Sunraysia adventure turns sour

The fun times – Kerri Gray with fellow backpackers, who are no longer living at the Sunraysia hostel.

The fun times – Kerri Gray with fellow backpackers, who are no longer living at the Sunraysia hostel.

A SCOTTISH backpacker who came to Sunraysia for “adventure and fun” has fled town after her experience with a local hostel left her with “borderline depression”, and fearing for her safety.

Kerri Gray, 21, alleges she and other backpackers living at the hostel were subjected to sexual harassment, Third-World living conditions, fear, intimidation and abuse.

Ms Gray shared on social media a screen grab of what she claimed was a conversation between herself and the owner, where he ­appeared to tell her to sleep with his cousin.

A text alleged to have come from the owner said she would be picked up on “one condition” – that she, or someone else, had sex with his cousin.

“My little cousin is coming with me so you have to sleep with him or find someone to do it,” the message read. 

Ms Gray responded “not happening”, ­followed by “not a prostitut lol (sic)”.

In a further text message seen by Sunraysia Daily, from a conversation claimed to be with the owner, a female backpacker was told a “job was hers”, in return for a sexual favour.

Ms Gray told Sunraysia Daily girls at the hostel were regularly invited to parties by the owner and told to wear skimpy clothes or bikinis.

“He took advantage of the fact that we were vulnerable, away from home and isolated,” she claimed.

“He never acted that way towards the boys, because he didn’t like confrontation, but us girls were a different story.”

Ms Gray arrived in the region in May this year and arranged to do her 88 days of ­regional farm work to obtain her second-

year visa while living at the hostel.

“I was excited to stay at the hostel, I was looking forward to making new friends and having a bit of an Aussie adventure,” she said.

“Within the first few weeks of being there, I knew things weren’t quite right.

“The place was filthy, rooms with no windows, toilets with no lights and only three hot showers for 90 people to share.”

Ms Gray said on arrival at the hostel, backpackers were charged a $100 bond and the first week’s rent of $160 in advance, which she said they are told they would get back at the end of their stay.

However, she said many people, herself included, never saw that money again.

She said despite handing over her bank details at the beginning of her stay, she was never paid by direct deposit and repeated requests to obtain tax forms from the hostel fell on deaf ears.

“The wages they pay you are all in cash, it was cash in envelopes,” she said.

“They take down your details but they never use them to pay you.”

On pay slips seen by Sunraysia Daily, no rent, transport or “fine” deductions were ­declared.

Ms Gray also said a “tax” of $3 per hour was imposed on backpackers working in farm jobs the hostel owner had organised, in addition to regular $10 fines that would ­occur “every week”.

“(The hostel owner) gets paid from the farmer and then he gives us our wage at the end of the week on a Friday,” she said.

“Before you see the money, they take $8 a day for transport and the rent from your pay and if there’s any $10 fines, they take that out too, as well as the $3 per hour tax.” 

Ms Gray said the $10 fines were imposed on backpackers “without any reasoning”.

“Any time something was damaged in the hostel, all 90 of us would cop a $10 fine,” she claimed.

“A girl was sick in the bath – we all got fined $10. Someone threw a bottle over the fence – everyone got fined. A shower head broke – we all got fined. 

“They made $900 a time from these fines.”

Ms Gray said the van provided for the backpackers to travel to work in didn’t have enough seatbelts, but despite this, the hostel owner instructed them to “fill it up” with people.

“The girls were in the van one day and got stopped by the police,” she said.

“They got a fine, which went to the hostel, but the hostel gave it back to the girls – by the time they did that, the fine had doubled in size and everyone had to chip in to pay it.”

Ms Gray alleges one backpacker, who 

had been in contact with the Fair Work ­Ombudsman about the conditions and treatment of residents at the hostel, was evicted effective immediately.

“He had done nothing wrong – he was kicked out because he knew his rights, asked too many questions and complained about the hostel,” she said.

Ms Gray said she wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone.

“I’d still recommend other backpackers to come to Sunraysia – I’ve made some of the best memories and made the best of friends here. The bonds you make are indescribable.

“But I wouldn’t be telling anyone to come and stay at this hostel. Girls are in for ­intimidating behaviour. You’re going to feel vulnerable, you’re going to feel intimidated.”

Sunraysia Daily contacted the hostel owner for comment, but he declined.

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