Sarith Kit jailed for dealing with proceeds of crime at Koo Wee Rup vegetable farm

A Cambodian-born man will serve at least five months in jail for dealing with the proceeds of crime at a vegetable farm in eastern Victoria. 

Sarith Kit was sentenced in the County Court on Monday afternoon over various charges dating back to his work on a farm at Koo Wee Rup, south of Pakenham.

He will have to serve at least five months of a 14-month prison term, pending good behaviour.

The 48-year-old was also fined a total of $40,000 for his involvement in breaches of the Migration Act.

He pleaded guilty to charges including allowing an unlawful non-citizen to work, allowing a lawful non-citizen to work in breach of a work-related condition and dealing with proceeds of crime worth $100,000 or more.

The prison sentence imposed relates to Kit’s dealings with the proceeds of crime and is below the maximum available sentence of 10 years.

Judge Greg Lyon said Kit created false invoices for the business, paid employees cash in marked envelopes and took a commission.

On December 2, 2016, Border Force officers and federal police entered packing sheds and identified 89 illegal workers working inside.

Police then raided Kit’s property and found more than $403,000 in cash.

Judge Lyon said Kit was born in Cambodia in 1972 and moved to Australia in 1992 looking for seasonal work on farms and shift work in factories.

Kit worked for the same family, the Vizzarris, for 21 years, however “ceased any relationship with the Vizzarri family and company since being arrested”.

In sentencing, Judge Lyon noted Kit had lost long-term employment and had good prospects for rehabilitation.

He said Kit was a known contributor and supporter of the Cambodian community.

“I am satisfied you are a person previously of good character … you have strong family and friendship support and have continued to work hard since your arrest.”

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Victorian Nationals MP used fake documents to earn commission from farm sales, court told

Victorian Nationals MP Tim McCurdy used false documents to facilitate the sale of two dairy farms that landed him more than a quarter of million dollars in commissions, a court has heard.

Mr McCurdy has been charged with five fraud offences, including use of a false document and obtaining property by deception.

If he is found guilty, he will be ineligible to sit in the Victorian Parliament.

The alleged offending occurred in 2009, before Mr McCurdy was first elected in 2010.

He is fighting the charges.

In her opening remarks, prosecutor Susan Borg said that in 2009 Mr McCurdy facilitated the sale of two properties in northern Victoria using the letterhead of a business he did not work for.

Mr McCurdy had been involved in the attempted sale of the properties before the real estate business ceased operation in Victoria.

But the County Court of Victoria heard Mr McCurdy continued to facilitate the sale of the properties at Katamatite and Boosey using letterheads from Andrew Gilmour Real Estate.

Man walks past building
The court heard Mr McCurdy used the letterhead of Andrew Gilmour’s real estate business.(

ABC News, file photo


The prosecution alleges that Mr Gilmour was unaware of the use of the letterheads, and that Mr McCurdy was not employed by his business.

Mr McCurdy’s defence, Ian Hill QC, argued that Mr Gilmour was aware of Mr McCurdy’s use of the letterheads but did not dispute Mr McCurdy had helped sell the farms.

“There was no dishonesty, there was no attempt at deception,” Mr Hill told the court.

The sale of Pinegrove Park in Katamatite included a $105,105 commission to Mr McCurdy, while the sale of the Malmo family farm included a $163,900 commission.

The trial is expected to last more than a week.

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How the women of Melbourne’s Metropolitan Sewerage Farm helped pioneer ladies footy in the ’50s

When Werribee took to the field against the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm in 1950, a huge crowd gathered to see something few Victorians had seen before — two women’s Aussie Rules teams squaring off against each other. 

More than 70 years later, Werribee captain Monica Carlton remembers the excitement in the Chirnside Park rooms that Sunday.

“You got changed and all of a sudden you realise that you’ve got to run out in front of all these people,” Mrs Carlton said.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking.”

The crowd was gathered around the oval at least three people deep.

“The noise was unbelievable, it was fantastic,” Mrs Carlton said.

Two women in their 80s standing on a suburban street with a footpath on one side and paddocks on the other
Lifelong friends Monica Carlton and Margaret Hassett.(

ABC News: Matilda Marozzi


The women had learnt their craft playing with their brothers in the paddocks around Werribee on weekends — and some of them were talented footballers.

“Monica was best and fairest that day,” Mrs Hassett said.

Sewage farm fields a team

Researcher Monika Schott came across these early women’s Aussie Rules matches when she was investigating the “sewage ghost town” just outside of Werribee.

The old Metropolitan Sewerage Farm is now known as the Western Treatment Plant.

A woman in an orange jumper stands in front of a paddock. She has curly hair and black glasses.
Monika Schott was researching the sewage farm when she discovered it had a women’s footy team in the ’50s.(

ABC News: Matilda Marozzi


“These ghost towns are essentially communities that have developed around the industry of sewage treatment,” Dr Schott told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“In the 1950s that was probably the boom time for the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm, where the population reached about 500.”

Ladies footy a great fundraiser

The first women’s match came about when the Werribee hospital needed money — Monica Carlton wanted to help.

“It turned out far better than we expected.”

They put a notice in the local Werribee Banner newspaper calling for ladies to volunteer for a footy match and were overwhelmed with applications.

Two teams were recruited and well-known local footballer Alan “Apples” Preston volunteered to coach the teams.

They started training two nights a week at Chirnside Park.

“They had pie nights after training, but they had to supply their own pie and soft drink,” Dr Schott said.

A group of young women gathered around a table with a middle aged man in a football club room
The women enjoying a pie night with VFL player Charlie Sutton in the Chirnside Park clubrooms, 1950.(

Supplied: Monika Schott


After gathering sponsors and organising a cake stall, the match raised £300 for the hospital — an impressive sum considering they only charged two shillings for entry.

“Not one single person said, ‘That’s not nice, ladies playing football’,” Mrs Hassett said.

“They were all with us and helped us along the way. It was great.”

The game proved so successful that they continued to play until 1954, raising money for the Royal Children’s Hospital.

“They were asked to play a charity game at the Geelong Football Club where Bob Davis was involved, and a game at Footscray Oval umpired by Jack ‘Chooka’ Howell.”

A black and white photo of a group of young women gathered around a cast iron hospital bed with a small child in it
Some of the players visiting the Royal Children’s Hospital after donating money raised from their games.(

Supplied: Monika Schott


Marriage puts an end to footy

When Mrs Carlton and Mrs Hassett each became engaged to marry, they stopped organising and playing in the women’s charity matches.

“No-one put their hand up to take it on after us,” Mrs Hassett said.

While they might have been pioneers of the game, they did not think what they were doing was radical.

“The ladies’ football was the best thing you could think of to raise awareness,” Mrs Hassett said.

Ahead of this Saturday’s AFLW Grand Final, Mrs Hassett and Mrs Carlton are surprised how well the professional women’s game has done.

“I didn’t think AFLW would last very long,” Mrs Carlton said.

While neither of them would have volunteered to play in the rough-and-tumble game women play today, both look back fondly on their time as footballers.

“We loved it. We love football,” Mrs Hassett said.

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Tasmanian couple farm ‘sustainable’ guinea pig meat, a common protein source overseas

Rees and Col Campbell know that backyard guinea pig farming is not for everyone.

“Certainly it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to grow and kill their own guinea pigs for meat,” Ms Campbell said.

And, since the Campbells’ guinea pigs live “happy” lives, the couple argue that eating them is more socially and ethically responsible than consuming many other meats.

“It is a kinder all-round way of eating meat,” Ms Campbell said.

Ms Campbell says most people expect guinea pig to taste like rabbit, but it doesn’t.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


Self-sufficient lifestyle

The Campbells grow almost all of their own food on their one-acre block of land in the north-western Tasmanian town of Wynyard.

An orchard, a berry patch, a vegie garden and a collection of more than 120 species of edible Tasmanian native plants provide the plant-based part of the couple’s diet, while the pair also produce their own meat.

“We have quail, which we have for meat and eggs, and … guinea pigs, which we have to both clean up all the garden rubbish, and [to] eat,” Ms Campbell said.

The couple have kept between 10 and 25 guinea pigs on their property for the past five years.

Pale brown and white guinea pig sitting side-on, with other guinea pigs snuggled alongside it.
The Campbells also eat quail, wallaby, possum and rabbit.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


Males and females both free range but are kept apart; the males occupy the vegie patch, the females run free in the orchard, and their offspring are either eaten or sold.

Guinea pig cacciatore, anyone?

The Campbells, who also eat wild-shot meats like wallaby and rabbit, usually eat a home-grown guinea pig every two to three weeks.

“Its quite a dense meat, so … one guinea pig weighing perhaps 600 grams will certainly feed both Col and I a couple of meals in a stew,” Ms Campbell said.

The taste of the meat, she said, is difficult to describe, although without being “gamey”, it is more “meaty” than rabbit.

Meat and mashed potato dish in a ceramic pot sitting on a bench
Ms Campbell likes to flavour guinea pig dishes with native herbs.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


When talking to others about their consumption of guinea pigs, Ms Campbell said she and Col get “polarised responses”.

“One of course is, ‘Oh, how could you do that? They’re cute!’ And the other is, ‘Wow, how interesting … what do they taste like?’,” she said.

Conversely, Ms Campbell said the reactions of all the dinner guests to whom they have offered guinea pig meat have been positive.

Too cute to eat?

The Campbells and their dinner guests fit into a huge population of guinea pig-consumers worldwide.

“Guinea pig is one of the most widely eaten meats in the world, particularly in South America, the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia,” she explained.

Ms Campbell attributed this to the ease with which guinea pigs can be grown to eating-size while living only off garden scraps, almost regardless of a family’s level of poverty, or property size.

Ginger and white guinea pig sitting on a woman's lap, being patted by her
Guinea pigs on the Campbells’ property are used to being handled.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


In contrast, the widespread unpopularity of guinea pig meat in Australia, Ms Campbell believed, was largely due to the animals’ cuteness.

“Australians seem to have some strange views on which animals are cute and which aren’t, and I think there’s an aversion to eating what is seen as cute,” she explained.

Guinea pigs living it up

Producing guinea pig meat was more environmentally, ethically and socially responsible than producing other types of meat, Ms Campbell said.

It rates highly on the sustainability scale due to guinea pigs not needing protein in their diet, and not emitting methane or causing soil compaction, she said.

Ms Campbell said the ethical advantages of eating guinea pigs arise from the animals — at least, those on her property — living happy lives.

Guinea pigs in background and vegie scraps including silverbeet in the foreground
Unlike chickens, guinea pigs don’t require protein in their diet.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


“Our animals here live a really good life — they live free range … they live as a family unit [and] they’re used to being picked up, so they never experience fear,” she said.

Ms Campbell said she did not find it difficult to butcher and eat her guinea pigs, due to the quality of life she ensures they have.

“[It’s a] position that I’m very socially happy to have taken,” she said.

Valuing what we eat

Ms Campbell said she believed society needed to develop a greater appreciation of not only the meat, but of all the food people consumed.

Growing your own produce where possible, and ensuring that any animals you keep have a good life and a “good, non-traumatised death” is one way to be “aware of what you’re really doing”, she says.

Woman in bright blue shirt standing in amongst tall corn crop, looking at a cob
Ms Campbell inspects her corn crop and says cooking food that she has grown is one of her greatest pleasures.(

ABC Northern Tasmania: Sarah Abbott


While acknowledging that not everyone is willing or able to farm their own animals, Ms Campbell said she thought our position at the top of the food chain should not be taken lightly.

“I think it’s really important, on an individual basis as well as a societal basis, to take responsibility for the fact that you are killing other animals,” she said.

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Lifeboat from sunk 19th century The Maid of Lincoln found in rafters of historic farm shed

When an ageing farmer took archaeologist Bob Sheppard aside and pointed high into the rafters of his old hay shed, the history lover could not quite believe his eyes.

For there, covered in decades of dust and spider webs, was a 136-year-old wooden lifeboat.

The wonderfully preserved boat is all that remains of The Maid of Lincoln which was wrecked and sunk off Jurien Bay in 1891.

“They were giving me a tour of the sheds and said ‘come and have a look at this Bob’, and they opened this creaky doorway and I peered up in the gloom and there, hanging in the rafters, was this old boat,” Mr Sheppard said.

This 136-year-old lifeboat was discovered high in the rafters of an old hay shed where it has been stowed for decades.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell


Stowaway has a lucky escape

The Maid of Lincoln, built in South Australia in 1885, had set sail from the Abrolhos Islands off the West Australian coast in 1891 laden with guano.

But it soon ran into trouble and was wrecked off Hill River, south of Jurien Bay and about 220 kilometres north of Perth.

The captain, five or six crew, and a stowaway escaped from their sinking vessel in the 3.6-metre-long lifeboat and made it to shore.

Upon reaching the then-nearly-uninhabited stretch of coast, the party ventured inland where they came across the Grigson family who took them on horse and cart to Dongara to report their predicament to police.

The captain gifted the lifeboat to the Grigson family to show his gratitude for their help.

John Grigson first recalls seeing the boat on the verandah of his family home.

The family used the boat for fishing for several years before storing it in an old hay shed on the farm.

An elderly farmer ina nbroad hat and glasses sits on an old trunk in an old hay shed.
John Grigson’s family was gifted the historic lifeboat 130 years ago after helping survivors of a shipwreck.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell


When its bulky form eventually became a nuisance, the old lifeboat was hoisted up into the rafters to save space.

And there it remained for some 70 years until Mr Sheppard saw it in Mr Grigson’s shed.

Mr Sheppard, a forensic archaeologist who has worked with staff from the Maritime Archaeology Department and the Conservation Department of the Western Australian Museum, knew he was looking at a seafaring treasure.

Precious treasure, precarious position

Excited by the find, Mr Sheppard volunteered his help in rescuing and restoring the historic lifeboat.

The Grigson family were adamant that it be kept for the Jurien Bay community.

With no obvious public facilities to display the boat, they decided to remove it from the rafters and keep it safely stored elsewhere while awaiting a suitable venue.

Four men carry an upturned old wooden boat
Archaeologist, caver and ropes expert Ian McCann, left, and a team of volunteers carefully remove the old lifeboat from the Grigsons’ shed.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell


But the boat was several metres off the ground in a 120-year-old hay shed, and its wooden rafters had seen better days.

How do you remove a precious item from a precarious position without damaging it? Or the people trying to extricate it?

Enter archaeologist, caver and ropes expert Ian McCann and a team of enthusiastic volunteers.

After measuring the boat’s every dimension so it could be reconstructed should it fall apart, Mr McCann and his team painstakingly planned the removal.

Over several hours they measured, supported, and rigged up the boat.

Then, as they held their collective breath and steeled their nerves, they began to move the vessel from its decades-long resting spot.

‘It’s an iconic artefact’

An older man in a cap smiles at the camera in a hay shed
Archaeologist Bob Sheppard couldn’t believe his eyes when he first saw the old lifeboat hidden in the rafters.(

ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt: Samille Mitchell


Remarkably the boat stayed intact, enabling its transport to a weather-proof shed for storage.

Mr Grigson is relieved that the historic vessel that his family has been custodians of will be preserved for future generations to admire.

Mr Sheppard is hoping to find a suitable venue to display the boat once it is restored.

“I’d like to see it on display somewhere — I mean it’s an iconic artefact,” he said.

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Keppel Prince boilermaker leads last-ditch effort to save mates’ wind farm jobs

When boilermaker Dean Wombwell packs his bag and flies to Canberra next week, he’ll be thinking of 42 mates back home who just lost their jobs. 

Mr Wombwell is a second-generation steel worker, plying his trade building wind farm components for Keppel Prince Engineering in Portland, about four hours west of Melbourne. 

Keppel Prince is mainland Australia’s only wind turbine manufacturer, and a point of pride for those who ply their trade in the coastal town, otherwise known for its whales and industrial shipping port. 

In many ways, Mr Wombwell is one of the lucky ones. 

He didn’t lose his job when the company made 42 positions, or roughly 15 per cent of its staff, redundant late last month because of supply concerns.

But he’s worried that round of cuts could be the first of many.

The winds of change

Keppel Prince says about 150 jobs are on the line at its Portland factory unless the federal government brings in new laws to force companies to use local products when building new wind farms. 

Their latest gripe is with Danish company Vestas, which secured the contract to build the 218MW Ryan Corner wind farm near Port Fairy in south-west Victoria, which will provide more than half its power to the federal government’s Snow Hydro 2.0.

After hours of lobbying, the Keppel Prince workers were able to secure a meeting with representatives from Danish company Vestas(

Supplied: AMWU


Dozens of steelworkers rallied outside Vestas’ Melbourne office this week, demanding a meeting to discuss the impact the company’s decision to use cheaper imported components was having on the town of Portland and its workers. 

And after hours of chants, progress was made: they secured a meeting.

Mr Wombwell, along with some union delegates, will travel to Canberra next week for a meeting with Vestas bosses.

“I’m just trying to stand behind our blokes after seeing the devastating affect it had on the community and the Portland families of the 40 that were made redundant,” he said.  

Vestas has previously procured towers from Keppel Prince and has indicated it’s open to working with the company again.

A company spokesperson confirmed they’d been invited by federal trade minister and Wannon MP Dan Tehan to meet with the relevant unions and company representatives. 

“Vestas’ preference is to work with local suppliers and manufacturers where possible. However, we do not compromise our expectations on safety, quality, reliability, timeframe and cost to do so,” a spokesperson said. 

“Vestas will source transportation, crane work and installation services from local suppliers. In addition, the long-term maintenance and operation of Ryan Corner Wind Farm will create a number of local jobs. “

How did it get to this?  

Keppel Prince and the Australian Manufacturers Workers Union are pleading with the federal government to order Vestas to use local products at the proposed farm at Ryan Corner. 

Mr Tehan has also expressed his disappointment in the company’s decision not to contract Keppel Prince, and reached out to Vestas, whilst also meeting with a team from Portland in Canberra earlier last month. 

The unions believe this issue could have been headed off at the pass. 

A wind energy turbine
A Vestas windfarm turbine in Macarthur in western Victoria.(

Supplied: Vestas Wind Systems A/S


“The Morrison government should include local content requirements in every contract that it signs,” AMWU secretary Steve Murphy said.

“It is effectively underwriting this project through its contracts to purchase power for the Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme.

The Victorian government forces companies that build new wind farms under state-backed projects to use local companies and product for the majority of content  — something Keppel Prince has benefited from previously. 

Implementing a national version of this scheme would bring security to Portland’s workforce, unions believe. 

A group of workers in yellow workwear
Federal member for Wannon, Dan Tehan, met with Keppel Prince workers and union delegates in Canberra in March(

Supplied: AMWU


For Dean Wombwell, the fight’s a simple one. 

It’s about sticking up for his mates, and proving that the work they do stands up on a global scale. 

“It’s just so important for Vestas to see that we matter, we’re only a small community of 10,000 people,” he said. 

“It’s It’s a simple task to change the direction that it’s going in.

“And I believe with the action that we’re taking has definitely been noticed. And it’s definitely been highlighted that it needs to change.”

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Applications opened on Friday, 26 March 2021 for the next round of White Rock Wind Farm community grants. Please refer to the linked forms on this website under Public Notices on the Home page: WRWF CF Guidelines; WRWF Form under $5k; WRWF Form over $5K. Applications close  on Friday, 30 April 2021. Updates have been made to the Guidelines so it is important that applicants read and understand them prior to submitting an application. Any enquiries please contact Anna Watt on 6730 2317.

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Wind Farm Commissioner’s role expanded as clash over high voltage power lines looms

A clash between farmers and electricity transmission companies is looming as the rapid growth in renewable energy sparks the need for new high voltage power lines across regional areas.

The transmission network needs major upgrades across the eastern states so that new wind and solar farms can feed electricity into the grid and distribute power generated by the Snowy 2.0 hydropower project.

In anticipation of disputes over the location of new lines, the federal government is appointing an independent commissioner to help property owners facing such infrastructure being built on their land.

The National Wind Farm Commissioner, Andrew Dyer, will have his powers expanded to cover new transmission projects and will be rebadged as the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner.

His expanded remit will cover landholders facing problems with the design, planning, construction or operation of high voltage power lines on, or near, their properties.

The federal government hopes the new role will help pave the way for the rapid development of the transmission network, which Energy Minister Angus Taylor described as “crucial to the security and affordability of our grid”.

“As these critically important transmission projects take shape, we want to ensure that any concerns community members have are heard and resolved in the appropriate way, and the commissioner’s expanded role will facilitate this,” he said.

There are a raft of new transmission lines being developed to support the Snowy 2.0 hydropower project, including the $2 billion HumeLink.

The grid operator in New South Wales, TransGrid, was forced to draw up new options for the HumeLink route after the Snowy Valleys Council, the Rural Fire Service and community members objected to the original proposal.

AusNet, which operates the Victorian electricity grid, has drawn the ire of farmers over its planned route for the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project.

These transmission lines, plus several others, have been identified as critical for ensuring renewable energy can be integrated into the electricity grid and provide better backup power across state borders.

“Australia is about to embark on the most significant deployment of large-scale transmission projects in the country’s history,”  Mr Dyer said.

“Effective community engagement and resolution of community concerns will be essential for these major projects to proceed in a timely manner and deliver much needed grid capacity where it is required,” he said.

“Engaging the community throughout this major grid transformation and deployment will be vital to success.”

Mr Dyer’s new title marks another increase in the scope of the role after its controversial inception in 2015.

The commission was established and tasked with examining the health impacts of wind turbines in a Coalition concession to cross-bench senators in order to win their support for changes to the Renewable Energy Target.

In 2018, the commissioner’s role was expanded to include large scale solar and storage installation.

Now the commissioner will try to resolve disputes regarding new major transmission projects and help the energy sector adopt best practice approaches for community consultation.

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Backpackers allege they were asked to work half-naked, offered money for sex acts on Australian farm 

Backpackers allege a Queensland farmer asked them to work half-naked, exposed his genitals to some of them and suggested to two women they engage in sexual acts with him for money. 

In September 2020, Nirmal Chohan pleaded guilty to unlawful stalking and observation or recording in breach of privacy against German backpacker Paula. 

But police say nothing prevents a person with this conviction from hiring young women under the federal government’s visa program. 

Chohan denies any wrongdoing against Paula and other backpackers in this story. 

In August 2019, Paula was a world away from her home in Germany, working on Chohan’s sugar cane farm in Mareeba — an hour west of Cairns. 

One of her tasks was to clean a tractor. 

Chohan allegedly told Paula — who was 19 at the time — to do it in her underwear. 

“He kept saying all the other backpackers do it as well … and he doesn’t want his car to be dirty when I get back inside in my dirty clothes,” she said. 

Paula said the request was even more perplexing because both Chohan’s vehicle and living quarters were “completely dirty”, with rats making their way around her room. 

She cleaned the tractor fully-clothed at first — but realising she would get “wet and dirty”, Paula took her trousers off. 

“I did it in just my T-shirt and underwear because nobody was around and, I don’t know, I can’t even explain why I did it,” she said. 

At breakfast, the day before she left, she alleges Chohan exposed his genitals to her. 

She said Chohan, who had come from the bathroom, told her to grab him a towel from a nearby chair. 

“I just stood up, grabbed a towel for him and kept eating because I was just so shocked,” she said. 

Overnight, Paula found courage to ask that she be taken back to Cairns. 

She went straight to the Cairns police and made a complaint. 

Police told the ABC the photos were of Paula in her underwear.

Paula never ended up getting what she went to the farm for — her second-year visa — because she couldn’t bring herself to complete three months of farm work in rural or regional Australia, as required by the federal government.

“In the end that’s all I wanted, but it just wasn’t worth it anymore. I had too big of a trauma to even think about going back on a farm,” she said. 

On September 24, 2020, Chohan pleaded guilty to unlawful stalking and observation or recording in breach of privacy against Paula in the Mareeba Magistrates Court, and was sentenced to 15 months’ probation over the photographs.

Chohan did not want to be interviewed by the ABC, but confirmed Paula had worked on his farm. He denied asking her to work in her underwear and exposing his genitals to her. 

He said the photos of Paula could have been taken by trail cameras, which sometimes would get sent to his mobile phone. 

Trail cameras are activated by motion and are often used to capture footage of wildlife.

Chohan told the ABC he pleaded guilty because it would have been costly to fight the charges. 

Tablelands Criminal Investigation Branch Detective Senior Sergeant Brett Devine said he was not aware of any laws preventing a person with a conviction from hiring backpackers under the Government’s visa scheme. 

“I don’t think there’s anything that prevents him from doing that,” he said. 

In April 2020 — in between Paula reporting Chohan to the police and his conviction — American backpacker Maddie worked on his property for her visa, unaware police were looking into him. 

Maddie, 30, said Chohan made her feel uncomfortable. She alleged Chohan suggested that she give him a massage that involved a sexual act. 

“He was like, ‘oh, you look like a very spiritual girl, you look like you’d be really good at massages, you should give me a massage and you could do a ‘happy ending’. I could give you money, but you could keep it a secret. You can keep a secret, can’t you?’,” she said. 

Maddie said she refused. 

In the living room the next morning, Maddie alleges Chohan walked in front of her with his genitals exposed. 

“I felt like he was purposely walking around in front of me with his penis out, just wearing a T-shirt,” she said. 

Chohan said he did not remember whether Maddie had worked for him. 

When the ABC said it had seen a photo Maddie had taken of mail addressed to Chohan, he said since his door was often unlocked it was possible people entered the property without him knowing.

Belgian backpacker Catherine also said Chohan made her feel uncomfortable.

She came to know Chohan in July 2019, when going for a restaurant gig on Gumtree. 

Catherine was told the job wasn’t yet available, but she could wait it out while doing farm work on Chohan’s property. 

She says Chohan allegedly approached her with requests to clean sprinklers in a bikini. She declined.

On her first of several days off, Catherine drove to Cairns — only to receive a call from Chohan days later, saying her help was no longer needed. 

Catherine asked if he could contribute to fuel costs for her to come and fetch her things. She alleges he then asked for a sexual favour. 

“He said, ‘I’m not going to give you any cash for gas but if you want some money, we can meet at my place and you do a massage with a hand job at the end,” she said. 

Chohan denied telling Catherine she could do sexual favours for him. 

He alleges that he and Catherine had an argument when she entered his house to collect her things without his permission. 

Dutch backpacker Madjella worked on Chohan’s farm in October 2018. 

She alleged Chohan asked her to clean the sprinklers in her swimwear — and when she agreed, he took it further. 

Madjella alleged Chohan asked her to wear a G-string, arguing her bikini bottoms had been wetting his car seat. 

She alleged he offered her $30 per hour instead of the original $20. She accepted the offer. 

Chohan denied asking Madjella to work in her underwear and being naked in front of her. 

Madjella left the farm that day, but didn’t immediately make a complaint. 

Months later — when she read about another backpacker’s experience with Chohan on social media — she changed her mind. 

Madjella said she attended a Melbourne police station, asking officers to investigate but the officer she spoke to seemed “busy” and wouldn’t take her statement. 

Madjella said she was told to contact Cairns police and come back to the Melbourne station for a statement. 

“I thought, ‘why can’t you take my statement, put it somewhere and try to find out which policeman it is’,” she said. 

“They can contact each other, right?” 

Madjella never followed through because she was due to leave Australia. 

Victoria Police said it takes reports “very seriously”. 

The allegations in Choban’s case are of inappropriate conduct — but Detective Senior Sergeant Devine said in other cases very serious allegations had been raised, where backpackers’ personal safety was “a huge issue for the police”.

“They’re all trying to work for an employer in Australia to get a number of days required to obtain their visa,” he said. 

He said backpackers had no way of telling their employer had been accused of inappropriate conduct or had had any convictions.

“I’m not aware of any organisation or area, where that information is available to them, but I can certainly see that would be definitely beneficial,” he said. 

Alison Rahill, the executive officer of the Anti-Slavery Taskforce of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, said other government agriculture schemes seemed to have more “transparency”. 

For instance, the government publishes a list of approved employers for the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Program. 

“At least the government knows who [the employers] are,” Ms Rahill said. 

“For backpackers there’s not an equivalent list of either registered or vetted employers.”

The Department of Home Affairs refused to say whether employers who had been found guilty by law of wrongful conduct towards a migrant worker were allowed to continue hiring them under the visa scheme. 

However, the department said “all workers in Australia have the same rights and protections at work, regardless of citizenship or visa status”. 

“The Department of Home Affairs works with the Fair Work Ombudsman to support and encourage foreign nationals to come forward with any evidence or information about exploitation,” a spokesperson said. 

Thank you for visiting My Local Pages. We hope you enjoyed checking this story involving “News & What’s On in Brisbane” named “Backpackers allege they were asked to work half-naked, offered money for sex acts on Australian farm “. This news update was brought to you by MyLocalPages Australia as part of our Australian events & what’s on local stories services.

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