Rape, exploitation: The 88 days of hell for rural backpacker

 

THE mother of murdered backpacker, Mia Ayliffe-Chung, is calling for a royal commission into the fruit and vegetable industry after tales of horrific sexual assault and exploitation against expats continue to emerge.

Rosie Ayliffe's fight for regulation to the 417 visa scheme has been five years in the making, and her final call for action is penned in her new book, Far From Home.

Mia was killed by French traveller, Smail Ayad, while she was staying at a Home Hill hostel to complete her 88 days of rural work to extend her working visa.

Fellow British man, Tom Jackson, died in hospital as a result of his injuries while trying to save Mia.

During her four short days in North Queensland before her death, Mia had already realised the issues in the unregulated scheme.

After Mia's death, Rosie was inundated with stories from other travellers saying they'd been exploited, kept in debt, had their passports taken away, and even raped or assaulted.

Rosie made it her mission to bring to light these issues.

Rosie Ayliffe with her dog in Matlock. PHOTO: KORAY EROL
Rosie Ayliffe with her dog in Matlock. PHOTO: KORAY EROL

"I wanted to get the word out on what's happening out there … I think there are a lot of people who still don't realise that there's this scheme that's so flawed, with so many issues," Rosie said.

"The most frequent (story) is travelling across Australia, and there being very little work, and lots of competition for work.

"I've heard when people aren't prepared, they are thrown out. One woman had her belongings tipped on a road for using a washing machine.

"Thankfully, she was picked up by two guys and luckily they helped her.

"But then, there is stories where things do go the wrong way.

"The scheme needs real reform, and for it to be policed."

Mia Ayliffe-Chung, who was fatally stabbed aged 20 in an attack at a Queensland backpacker's hostel in 2016, pictured with her mother Rosie Ayliffe.
Mia Ayliffe-Chung, who was fatally stabbed aged 20 in an attack at a Queensland backpacker's hostel in 2016, pictured with her mother Rosie Ayliffe.

 

Rosie Ayliffe pictured with her daughter Mia Ayliffe-Chung who was fatally stabbed in an attack at a Queensland backpacker's hostel in 2016.
Rosie Ayliffe pictured with her daughter Mia Ayliffe-Chung who was fatally stabbed in an attack at a Queensland backpacker's hostel in 2016.

There have been some successes at state levels, including labour hire licensing schemes which meant employers must pass a test and comply with workplace laws.

Australia's Modern Slavery Act came into effect in January 2019, recognising the need to tackle sexual slavery, orphan trafficking, debt bondage, forced labour, forced marriage, servitude and more.

"However, the act was a significant moment, and a crucial part of Tom and Mia's legacy," Rosie writes in her book.

Mia Ayliffe-Chung was killed at a Home Hill hostel in 2016.
Mia Ayliffe-Chung was killed at a Home Hill hostel in 2016.

"It means that my daughter, and the brave man who tried to save her life, did not die in vain."

But, Rosie needs federal legislation change, and has called for a royal commission to air the scheme's dirty laundry.

Rosie said her daughter would be proud, but slightly embarrassed, about all the attention she's getting from her fight for change.

"I don't think I'd be able to do it if she was here," Rosie laughed.

 

shayla.bulloch@news.com.au

Originally published as Rape, exploitation, assault: The 88 days of hell for rural backpackers



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