Only 30 Australian farms have completed a government program designed to ensure workers are not exploited, despite job seekers continuing to be led into the industry. The Fair Farms scheme is frequently championed by industry groups and the federal government as an attempt to ‘clean up’ Australia’s horticulture industry, where exploitation of workers is still a pervasive issue.
But since the voluntary scheme was launched in June 2019 only 30 farms have been certified via the program, which has cost taxpayers more than $1.5 million. The industry has been in the spotlight recently for its rampant exploitation, low wages, and the forced accommodation that can cost upwards of $300 a week.
Despite this, the government has pushed ahead with its campaign to get unemployed workers – including gap year students – out onto Australia’s hardest workspace, holding a harvest trail job fair and encouraging them to get their hands dirty, without being able to ensure they’ll be paid properly.