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*This member’s name has been changed to protect his identity.
I am a proud union member, who has been living in Australia for eight years.
That whole time I’ve been working on farms.
How would I describe myself? Well, first thing’s first. I’m a big coffee drinker.
It’s the first thing I do in the day. I drink a big mug of coffee.
I’ve three cats: Baby, Jessie and Evie. They’re very funny and cute, and they bring me a lot of joy.
I listen to a lot of music – Hip Hop, RnB, and Pop Rock. An all-time favourite is Mariah Carey.
I obviously miss my friends and family back in Malaysia. And the food! I miss our signature dishes.
I especially miss Mum’s cooking.
(Also, we have better KFC over there).
Don’t get me wrong – I love Australia.
I love the lifestyle, and the people.
There are locals here who have adopted me into their families. I love watching footy with them down at the pub.
I remember watching it for the first time and being really confused, like, “What is it?” Now I just love it.
Late last year before Christmas, my house was raided by Immigration.
Two of my friends were taken.
It was really painful to watch.
I have a visa to be here, but I don’t have one with work rights.
All I want to do is follow the law.
I’ve applied twice for work rights.
I’ve gone to the Tribunal, but they wouldn’t grant me them.
The Tribunal asks you for simple things, like bank statements and rental agreements.
But for me, getting that kind of paperwork isn’t easy.
With the bank statement, you need to have a bit of money in that account for them to see, even though they say you are not supposed to work.
But I only make enough to survive, so I can’t save that money.
The rental agreement is also difficult. Undocumented workers often can’t rent directly from real estate agents.
When my friends were taken, I had to move out of the house, where I had been living for years and find somewhere safer to live.
Often farm workers like me can only find a room in a contractor’s house.
Many of them are pretty crowded…
Imagine living in a home with twenty other people.
In one bedroom there can be up to eight people, so getting your privacy is hard.
Sometimes I have to queue in my own home for the toilet.
And now, in the pandemic, it’s scary. You can’t self-isolate here.
Honestly, it’s a very, very scary situation for us migrant workers.
The virus doesn’t care about your visa status.
As an asthmatic, I’m pretty worried.
I don’t have access to Medicare. In the past I’ve gone to the hospital but couldn’t get any support or treatment there.
When there was a lot of panic buying, it was even harder to get my medication.
Seeing a doctor to get a prescription for the inhaler can cost me $400.
If you can’t show the pharmacist a prescription, you have to pay a lot more, just to get an inhaler that doesn’t work as well as one from behind the counter.
When workers don’t have work rights, dodgy contractors can take advantage.
They exploit undocumented workers and threaten to go to Immigration, stealing their wages.
I don’t want to hide anymore.
I want work rights, I want to pay taxes and contribute to my community.
I want to get healthcare and maybe one day save enough for a home.
To have a family.
That’s why I joined the union. It gives me hope.
We fight for workers’ rights.
Undocumented and documented.
Farm workers’ rights, and the rights of everybody else in my union.
I love going to the rallies. It’s important to turn up.
I’ve been to a few in the city for campaigns like Change the Rules.
One of the best rallies I’ve been to was for action on the climate crisis.
I had to speak at it. I was pretty nervous. There were so many people looking at me.
I spoke about how the disasters were impacting migrant workers. About the climate crisis refugees that would come.
I am the same as any other worker. I just want to be paid fairly and treated with respect.
So I am also campaigning for visa amnesty. It will mean people like me can get better pay and accommodation.
It will mean we can be part of society.
And it will be harder to exploit us.