Backpackers leave town after 'unethical' experience
INSTEAD of saving money and securing their visas at farms in the Lockyer Valley, six backpackers have described their stay in Gatton as a waste of time.
The two individual groups of backpackers travelled to Gatton after they were guaranteed jobs but as soon as they arrived they were locked into rental contracts and given next to no work.
Jacob Hayes and Miki Sakai are $300 worse off after spending just four days renting a Railway St address from Amboina Pty Ltd owner Mayla Patterson.
The couple arrived on February 9 in a bid to work towards their Second Working Holiday Visas but after receiving just one shift between them and being housed in "disgusting" conditions they decided to leave.
"We were promised by Garth, who we were speaking to on backpacker job board, that when we arrived we would get work straight away," Mr Hayes said.
Garth Williams is an alleged employee of Amboina Pty Ltd, a company owned by Ms Patterson, which provides backpackers with accommodation and puts them in contact with contractors.
Before arriving in Gatton, Mr Hayes received an email from Mr Williams telling him to "expect to work an average of five days per week for about six to eight hours per day".
But the work was never supplied. Mr Hayes said he and his partner spent more time cleaning a house littered with food scraps and infested by cockroaches.
Ms Patterson said she tried to supply backpackers with work but sometimes there was none available.
"It's very tough at the moment because of the drought," Ms Patterson said.
The Gatton Star visited five of the accommodation locations rented or owned by Ms Patterson and spoke to more than 15 backpackers.
The overwhelming majority of backpackers said they had not received the hours they were told to expect just weeks before they arrived in Gatton.
English backpackers Ryan Tough, Robert Lebbon, Ben Barrett and Daniel Traher arrived in Gatton on February 21, hoping to sign off hours for their visas.
But after three days' work and two weeks staying in accommodation provided by Ms Patterson, 24-year-old Mr Lebbon said they were no closer to their goal.
"We have no documents to say we've been there other than just the messages," Mr Lebbon said.
"We got paid once, it was $32 for five hours' work but we have no payslips.
"We were (working to the limit) for five hours and we have nothing to show for it."
Ms Patterson said backpackers had to prove themselves before securing an hourly wage.
Mr Lebbon said since leaving on February 28, the group had not received their $200 bond back from Ms Patterson despite being told they would receive it immediately.
Ms Patterson said she didn't return their bond straight away because she was busy caring for a sick family member but they would receive it shortly.
The Office of Industrial Relations said they were unable to comment on investigations that might be under way.