DEEP SEA NIGHTMARE: A French national says he was duped into working for free and has been told nothing can be done to recover his unpaid earnings.
DEEP SEA NIGHTMARE: A French national says he was duped into working for free and has been told nothing can be done to recover his unpaid earnings. Paul Braven GLADV250215ADVO

Backpacker's hopes sink after trawler nightmare

A BACKPACKER who claims to have been duped into working for free on a fishing trawler says two months on, he's still no closer to recovering the money he earned.

In March, the French national told the NewsMail he took up work on a trawler but once on board, realised he wasn't going to be paid.

With nowhere to go and no way to get help, 28-year-old Jeremy says he worked around 250 hours over 20 nights without being given a contract or pay.

He says that when the trawler returned to Burnett Heads, he was kicked off and told he wouldn't be paid.

It's an experience that has soured the backpacker's experience of the region.

"I'm leaving in July and I'm not sure I'm coming back," he said.

"I think I'm going back to Brisbane, I can find a job there and the hostels are cheaper."

Jeremy said he had been left out-of-pocket by the trawler experience and despite attempts to get the money he had earned, it seemed no one could help.

He says he tried politicians, government departments, a legal service and police without luck. Contacting the fisheries department on the advice of a lawyer, Jeremy said he was told they couldn't do anything.

"I don't even care about the money any more," he said.

"It's the fact he can get away with this and no one can do anything.

"The police told me straight away this is not a criminal matter and we can't do anything and that's it.

"Everywhere I went to ask for help, people said 'it's not our problem'."

Jeremy believes one of the reasons it has been so hard to track the trawler operator and recover his pay is due to the lack of any proof he was ever on the boat.

In March, Jeremy told the NewsMail that he had been led onto the craft with the promise of work and was told paperwork would be filled out on the vessel.

It never was.

He has also heard that the trawler may not have even belonged to the man captaining it during that voyage.

"He could be doing the same thing to another backpacker or another person," Jeremy said.

"He knew what he was doing and he knew it from the beginning."

The NewsMail attempted to contact the man Jeremy believed to be the captain of the trawler.

That man said he had heard of the incident but denied he was the captain and said it would have been someone else responsible.

The dark side of our backpacker industry: Farmers take advantage of backpackers.