'Racial abuse' at strawberry farm

Junichi Tomotaki and Hiromi Matsuki say they were racially abused and their car damaged by an angry employer.
Junichi Tomotaki and Hiromi Matsuki say they were racially abused and their car damaged by an angry employer. Warren Lynam

A YOUNG Japanese couple have had their dream working holiday in Australia ruined after allegedly being racially abused by the owner of the Chevallum strawberry farm where they worked.

Junichi Tomotaki and his girlfriend, Hiromi Matsuki, allege Koogie Downs owner Bernie Daniels racially abused them and smashed the windscreen of their car when they went to the farm last Friday to collect their final pay.

It is the second time in two months that the long-standing farm has found itself at the centre of a racism row.

In July, a Today Tonight investigation found that the farm only employed Asians (it now employs some whites), who were then underpaid or not paid at all, abused, degraded and forced to work in dangerous conditions.

Mr Tomotaki, 29, and Ms Matsuki, 26, who had worked at the farm for three weeks, claimed they witnessed Mr Daniels abusing workers but they were not abused until last Friday.

Along with collecting their pay, they wanted to find out why Mr Daniels had terminated their employment the day before.

The couple, who have been working their way around Australia for about six months, said Mr Daniels refused to speak to them but then confronted them as they tried to leave in their car.

They claimed he blocked them from leaving with his body and screamed insults at them.

“He said, ‘Go back home, f***ing Japanese,’” Ms Matsuki, a Tokyo-based graphic designer, said.

“We were in the car and tried to leave. We wanted to go back home, but he stood in front (of the car) and smashed the windscreen (with his hand).”

Both the couple and Mr Daniels reported the incident to Maroochydore police on Friday.

Mr Tomotaki, a Tokyo-based salesman, said police had told him that Mr Daniels had claimed he tried to run him over.

“We didn’t do anything to him … it’s a lie,” he said, adding that he wanted his ex-boss to pay for the damage to the car, which he owned.

Mr Daniels’ wife, Revleigh, said her husband reacted to Mr Tomotaki doing burn-outs on their property.

“He was the one at fault,” Ms Daniels said.

“He’ll get a doctor’s bill if he’s not careful.”

Sergeant Bill Morris of Maroochydore police said Mr Daniels was being investigated for wilful damage, but would not reveal the farmer’s complaint.

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