Exclusive: Temporary workers to get legal support in exploitation hotspots

The Victorian government is to help temporary visa holders working in rural parts of the state.

Hundreds of vulnerable migrant workers on temporary visas in rural Victoria are set to benefit from new funding for legal support and workplace rights education, the state government will announce on Thursday.

The new $580,000 in funding follows a string of investigations by SBS News and other media outlets into the exploitation of temporary workers on farms across the state.

The program will be delivered over two years in conjunction with Victorian Legal Aid and other partners in key regional areas such as Shepparton and surrounding Geelong.

More than 200 temporary visa workers in those regions are expected to receive face to face and in-depth employment assistance under the funding, according to the government.

It is expected to help those who encounter a pay, or other, workplace dispute.

“We’re making sure temporary visa workers get the information and protection they deserve,” Minister for Industrial Relations Natalie Hutchins said. 

The government added that they expected there to be at least three full-time lawyers employed and at least 30 legal cases to be undertaken over the two-year period.

The Victorian-based Migrant Workers Centre welcomed the announcement.

“These migrant workers are doing difficult jobs in harsh conditions, and they deserve to be respected at work like anybody else,” its director Matt Kunkel said.

“Access to knowledge of workplace rights is essential to ensuring justice in workplaces.”

In June, SBS News reported on the death of Fijian seasonal worker Jone Roqica on a farm in Shepparton, Victoria.

His death brought the number of Pacific Islander fatalities on Australian farms to 14 in six years.

Published 11 July 2018 at 4:45pm, updated 12 July 2018 at 7:40am
By Jarni Blakkarly