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Published: October 11th 2010
Smiling his way through.
Cieran has to pick three to four melons at a time, place them on the boom and keep up with the moving tractor.
When you are homeless, jobless and penniless there are few options open to you but to return to the family home, even if it is in Australia! With a degree behind him and a spring in his step Cieran tried so hard to start his career and settle into the next chapter of his life, but like so many people he had not planned for the economic decline in the UK and the problems that it presented. It was even cheaper to travel to India and tour the northern states for two months than it was to stay and exist in Newbury. So once the last of the rupees came to an end Cieran flew onto Brisbane in time for Christmas and some pampering from mum!
But like many things in life, it's not always that straight forward. When our 457 Visa was renewed, Cieran's name was excluded from the sponsorship (as he was no longer deemed to be a dependant) and therefore he had to support himself, he could only stay in Australia for one year. This also meant that he could only work for one company for six months and then had to seek employment elsewhere. He managed
Keeping up with the boom
Cieran picking Rockmelons, a back breaking experience.
to find work in a trendy footwear retail shop in the city and worked part-time as a Teacher's Aid at the special school Hilary teaches at in Brisbane. Not ideal, but both brought in a good wage and the dollars were stacking up ready to fund his return to the UK. With the recession and the prospect of finding a job at the end of this year back in England limited, Cieran decided to stay another year with us in Brisbane. If only it was that simple.....
Just when you think you have got most options covered, life just becomes a bit more complicated and desperate measures have to be put in place to meet the visa requirements. In order to be granted another One Year Working Visa you have to undergo 88 days rural labour on a farm, abattoir, fishing trawler, or similar, so with all the cards on the table, a decision was made to stay and save in order to have a substantial financial cushion for his return to England and complete the statutory days.
So with camping gear and rucksack, Cieran boarded a plane to Townsville in search of farm labouring in the form
A ferry trip to Magnetic Island
Looking back At Townsville, a short 5km journey.
of fruit and vegetable picking, so entering a whole different world of cheap,slave labour. The campsite in Ayr is packed tight with small tents resembling a refugee camp filled with transient visitors out to earn a quick wage whilst travelling along the east coast and non-english speaking migrants existing on the minimum wage. Packed in like sardines with no personal space and privacy, Cieran found a pitch and set up his temporary home. After waiting four days for work and for his name to reach the top of the list, Cieran found himself picking courgettes for the Corrick Family who regarded their workers as disposable commodities. if you did not work fast enough you were fired, if you stood up too often you were fired, if you spoke or listened to music you were fired, if you spoke out of turn or asked a question you were usually not signed up for work the next day. And so it went on like this for three weeks, not knowing from one day to the next if you had a shift, whether it was 8 or 11 hours long, he was lucky to get two 15 minute breaks, it was inhuman and
many people did not even last a day. To his credit, Cieran literally kept his head down and turned up for work each day, come rain or shine, his back breaking and his arms scratched and sore.
With new-found friends and word of mouth he managed to find work on another farm picking sweetcorn and was treated with respect and compassion, regular breaks and fresh water on demand and music whilst you worked much more conducive to producing an effective, happy work crew. It was also reassuring that not all employers treated their workers with such indifference. As the fruit season changed, he moved on to picking melons on another farm. Despite the long days and weeks without a day off, Cieran has manged to reach the half way point of 44 days and is now on his way to achieving his goal by the second week of November. The work is hard and very very physical and not many people would have stuck to his decision to submit his proof of work to the immigration office to be given another 12 months visa. We are all so very proud of him especially as it seems so unfair that
Large boulders along the beach.
The huge rock formations reminded us of Corsica.
he should have been excluded from our visa, forcing his hand and dividing the family. Once he has completed his required days, we have every intention of investigating and exposing further the awful treatment and apalling conditions people in Australia are being subjected to. What has happened to our adopted free and fair land?
At this half way point, Kevin managed to fit in a visit on the back of a two day conference in Yeppoon and flew up to Townsville to spend the weekend with Cieran and to treat him to sleeping in a bed and having food cooked for him. It was a great two days and both of them managed to catch up on each others news, enjoying some quality time together. A day trip to Magnetic Island culminated with walks along the beach and a swim in the sea. The island was quite rocky and reminded them of Corsica in places and offered cliff walks with wonderful views of the bays and the mountains. Townsville itself still has a number beautiful historic buildings especially along Flinders Street although many have been turned into night clubs and bars. Some of the 1970's development is, however, tragically
A classic VW Camper on tour along the east coast.
poor. Everyone was very friendly , especially the bus driver who stopped and waited outside the hotel allowing them to collect their bags on their way to the bus depot:where would that happen in England? The whole weekend was a welcome break away from Camp Hell and the monotonous job of bending over and picking fruit. We find we look at the fruit in the supermarket in a completely different light now and often think of the people who have toiled for hours each day to bring the produce to our homes. I just hope Cieran still likes fruit salad?!
At least at the end of the 88 days Cieran will be able to return to Brisbane and be with the family again giving him the option to seek further employment and save some more money to support himself next year. How lucky are we though to have him with us for a bit longer too. He's a star.
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