- “I am appalled to hear your opinion on “Australia farmers”,” wrote one of the disgruntled readers.
- “Australian farmers in the outback are the backbone of this country — battling economic and weather set backs on a consistent basis.
- “How dare you come to our country & bad mouth our national treasures — Farmers.
- “The Australian farm couture (sic) is rough and incredibly sexist, Always has been & always will be. Just FYI all Australians are aware of this.”
- “You are a close minded idiot who doesn’t understand these people and hwon (sic) things work out in the sticks. Please leave our farmers alone do NOT continute (sic) with your pathectic (sic) documentary.
Stoner, who wants to use her filmmaking skills to expose the seedy underbelly of the farm work culture in Australia and campaign for stronger safeguards for backpackers, said she was taken aback by the venom of the messages.
“I was surprised by the responses, however I believe this only reiterates the extent of the problem,” she said. However, Stoner said she also received a lot of positive messages and she hasn’t been put her off making her film by the negative messages. “If anything they’ve made me more determined,” she added.
With her best friend, the then 18-year-old flew to Sydney shortly after she finished school — ready for adventure. “I wanted to go to Australia to travel and work on the other side of the world,” she said. “But when we landed in Sydney, we found it hard to find work.
“We were both 18 with little experience and qualifications. So, we were applying for jobs in bars and cafes but we weren’t getting anywhere.” It was then the young Brits saw adverts online for farm and fruit-picking jobs in the bush. “It seemed really easy. All we had to do was email them and they said, ‘Come on over,’” said Stoner.
The pair packed up and jumped on an eight-hour train ride. “We got work pretty quickly and, within a few days of being there, we were in the fields picking peaches,” she said. “There was about 10 of us in total.” “It was long hours and long days in the sun, but the pay was OK so we didn’t mind. “But it didn’t take long until we had picked all the peaches and the work ran out. “He (the farmer) told the others that the work had dried up but for some reason he asked just me and my friend to stay on if we wanted.
“He would give us odd little jobs like trimming trees and that was when he started to get really weird. “My friend and I were out picking peaches alone in the field on a really scorching, sweaty day and he came over. He said we should work naked.” Stoner said the farmer then left but returned five minutes later asking why the pair hadn’t taken him up on his offer.
“We just didn’t know how to react,” she said. “We were just 18 in this field alone with this man with nobody else for miles around. I was really shook up by it. “We just held on to the end of the day and quit the next day.”
Hoping the experience was just a one-off example of a bad employer, the pair stuck around for more farm work which came soon after. They landed a two-week gig cleaning muddied garlic on a conveyor belt for 10 hours a day with eight other female backpackers. “The farmers were shouting at us, telling us to work faster,” she said. “But, after a few days, then one of the older farmers picked up a garlic with these long green leaves and he started lightly tapping one of the girl’s bare legs.
“He then started circling us and gave us all a cheeky smack on our legs. He knew he could get away with it.” The pair said they were too scared to report the behaviour to the police and thought it was just part of farm work for backpackers. “We’ve heard of so many backpackers who have gone through similar experiences — they’ve heard farmers being racist or verbally abusive,” said Stoner. “I have even heard about instances of backpackers being physically assaulted by farmers.”
The film, 88 Days, is expected to be out by winter 2018 and Stoner is currently crowd-funding to help pay for filming.
Acceptable behaviour? so what is Australia (and its government) going to do about it? Have your say, this is what some Australians think —
‘It reflects the sexism that is instilled in the culture out there, and shows exactly how they feel about outsiders.”
The angry email writer went on, saying Stoner was not welcome in Australia and she shouldn’t bother making her film.
“Your article and documentary will be no shock to anyone in this country,” the email read.
“Your pathetic attempt to categorize (sic) all farmers to be this way will be shut down immediately by the public so quickly I promise you that.
“I beg you please, do not come to my country anymore. do not come into a couture (sic) and expect the people to behave how YOU want.