National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar says a report today by the ABC of the alleged sexual harassment of female backpackers on a Queensland farm is horrifying and industry and government has to do more to better protect farm workers.
“The detailed accounts from a number of female backpackers of alleged sexual harassment by a farmer for whom they were working, are nothing short of horrifying.
“I acknowledge the bravery of these the young women in speaking out and importantly, taking the matter up with police.
“All workers have the right to feel safe when working on Australian farms. Where an employer’s actions are proven to have breached their legal obligation they must be held to account.”
Mr Mahar said the NFF took seriously its role in ensuring workers had a positive experience on Australian farms and was developing a program to make clear that the sector would not tolerate sexual harassment and to ensure farm employers understood and discharged their legal and ethical obligations.
“The program is intended to drive cultural and behavioural change in the farm workplace. The NFF has also reached out to the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to have input into this important initiative.
“As a nation we are in the midst of an important time reflecting on and importantly taking action to ensure women are safe; are treated with respect and are valued.
“This conversation is happening at dinner tables, in schools and in workplaces across Australia and the agriculture sector is no exception.
“The majority of farmers act in accordance with the law and workers and farmers enjoy a positive partnership in getting food and fibre from farm to market.
“However, one instance of mistreatment or harassment is one too many.”
Mr Mahar said the NFF’s ongoing call to Government to reform the visa system could play an important role in protecting backpackers.
“A dedicated agriculture visa solution would require farm employers to be accredited to access the visa program. The accreditation process would include training and require a demonstrated knowledge of Australian workplace laws and regulations.
“Where an employer is found to have not met their obligations, their access to a dedicated agriculture visa could be denied.”
Mr Mahar said the NFF encouraged farm employers to become accredited through the grower-led Fair Farms initiative.
‘Fair Farms provides support and training for employers and an independent third-party audit and certification of a farm businesses’ employment practices.
“The report out today by the ABC has shone a light on a number of alleged disturbing situations, that what would no doubt have been an extremely frightening situation for the young women involved,” Mr Mahar said.
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