‘Get naked if you like’: the Australian working holiday from hell

Stoner found her time working in rural Australia punctuated by intimidation and degrading incidents at the hands of male farmers. At one isolated farm a middle-aged farmer suggested she and her friend Elle Kerridge should pick fruit naked. At another, more disturbing forms of harassment occurred.

Foreign backpackers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation because they must spend 88 days in a rural area in order to secure a second year on their working holiday visas. A whole industry of hostels offering job services has sprung up as a result of the policy. But it has also meant that workers, particularly female workers, are prepared to endure harassing and even illegal behaviour to secure their second year here.

Now studying film-making at University of Lincoln, Stoner has decided to return to Australia to make a documentary on the topic. She’s raising money on an incubator site and working on pre-production of 88 Days, the working title of her project. She hopes to be back in Australia in time to film in the fruit-picking season.

A major study released last month by three Sydney universities, based on responses to an online survey by 4,322 foreign temporary workers, found workplace exploitation was “endemic and severe”.


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