UK travellers describe farm nightmare
BRITISH travellers Megan Chinery and Dan Judd came to Bundaberg with a sense of adventure - but, left close to broke and battling just for their basic rights, the couple is preparing to leave town.
The claims come amid a Four Corners episode putting a spotlight on a lack of foreign workers' rights in Australia.
Mr Judd described their time on a Bundaberg mandarin farm as a "nightmare".
"While I was working there was only two toilets for 200 people and the one closest to me hadn't been cleaned for a while and was completely backed up with people's 'you know' and if you wanted to go you couldn't," he said.
The couple said there was no soap or toilet paper and only small drums of drinking water provided for the workers.
Miss Chinery said she was even reprimanded for wanting to take a toilet break and was told to "get back to (her) row".
"We got told off for going to the toilet and they called us back," she said.
To add insult to injury, Miss Chinery and Mr Judd have had to lodge complaints with Fair Work after they were not paid for the days they worked.
"You go to the farm in the van and we sat there for about three hours doing nothing and then we weren't told it's $150 a bin you pick, split between three people," she said.
"We worked from 10 'til six."
Miss Chinery said female workers were often judged on appearance.
"I've heard it's really based on looks and if the farmer likes you or not," she said.
She said her friend, Charlotte, had been fired from a farm "just because the farmer didn't like her".
The pair has since left the hostel where they were staying and found accommodation in exchange for some work and said a flower farm had also offered them some employment until they could get back on their feet.
"We're lucky we've got some UK money as a back-up," Miss Chinery said.
"We definitely won't be recommending anyone to come here now because we wouldn't want them to be stuck."
Bundaberg Backpackers owner Craig Corpe said he was aware of the wage concerns raised by the couple who were staying at his hostel, but said he was not responsible for the pair's pay.
"We weren't the contractors," he said.
"We provide the accommodation and transport to the farm."
He said he helped refer the couple on to the relevant authorities and encouraged others to change their view of backpackers.
"What I've found is possibly that our backpackers as a group have a reputation that doesn't belong to them," he said.
"In a general sense some of them are highly skilled and academic.
"We should feel ourselves fortunate they're here. They support our town and they're only here because the farmers wouldn't get their crops off any other way."
The labour contractor for the mandarin farm was unable to be contacted.
Miss Chinery and Mr Judd said they had encountered fees in Bundaberg backpacker hostels that they hadn't experienced anywhere else.
This included being asked to pay a $150 work deposit if they wanted to stay at Cell Block Backpackers.
When contacted, an employee at Cell Block said they had charged the deposit to make sure workers turned up every day work was available because they would lose their deposit if they didn't.
He said the fee was no longer charged.
A spokeswoman for the Fair Work Ombudsman said it was not possible to comment on workplace issues unless an inspector had carried out an independent assessment.
Any worker or employer seeking advice or assistance should get in touch with the Fair Work Ombudsman at http://www.fairwork.gov.au or by calling 13 13 94.
A free interpreter service is available by calling 13 14 50.