8 Taiwanese women sexually abused in Australia on fruit-picking working holiday

Female working holiday visa holders fell victims to debt bondage, expected to perform sexual acts to cover expenses on farm


(AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Eight Taiwanese women have fallen prey to working holiday exploitation in Australia, where they were "expected" to perform sexual acts on a farm where they were in debt bondage, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed on Thursday (Dec. 5).

The young Taiwanese women were working under the 457 visa on a fruit-picking farm in the Riverland region of South Australia. According to the United Workers Union report, the women were paid AU$16 an hour (NT$334), which is far below the average hourly rate of between AU$20-25 for farm work and below Australia's national minimum wage of AU$18.93 an hour.

Their Australian employer is said to have not only paid the women substandard wages, but he also charged each of them AU$120 a week for accommodation and AU$20 and AU$25 weekly for internet and transport, respectively.

Given the low wages and high cost of living, the women could not afford to pay their bills on the farm. Their employer then coerced the women into performing sexual acts in exchange for being allowed to work additional hours to cover expenses, according to the report.

The women reportedly endured such conditions for six months before reporting their employer to a local superior. They are believed to have since left the country.

On Thursday, MOFA spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) said the women had gone to Australia on working holiday visas in 2018 and that they had not contacted the ministry's Australian office for assistance. Ou warned Taiwanese planning a working holiday in Australia to exercise extra caution. They can call the emergency line at +886 800-085-095 or contact Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman or Fair Work Commission if there is anything wrong, she added.

Women are particularly cautioned to be aware of their working conditions and safety while on working holidays. Thousands of working holiday visa holders have shared their own stories of exploitation in Australia's agricultural sector on social media.

Earlier this year, an Australian man was found guilty of raping a Belgian backpacker who sought a temporary job on his farm in February 2017. When the 24-year-old woman arrived at the farm, ostensibly for a job interview, the farmer instead held her captive for two days in a pig shed, where she was held at gunpoint and sexually assaulted multiple times before she managed to escape.