suburb in the Toowoomba Region of Queensland with a population of less than 70 people. Its postcode is 4306, which it shares with Ipswich. Ipswich us 40km west of Brisbane and with a considerably higher population of around 20,000.

Mount Binga is also home to avocado farms which are in dire need of extra farm hands – in a perfect world, backpackers would help pick the crop, but for more than a decade, due to this postcode glitch, farmers have been turning away working holiday makers.

“It’s a real head scratcher,” says Tommy Leiper, manager of Bunk Backpackers in Brisbane who regularly gives advice to guests who are looking to extend their stay in Australia. “I’m not sure what the farmers in Mount Binga are doing, whether they’re banding together to change this or lobbying at a local level, but it’s a real anomaly that must be very frustrating for them.”

The Byte spoke to Tommy about how he navigates the often challenging Subclass 462 visa with all its rules, changes and postcode anomalies. And of course, the horror stories we hear about. “We’ve established good relationships with operators in Queensland,” he said. “Farmers that we trust and would happily recommend to travellers who wish to obtain their second year visa. Places in Gin Gin and Bundaberg predominately.

“We also recommend some great agencies, who will, for a small fee, help backpackers find regional work. Using these agencies comes with a sense of accountability that makes the system a lot fairer.”

When asked about the general feeling amongst backpackers amidst all the horror stories, Tommy said they seem to be alert but not alarmed.

“They’re mindful,” he said. “I would say they’re more cautious than ever but there’s a wealth of information out there to support them as they try to find work. Unfortunately it’s the horror stories that we keep hearing,” he added. “Sadly a lot of the good operators get missed.”

As for the avocado and macadamia farmers in Mount Binga – they are crying out for extra help and would no doubt be able to give backpackers a good home for their 88 days.

The Department of Immigration said regional postcodes were chosen to “address chronic and severe labour market shortages in Australia’s major agricultural regions”. Unfortunately this one got missed.

What can the farmers of Mount Binga do to fix this unfortunate postcode issue? Have your say.

Written by Alex Harmon.

Source: ABC