FARMING UNDERBELLY: The documentary 88 Days was created by British backpacker Katherine Stoner.
FARMING UNDERBELLY: The documentary 88 Days was created by British backpacker Katherine Stoner.

Filmmaker exposes horrors awaiting backpackers in Australia

THERE'S no doubt Australia is a popular destination for backpackers, but one British film maker has exposed the so called "underbelly" of the nation's farming industry and some of the vile living conditions at hostels.

Katherine Stoner was just 18 years old when she and her best friend started working on farms in Australia but her experience was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

The British-national told she was whipped with garlic and smacked on the bum by a farm worker while she toiled away on a production line.

After hearing similar stories from other travellers she began making a film called 88 Days to expose some of the behaviour and harassment on farms.

"We've heard of so many backpackers who have gone through similar experiences - they've heard farmers being racist or verbally abusive," she told

"I have even heard about instances of backpackers being physically assaulted by farmers."

After work ran out at the peach farm herself and her friend were working on, they grew suspicious when the farm boss asked them to stay and the others to leave.

"He would give us odd little jobs like trimming trees and that was when he started to get really weird," she said.

"My friend and I were out picking peaches alone in the field on a really scorching, sweaty day and he came over. He said we should work naked."

The pair then moved to another farm as cleaners with other female backpackers.

Things became uncomfortable on their two-week gig cleaning muddy garlic on a conveyor, when one of the older farmers would start lightly smacking their legs with a garlic leaf.

"He then started circling us and gave us all a cheeky smack on our legs. He knew he could get away with it," she said.

With many fruit and vegetable farms in the Bundaberg area, backpackers are needed as seasonal staff.

Managing director of Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Bree Grima said there was a minority of rogue operators in the horticulture industry.

"There is no place for them in the industry and concern for worker welfare has created better transparency via the State Labour Hire Licencing Laws and Fair Farms Initiative pilot program," she said.

"These processes disincentivises those non-compliant businesses and pushes them out of the industry.

"The complexity of the industry supply chain from suitable visa programs to the price paid to growers adds to the intricacy."

She said in the Bundaberg region producers go above and beyond to care for their workers.

"Ethical Standards is a requirement of numerous retail bodies and many growers in this region take great pride in how they care for workers often going above the requirements from providing BBQs and celebrating weekly birthdays to providing monitoring kits for dehydration," she said.

"There is more we can do and BFVG emphasises all growers must remain vigilant in checking their workers welfare and that correct pay conditions are maintained particularly when outsourcing this component."