The project was funded by the Italian government’s Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale (MAECI) so as to monitor the situation of migrant workers in Australia.
Now, it will be carried out by Com.It.Es. NSW, under the title “Visits and meetings with the young Italians in Australian farms: A practical proposal for preventing the exploitation of migrant workers”.
Exploitation of young Italians employed on Australian farms is a problem that the government has been affronted with for years.
Although positive experiences in the farms do exist, stories of exploitation remain in circulation, which indicate underpaid wages, insecure conditions of work, excessive amounts of work and situations of psychological abuse, isolation and occasionally deception.
There have also been cases of superannuation not being paid.
Maurizio Aloisi, president of Com.It.Es. NSW, said that because their committee receives the complaints, they have a duty to check the conditions.
“We want to know if everything is regular by the Australian law,” he said.
“It’s our duty to protect these young people.
“We want to ensure that the experience of Italians in Australia remains a positive one, to maintain the relationship between the countries.”
Stories of complaint are common to both the agricultural sector and the hospitality industry in the big Australian cities.
Australia is characterised by long distances, and the young Italians who arrive each year often find themselves feeling isolated, and underrepresented.
The recent wave of migration by Italians to Australia sits side by side with preceding waves of migration, with many of the new arrivals finding themselves in regions already rich in an established and historical Italian community.
In the historical Italian community of Griffith (which was established in the fifties), many Italian and Italo-Australian farmers live in symbiosis with the young workers who move each season from the city to the countryside to complete the necessary 88 days of work in the field.
The closeness of the two generations is made evident within the Griffith Italian Museum and Cultural Centre, at the internal of Pioneers Park, which recounts simultaneously the history of the Italian community alongside the work of the youth hostels, which nowadays host new Italians and provide labour in the many farms of the area.
Com.It.Es. NSW is hoping to establish a presence that can listen to both farmers and workers, to propose solutions to concrete problems.
“We would address the problems with the local authority presence, once they have been identified,” Aloisi said.
Farmers in the regions of Griffith, Yenda, Darlington Point and Coleambally in the Riverina face their own woes, including drought and the lack of a stable and prepared workforce.
PM Scott Morrison’s recent changes to the Working Holiday Visa scheme are expected to ease the pressure on both farmers and backpackers alike, with employees now permitted to stay with one employer for a year when working in the agricultural sector.
The role of institutions such as Com.It.Es. NSW is to provide a practical help to the new migrants, as well as precise information before and after departure for Australia.
There’s still a lot to be done for the young Italians in Australia, who live in a temporary state often characterised by precariousness in work, which is linked to a lack of knowledge on rights.
Com.It.Es. NSW will travel through the state throughout the months of November and December, before the conclusive report is made.