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If your DC is going on a gap year to Australia read this!

(11 Posts)
juneau Sat 11-Mar-17 10:25:08

Having had lots of friends who went to Australia for a year and who would have done anything to extend that year to two, I can see that this 'Second Working Holiday Visa' will be very popular. This article, written by Rosie Ayliffe, is about what happened to her DD, Mia, who was murdered. But aside from that horrendous fact, the details she gives about the reality of this programme should be common knowledge to any parent or young person considering taking part in it.

Isthiscorrect Sat 11-Mar-17 14:54:24

Heartbreaking. And I didn't know this. To be honest I'm shocked. I always had Australia pegged as a safe place. Of course this could have happened anywhere but .....

JassyRadlett Sat 11-Mar-17 15:22:17

I feel heartbroken for this mother but some of the article really doesn't ring true. She talks about Bundaberg and Gatton as 'destinations with particularly bad reputations' - Bundaberg is a coastal city of 70,000 people with good transport links, and Gatton, being an hour from the state capital with hourly coaches going past and has a university campus, isn't even vaguely remote by British standards, and agricultural properties there will be small.

She also talks about hostels being known fire hazards by linking to a news story about the 2000 fire at a backpackers hostel in Childers - which led to big changes in the law around fire safety from 2001 onwards, including powers of entry for the fire service to accommodation providers.

As I say, I'm so very, very sorry for her, and it looks like the reforms being made to the visa programme are necessary. But I'd take the broader article with a pinch of salt.

bevelino Sun 12-Mar-17 12:28:06

I feel so sad for this poor mother, there can't be anything worse than what happened to her only child.

juneau Sun 12-Mar-17 12:58:36

Thanks Jassy - I don't know Australia very well so I didn't recognise the names of the places she mentioned. However, I can well believe that some farmers will see this as an opportunity to exploit some young Brits (or the other nationalities mentioned). 88 days of very cheap labour from young people desperate to meet the conditions of this visa so they get another year in Australia? That makes them a fairly vulnerable group, I would say.

As for Australia as a 'safe' destination - there are certainly huge numbers of back-packers who head there and most of them don't come to any harm. But for a country with a relatively low population (about 20 million), there have been a fair number of really horrific crimes happening to visitors over the years. There's an article in the Guardian today, which gathers some of them together.

JassyRadlett Sun 12-Mar-17 17:05:13

Yes, there are some high profile and truly horrible cases that get huge coverage here as well as in Australia, understandably. But the homicide rate in Australia is about the same as Canada and the UK, and much lower than eg the US (UN figures). The thing that you didn't mention in your figures isn't the 24 million people, it's the 650,000 backpackers per year, staying an average of 84 days each, and who will often stay in more remote places where risks can be higher as it is easier for people to stay off the grid. I don't think it's ok, at all. But it's worth bearing those numbers in mind at the same time as highlighting the risks of more isolated places to those people.

And I agree that there are no doubt exploitative bosses but the labour would be no cheaper than what is locally available. The reason these visas exist is that they can't get enough locals to do the work, usually. They pay at least minimum wage and employer superannuation contributions on top are compulsory. The minimum wage for over-21s in Australia is AUD17.70 (so around £10/hour). There are no doubt some shit employers out there - as there are here. But it's not slavery, or 'very cheap labour'.

Having travelled a lot, I think there can be a real risk that people let their guard down in countries that feel familiar, but aren't. People who wouldn't dream of spending large amounts of time alone in isolated parts of the UK do it in Australia. The advice from the cop in the article you linked to rings very true to me.

My sole point in my previous post was that the article has enough elements that don't ring true or sound hyperbolic that I'm simply saying it's worth taking with a pinch of salt, and not treating the whole thing as gospel. Do I think that reforms to the visa system would help stop exploitation? Yes, as I said before (and as previous reforms outlawing the 'volunteering' option have done to make it safer). Do I think the work needed to get the second working holiday visa is incredibly hard, in a way that many British backpackers might struggle to understand until they're in the thick of it? Hell yes, particularly given that British farmers struggle to get British people to do agricultural jobs here. I'm not a huge fan of the way the visa is structured in general, because there is definitely a two-tier system to it. But no one is forced to do a second year of travelling round Australia, so I find the comparison with eg the Morcambe Bay cockle-pickers and those exploited by unlicensed gang masters quite distasteful.

bluejelly Sun 12-Mar-17 17:07:29

Good post Jassy

corythatwas Tue 14-Mar-17 11:08:54

It's a horrible tragedy and one can understand her shock and grief colouring every part of this story, but...

she lost me at the point where she seemed to think that the parents of British teenagers should genuinely resent the idea that they might be set to do boring and dirty and back-breaking jobs. Why? Should we expect someone to provide fun and interesting and easy jobs for youngsters who turn up with no training and no skills and no knowledge of the local area? Why? Just because they come from privileged backgrounds?
Who shouldbe doing dirty and back-breaking work if not healthy fit young people who have chosen to do it?

I did a year in the UK as a young student under very similar conditions. My choice. Not only dirty and back-breaking and accommodation filthy, but cold and wet to boot (apart from the weeks it snowed). Desperate and vulnerable hardly seems a reasonable description: if I hadn't liked it, I could have packed it in and gone home. I wasn't fleeing from war or persecution or extreme poverty or any of the things that make people genuinely vulnerable and desperate.

juneau Tue 14-Mar-17 12:35:04

Desperate and vulnerable hardly seems a reasonable description: if I hadn't liked it, I could have packed it in and gone home.

I said they'd likely be 'desperate to stay in Australia', which isn't the same as saying they're 'desperate', which is something you might say about a person fleeing war - not the same thing at all! I do think that young people can be vulnerable to exploitation, but it's a fair point that anyone who manages a gap year in Australia is likely to come from a fairly privileged background.

This too is a fair point people let their guard down in countries that feel familiar, but aren't. Taking off across vast, largely uninhabited areas is a pretty dangerous thing to do, wherever you are.

corythatwas Tue 14-Mar-17 12:45:09

I also wonder if the dirty and back-breaking work is really all that worse than the kind of work that youngsters from a less privileged background might find themselves doing back here in the UK. I live in a far less affluent demographic than the writer and dc' peers, of a similar age, are being recruited by the army or going onto building sites. I doubt they will be either much safer or more comfortable, but for many those are the employment opportunities that are on offer. My own db started out on a trawler, which is a very dangerous job as well as being dirty and uncomfortable.

To me, there is a strong hint here not of "work that youngsters shouldn't be doing", but "work that youngsters like these shouldn't be doing".

JassyRadlett Tue 14-Mar-17 19:19:39

Something else occurred to me and I did some more reading which seemed to confirm it - which is that in Australia, backpackers are disproportionately high users of illegal drugs, both compared to local use and compared to their home countries. Which is not really that surprising but there are a few surveys/studies that back it up. And the problem there is that procuring illegal drugs is likely to put you into closer than usual contact with some pretty unsavoury people.

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