The ombudsman claims to have recently received complaints about backpackers enticed into work by labour hire companies. Crimes reported include treating them unfairly, bullying and sexually harassment and later refusing to pay them.

He is currently investigating a report against one firm who allegedly charged backpackers $450 to find them a job and then offered to pay them 60 cents an hour instead of the $21.08 average wage to work on a local farm. Apparently the operator charged them as much as $150 a week to stay in unsuitable accommodation, with 32 people being stuffed into one house and a further 12 living in the garage.

Tom O’Shea from the agency said on Australia Forum “These people will approach you with promises of guaranteed work picking fruit or vegetables and accommodation and transport. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Backpackers are being warned not to enter work with people they get approached by around regional public transport stations and not to respond to any job advertisement where there is only a first name and mobile number given as a contact.