A quick search of the keywords “fruit picking in Australia” on Google would result in pages and pages of job vacancies, especially towards the end of the year which is also the harvest season in The Land Down Under.
In recent years, these fruit picking jobs have become more and more popular for the sole reason that it promotes working while travelling.
Who wouldn’t want a working holiday, right?
We’ve heard so many success stories people who enjoyed their gap year picking fruits to fuel their wanderlust travelling around Australia.
But as it turns out, this industry is not as fruity and dandy as it seems.
A reporter from Utusan Malaysia discovered the harsh realities behind the fruit picking industry in The Land Down Under
after going undercover for two weeks in Swan Hill, northern Victoria.
According to Saiful Haizan Hasam, he heard thousands of sad stories of foreigners being exploited in situations that almost equates to modern slavery.
He said the workers were often tricked into working in Australia, some illegally, with promises of high income, as reported by South China Morning Post
However, the workers would end up with small wages, paying overpriced rents in overcrowded homes and ultimately trapped in debt.
The journalist had arrived in Australia last year disguised as a fruit picker who was prepared to work illegally.
He was reportedly paid AUD110 (RM357) after working for a total of 24 hours over four days
. Then, he had to pay AUD80 (RM259) rent for a small home he shared with 11 other workers
, most of them were Malaysians. In the end, he was left with only AUD20 (RM65)
after being short-changed AUD10 (RM33) by his contractor.
This was the same pitiful situation he heard over and over again from the other fruit pickers. Most of the time, they would have just enough money for food and rental, kissing their working holiday dreams goodbye.
On Monday, Saiful reportedly told the modern slavery inquiry investigating this situation that the workers could be brainwashed
The house leaders would tell the workers, “Please be patient, this is your test coming to Australia. One fine day, you will get enough money. This is normal for everybody”, as reported by South China Morning Post.
On this topic, Citrus Australia chairwoman Tania Chapman reportedly said farmers and growers should not be blamed because they often pay sufficient amount to the businesses employing foreign fruit pickers but it was not reflected in the wages.
She urged labourers to know their rights and responsibilities, and understand Australia’s immigration law
to avoid being exploited by these businesses.
So, if you’re planning to take a break and go fruit picking for a few months, you might want to hold that thought for a bit until the Australian government sorts this out.