Push to promote Bundy's good side to backpackers
BUNDY farmers and backpacker hostels are calling for the community to spread "positive stories” to combat the negative fallout over the worsening issue of backpacker exploitation.
Comments on online backpacker forums running our city down have left Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers chairman Allan Mahoney and other farmers distraught.
Mr Mahoney said "it hurts so much” to hear reports from backpackers taken for a ride by rogue operators.
"I love this region and everything it has to offer and I wish I could show everyone. There are some fantastic growers out there, great places to work and great experiences.”
It's a case of "bad apples” ruining the bunch, he said.
Mr Mahoney's frustration comes with backpacker welfare once again under the microscope.
Rosie Ayliffe, the mother of a murdered backpacker, visited Bundaberg earlier this year to discuss ways to weed out dodgy labour hire contractors, hostels and growers.
Mia Ayliffe-Chung was doing her 88 days of farm work required under the 417 visa to stay for a second year in Australia when she was stabbed to death by a fellow backpacker at a Home Hill hostel last year.
On Monday night's Australian Story on the ABC, Ms Ayliffe called for a government register to "distribute backpackers to certified farms” which she believes would make backpackers safer.
Mr Mahoney said he "fully” agreed.
But he said Fair Work Australia needed to step up by policing dodgy operators, stamping out a cash culture and delivering harsher penalties.
"Everyone knows it's been happening for years, and it's getting worse.
"Why has it taken (Mia's death) to get to this point of discussion?”
He said its modus operandi of making visits to the region with several weeks' notice needed to change.
"Who are they going to catch? If you're going to catch a burglar you don't put your police light on.”
Mr Mahoney said he now planned to engage Bundaberg Regional Council and the State Government on promoting the region to holiday workers.
On one backpacker forum this week, a traveller said of Bundaberg: "Don't go near the place, it's a dump and all the farmers treat you like sh**. I was there (sic) 5 weeks and worked almost every day and still made a loss of $2k and I don't even drink much. It's basically slavery.”
Others disagreed. "I was at (a Bundaberg hostel) for 6 months and went back twice for work. I loved every day of it!” one girl said.