We’re one of the most multicultural nations in the world but Australia has long struggled to shrug off a reputation for being racist.
And while some Aussies would argue things are getting better and locals are working to treat our foreign visitors better, those that visit us the most and spend the longest time here beg to differ.
Speaking to news.com.au, more than 20 backpackers said they’d all experienced either casual or blatant racism at the hands of Australians.
More than half of them said tensions had only worsened since the coronavirus crisis hit with Aussies appearing to blame them for taking jobs in an already hard-hit and locked down economy.
And those feelings only intensified when coronavirus cases spiked among backpacker-heavy neighbourhoods — including in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
“I can’t comprehend the racism in this country, Australia is literally a country full of immigrants but I’ve never seen racism like I’ve seen it here,” Raya from Northern Ireland said.
“There is a lot of hate for Indians who are basically the backbone of this country, they’re doing all the jobs no one else wants to do, backpackers too.
“They feed your kids, at the end of a big night out, they drive them home safely, they clean your toilets, pick all your vegetables and produce — all the jobs white Australians don’t want to do.
“Even as a white backpacker there is still extreme racism. Obviously you used to have the ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ and I can still get the effects here.”
Feng, a 26-year-old backpacker from Singapore who is now living in Bondi Beach, said his experience in Australia had been confronting.
“Being Asian and a backpacker here has been difficult. Sydney has been great but travelling around, I’ve seen everything. The angry stares, kids looking at me and pulling their eyelids back tightly. I do love it here but that hasn’t been nice,” he said.
A 23-year-old British man, who asked to remain completely anonymous out of fear his speaking out would cause him to lose farm work, said the way he’d been treated had left a “lasting impression” on him.
“Some Aussies are very friendly obviously but there are some where it’s not even the case that they don’t like us — they’re actively trying to get rid of us. That leaves a lasting impression.
“I’ve heard horrific stories of the way staff were mistreated by farmers, we’re indispensable and if they don’t like you, you’re instantly gone,” the man said.
“I knew a guy who was fired from a job simply because he was French, the hostel owner had said the farmer had a problem with people who didn’t have English as a first language and that same place there were two Japanese girls who worked for two days then all of a sudden they were gone.”
The 23-year-old is now living in a small Queensland farming town, scraping by on a budget of less than $50 a week, hoping to pick up occasional picking jobs to get his second year visa.
“The biggest struggle is the small town vibe,” he said.
“Backpackers are despised basically, there’s a lot of hatred towards us, there are countless articles in the local newspaper to send us home but every farm I’ve worked on it’s only been a couple of Aussies.”
Robert, another backpacker from the UK who has settled into a smaller city on NSW’s coast said his interactions with Australians has been largely disappointing.
“I’ve had some pretty bad workplace interactions, a lot of Aussies, particularly the ones I’ve work with in construction, will constantly come at you,” Robert said.
“You’re just a foreigner, you’re disposable. I’ve been underpaid, lied to, been told I’m getting picked up and no one comes, I’ve been abused, taken advantage of and if I’m being honest, particularly here I feel I’ve been discriminated against for being a foreigner.
“You’ll turn up to jobs and Aussies will say, ‘why is he working here? You could have a young Aussie here doing exact same thing, this c**t is here taking an Aussie job.”
Indra, 32, a German backpacker now based on the Gold Coast, said Aussies were often given special treatment at places she worked.
Indra completed some of her required 88 days of farm work at a box factory in Coffs Harbour, a job she described as nearly impossible.
“They were treating all the backpackers like they were completely stupid and not able to stack boxes but no one was able to do it,” she said.
“Most people survived one week then they were fired but the Australians working in this box factory, they were talking, having a chat and some jokes, they were treating the backpackers differently and screaming at us all – even though we were working so much harder to get it right.”
Valeria, a backpacker from Spain, said Aussies should remember the important part they play.
“I hate the ‘they’re just backpackers’ attitude that persists that allows farmers to mistreat and even torture us,” she said.
“We are people who chose to come to this country during the best years of our lives to do the jobs most Australians despise. Fair pay and not being tortured would be nice.”
More than 100,000 tourists apply for working holiday visas each year with Australia’s farming and agricultural industries relying on the massive workforce to help them get their produce out.
And despite their experiences, every backpacker said there were still overwhelming parts of Australia they loved.
“I still love it here, even on unfair wages with the farm work, it’s still a liveable country,” Raya said.
“I’ve been saying quite recently because of coronavirus in the UK and the US, we all think we’re in a first world western country until we come to Australia and see how different it is. You can work as a dishwasher your entire life and still live a comfortable life, unless you have kids of course.”
All still living and working in Australia, last names have been excluded to protect identities