National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson is imploring anyone with experience or knowledge of mistreatment when working on Australian farms to inform the appropriate authorities.
“I continue to be sickened to learn of instances where often young men and women, many visitors to our country, are subject to mistreatment when working on Australian farms.
“Seasonal, short term workers are at the heart of our sector. Without them it just wouldn’t be possible to plant, pick and pack our produce and get it to market.”
“As a community, we must all work together to stamp out such abhorrent conduct, conduct that is not befitting of the standards and expectations of contemporary Australia and in some cases is simply illegal.
“Today and every day, I compel workers, who believe they have been mistreated to report their experience to the appropriate authority.
“If a worker believes they have been under paid, they must inform the Fair Work Ombudsman by calling 13 13 94.
“If the mistreatment is of a potential criminal nature, such as sexual assault, it is a police matter. A complaint should be made to the local police, Crime Stoppers on 1300 333 000 or in the case of an emergency, by calling 000.
“Community members, be they politicians, farmers, or farm workers, also have a duty to report operators potentially doing the wrong thing. Politicising and opportunistic statements are one thing, actions and solutions are another.
“It is important to highlight these issues in public discourse, but to get real action the available channels must also be utilised.
“Reporting, investigating and ultimately holding to account those not complying with the law, is the most effective deterrent.”
Ms Simson said reports of workers being underpaid was damaging to Australia’s reputation as a place of choice to live and work.
“The actions of a very few, inflict a stain on our industry, that very unfortunately threatens to tarnish the reputation of majority of the growers who do the right thing.
“Most importantly, these actions have a profound, often long-lasting damaging impact on the men and women subject to them.”
The NFF’s Horticulture Council has spearheaded efforts to stamp out worker mistreatment and supports the grower-led Fair Farms initiative. Fair Farms supports all members of the Australian horticulture supply chain with the tools, information and training they need to be a compliant and ethical employer.
“We have long called for the introduction of a national labour hire regulation scheme, to hold labour hire entities to account, which research shows is a link in the ag workforce, where wrong doing occurs,” Ms Simson said.
The introduction of a dedicated ag workforce solution, as called for by the NFF for four years now, would ensure foreign workers holding the visa would only be placed with fully accredited employers.
“I am angered by almost weekly media reports of workers having what can be a frightening experience on Australian farms.
“Enough is enough. I can’t be more direct, if you are a farm worker and you believe you have been subject to mistreatment, you must report your experience either to the Fair Work Ombudsman or the police,” Ms Simson said.
Other useful resources about workplace safety, rights and conditions are: Fair Work Ombudsman’s Horticulture Showcase, SafeWork Australia, Jobsearch and the Australian Human Rights Commission.
“We want you and others after you to have a positive experience on our farms, to do that we must work together to call out and weed out, those standing in the way,” Ms Simson said.