Rape, sex, exploitation: Life as a Lockyer Valley worker

ALLEGATIONS of rape, sexual exploitation, underpayment and exorbitant rental rates against backpackers in the Lockyer Valley will be aired as part of a state inquiry into labour hire practices.

Lockyer Multicultural Association vice president Margaret Cole submitted her scathing five-page document into the state's Labour Hire Industry inquiry last month.

Mrs Cole, who teaches English to migrant workers in the Lockyer Valley on working holiday visas, raised serious allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination housing and payment violations by contract labour hire companies in the region.

The submission alleges one contractor raped a female worker while another propositioned two women by text message, offering them money in return for sex.

Another refused to sign off on a worker's visa unless the woman had sex with the contractor, Mrs Cole claimed, while a farm supervisor discriminated against other workers by ordering instructions in a language spoken only by him and a select few other employees.

"Many houses in our areas are rented to, or owned by, contractors to sub-let to their workers," Mrs Cole submitted.

"These contractors can make big money by renting a house at a reasonable price and filling it with workers at $100 - $150 per person per week.

"I have heard of a house with 21 people living there.

"This is a very dangerous practice and the time will come when we have a serious problem such as at the Childers hostel."

Fifteen backpackers died at the Childers Palace Backpackers Hostel when a fire was deliberately lit the morning of June 23, 2000.

The Lockyer Valley Regional Council is also expected to testify in the inquiry after it tabled a submission outlining its understanding of allegations of exploitation, harassment and worker mistreatment.

Following extensive public consultation, the council submitted possible solutions to the issues at the hands of "relatively unregulated contractors and their associated clients".

"Although the situation is complex and no single solution will ensure the protection of these workers, stronger workplace protections and more resources dedicated to the compliance and monitoring work of bodies such as the (Fair Work Ombudsman) will reduce the non-compliance incidents by employers and hence reduce some areas of exploitation," the submission signed by LVRC CEO Ian Flint read.

Hearings will be held in Brisbane tomorrow before moving to regional areas from next week.


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