Backpacking fruit pickers have become victims of a scam offering non-existent work.By Geoff Adams
A French backpacking couple has been ripped off by two men posing as fruit picking contractors.
The man and woman, here for the fruit season, paid $90 each for jobs which were never delivered.
The Harvest Labour Office has reminded people seeking work the jobs the office finds have no charge or fee because the service is federally funded.
Hundreds of backpackers are now working to bring in the apricot crop but CVGT branch manager Vaughan Adams said most jobs were filled at the moment and more vacancies would be available later in the month when the peaches and pears ripened.
The French travellers told their story to the Harvest Labour Office earlier in the season when it became obvious they had been tricked.
Following an email, they had met two men at the rear of a supermarket car park in Mooroopna and had been promised picking equipment and jobs by the end of the day.
When they did not get a call, they tried the mobile phone number they were given, but could not get through.
Mr Adams said they found a generous grower at Kialla East who had offered the couple free accommodation while waiting for a job on the orchard.
‘‘It turned out okay, but it could have been a dark experience for this couple, and we don’t want the GV to get a reputation like that.’’
Mr Adams is aware bad news travels fast on the Internet and many of the pickers use electronic networks to find work, get accommodation and warn of dangers.
Harvest labour co-ordinator Denise Elliot said they don’t encourage pickers to move to the area before about the third week in January or without having secured a job.
‘‘There tends to be a flow that starts just after Christmas-New Year,’’ Ms Elliot said.
‘‘After they have arrived on the east coast they tend to move down here for the apricots.
‘‘We encourage travellers to get in touch with us first. Otherwise they could be waiting and paying for accommodation.’’
Backpackers have been taking advantage of the opportunity to extend their Australian visas by working in agricultural jobs for specified periods.
Poor economic conditions in Europe have increased the numbers.
Another French traveller, Julien Aufrere, wanted a working holiday and the opportunity to improve his English.
He met fellow Frenchman Francois Bernard while in Australia and the two of them were in Shepparton last week chasing work.
Francois has been picking capsicums near Melbourne and broccoli in NSW.
‘‘There are no jobs,’’ he said of his home country.
Artist Nici Cumpston will hold a free Artist Talk at Shepparton Art Museum tonight, speaking about her body of work based around the Shepparton region.
It’s been a long journey for Tim Roadley but his dream of creating a multi-sport endurance event on the Murray River is now going to be a reality.
It was a big day for Jye McNeil on Sunday, not only celebrating his 19th birthday, but riding a double at the Tatura and Shepparton Racing Club’s meeting, including the big one, the Vraca and Varapodio Italian Plate (1600 m), on the Gerald Egan-trained Jetconi.
Echuca Football Club has signed Joel Magnabosco and Kane Morris for next season.
On Friday Rochester’s St Joseph’s Primary School opened a time capsule which was buried in the 1980s.
Waste collection in Campaspe Shire will change for two weeks during the festive season.
Valley Park Farms' egg production facility is expected to increase production and staff after a $100 000 Victorian Government grant.
Murchison’s Jane Spencer’s first exhibition It Just Dawned On Me will be on show in Shepparton in the first half of next year.
Lisa Milligan has started a new dog grooming business in Heathcote to help fund her Wild ABout Wildlife centre in Kilmore.
Police allege a man attempted to rob a Cobram supermarket today.
Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley says plans are in the works on how to get natural gas to Deniliquin.
New Transport Accident Commission research has revealed why some young country drivers habitually take risks on regional roads.
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Parks Victoria and Country Fire Authority will be performing planned burns in Goomalibee on Monday.
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