SLAVE LABOUR: Stephanie Banasko tells of her backpacking experience in Bundaberg.
SLAVE LABOUR: Stephanie Banasko tells of her backpacking experience in Bundaberg. contributed

'88 days of slavery': Bundy backpacker's shock at conditions

"88 DAYS a slave". That's how one backpacker has described her time working in the Bundaberg region.

Travelling across the globe with dreams of clear oceans, surfing, greenery and time at the beach with new-found friends, Stephanie Banasko said they arrived in Australia seeking 88 days of farm work which would allow them to stay in the country for two years.

The reality of farm work however, was far from what she had anticipated.

"Full of a tender and naive hope, my mind had visions of being bare foot in fresh soil picking fruit in the morning sun," she said.

"This experience is still possible, but it's not all rainbows and butterflies.

"It's waking up at the crack of dawn, hard graft, long hours and ruthlessly repetitive which is mentally draining but if you drop on to a good job it can be a magical time. Alas, for the few lucky ones."

The backpacker claimed a hostel she stayed at in the region was "falsely advertising jobs on their website that don't exist" to "entice people in, take all their hard-earned money for rent, put them on a piece rate job which is slave labour and further trap them by holding a security bond that you don't get back without providing two weeks notice before fleeing".

She said they had inflicted damage onto people's dreams and lives and they shouldn't get away with it because there are thousands of backpackers being mistreated.

Paying $235 a week to stay in one place, she said the sound of the place was enough to make her shiver.

"You pay for (the) luxury of sharing a kitchen with 100 people, a room with three others that's not big enough to swing a cat in, bathrooms so dirty you feel cleaner before you shower and the pleasure of having cockroaches and mice as dinner dates," she said.

"Volatile management see you as cattle and they get away with it because we are that desperate for a job so we can continue travel that we accept anything. But I say nope, the space for improvement is too real.

"What's essentially an inspiring idea giving farmers cheap labour and an opportunity to encounter new thoughts from a multinational work force is being diminished by unethical practices."

The manager of the local hostel where the backpacker stayed said farm work could be unpredictable due to weather, but backpackers were made aware if that scenario should arise via email.

She said ask any farmer, farm work was hard work which could see you working between 4-8 hours a day, up to seven days a week.

The manager said 99 per cent of people at their hostel were happy and many came back.



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