Rosie Ayliffe discovers 'horror stories of extreme proportions' about working holidays in Australia

Mrs Ayliffe has written an open letter urging the Australian government to change the current regulations

Monday 12 September 2016 13:08 BST
Rosie Ayliffe (L) and her daughter Mia
Rosie Ayliffe (L) and her daughter Mia

Rosie Ayliffe, Mia Ayliffe-Chung’s mother, has discovered "horror stories of extreme proportions", about working conditions on Australian farms.

Mia Ayliffe-Chung is the 21-year-old British backpacker who was stabbed to death in Australia at the hostel where she was staying.

Like many other visitors, Mia had to find 88 days of work on a farm to extend her visa and stay in Australia for a second year.

She was in Queensland in order to fulfil these requirements, during which time she complained to her mother about the working conditions.

Mrs Ayliffe has written an open letter advising the Australian Government to change the current regulations. “I urge you to consider whether this situation is satisfactory in terms of its humanitarian impact and relations between our two Commonwealth countries,” she said.

Talking to The Independent, Mrs Ayliffe said: “It was Mia’s idea. I didn’t realise until I met her friend who told me that she had an idea that Australia needed a centralised database through which young people could access what farm work is available, what the pay is, and what working conditions are like."

“I think we need a regulated industry, with proper checks and balances, and health and safety inductions. These are all the things we expect and they are all guaranteed by EU regulations to our workers in this country.

“I knew before I went out there Mia was suffering from extreme working conditions. Long hours picking up stones in a field,” she told The Independent.

“She was very worried about not getting enough work. She was working through weekends and must have been exhausted. She was in serious danger of snake bites and wasn’t given any induction of what to do if she saw a snake while working.”

Mrs Ayliffe said that if she had known about the dangerous conditions that her daughter was exposed to, she “would have done everything in my power to prevent her completing this 88 days of dangerous and backbreaking work.”

Read the letter in full:

To whom it may concern,

I am writing with regard to the death of my daughter and to the farm work service currently in place in Australia as part of second-year visa requirements..

I was advised to contact you, Sham Chakrabarti, by the Labour Party of which I am an active member, and I am hoping you would consider raising the issue in the UK Parliament. Michael Pezullo, I believe you are the contact in immigration with a direct line to Malcolm Turnbull, who I believe is concerned already about Mia's death. Please thank him for his condolences in this matter.

Mia did not die as a result of her work in Townsville. Her death has created huge media attention, and this has been pursued avidly in the Australian and British press. She was a pretty girl, an heroic attempt was made to save her life, and her killer was purportedly of Muslim origin. All fodder for the Australian and British press...

One journalist however is taking it further, and making the connection between Mia's death, and the extraordinary conditions which these youngsters are enduring in order to obtain a second year visa to stay in Australia. This seems to be ignored by the Australian authorities, but it is also - to date - largely unpublicised in Britain.

The problem seems to be that the farm work is largely unregulated in terms of health and safety, and due diligence to workers. In contrast, Australian industry appears to be highly regulated (I was particularly impressed by the recently imposed and stringent laws controlling the entertainment industry). The farm work, however, which is carried out by non-Australian nationals in order to bolster the Australian economy, is largely unregulated. My daughter was working in cane fields in Queensland, the notorious domain of a variety of snakes, and had no heath and safety induction.

During and subsequent to my visit to Australia, I have made new contacts and am discovering horror stories of extreme proportions. Young people are not allowed to drink adequate water while working, and end up hospitalised from heat exhaustion and sun stroke. Some pay exorbitant fees for unsanitary hostels, others meet injury and even death through inadequate training in the operation of the machinery they are employed to use. There are even cases of sexual exploitation of young people in exchange for the signing off of visa documents.

I urge you to consider whether this situation is satisfactory in terms of its humanitarian impact and relations between our two Commonwealth countries. As a parent I breathed a sigh of relief when my daughter reached Australia because your crime rate is so low compared to some of the nations she had travelled through. If I had known of the dangers to which she would be exposed in order to apply for her visa, I would have done everything in my power to prevent her completing this 88 days of dangerous and backbreaking work.

I hope to hear from you regarding this matter.

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