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You Can Stay Here…but Only If We Can Exploit You First

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by Lisa Johnson

12 months ago

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Sometimes I have the opportunity to have interesting conversations with people who think very differently than I do.  OK, these conversations don’t tend to go too well.  I am not known for keeping my opinions to myself and I have, on more than one occasion, told someone they are just plain ignorant and possibly stupid.  But I will admit when I am wrong and I will apologise if someone is hurt by my comments, so I am not all that bad! One conversation that can get me completely riled up is one that starts with “they take all our jobs” statement.  I can go straight to ‘defcon 5’ on this one.  Because what jobs are they talking about?  The fruit picking jobs out in the regional areas of Australia that the backpackers do to earn their second year visa?  

Where it appears, some have been badly ripped off and exploited?  Are these jobs available because ‘Aussies’ have said “you can bugger off, I am not working in 40 degree heat with one bottle of water for no money; I would rather be on the dole?” Rightly so, because no one should be asked to work under those conditions.  Do we honestly ask visitors to our country to work under difficult conditions, with the possibility they could be exploited, by holding out the second year visa carrot? What kind of country are we to do things like that to people? What is wrong with our visa system that people could possibly be exploited, just so they can stay a little longer? 

We employ a lot of people on working holiday visas.  It’s not terribly unusual for a temp on a working holiday visa (417 or 462) to work for an Australian employer for 6 months straight, and we quickly find them other work when they want it.  

The working holiday visa is supposed to be for people who come here to travel around the country as a tourist, and working holiday makers (WHM’s) certainly do this, but they also work to fund their travels.  And some of them work quite a lot. I cannot tell you how many people come here on their WHM visa and who find work really quickly.  

Those with previous office experience in their home country are often snapped up within days of hitting our shores.  They are not pretentious, they generally work hard and are reliable and they love our lifestyle.  When summer comes and a cashed up WHM finds themselves at the Opera Bar in Sydney with the breeze rifling through their hair and cold champagne in hand...you may just see tears of joy in their eyes and a resolution to stay as long as they can; because THIS is the life! And to let them stay we make them work in jobs where they could be exploited.  Oh the shame

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