Stud ordered to pay backpacker arrears

Sophie Elliott & Jackson Lavell-LeeAugusta Margaret River Times
A woman at Witchcliffe’s Pixie Valley Miniature Horse Stud. Owner Samanatha Goh-Edwards, not pictured, has been fined and ordered to back-pay a backpacker.
Camera IconA woman at Witchcliffe’s Pixie Valley Miniature Horse Stud. Owner Samanatha Goh-Edwards, not pictured, has been fined and ordered to back-pay a backpacker. Credit: Picture: Pixie Valley Miniature Horse Stud/Facebook,

The owner of a Witchcliffe miniature horse stud underpaid a “vulnerable overseas worker” in an “egregious and deliberate” manner, Industrial Magistrate Dianne Scaddan ruled in a decision published last week.

Samantha Goh-Edwards, trading as Samantha’s Hidden Valley, was ordered to pay German backpacker Christin Auras $10,593.58 in unpaid wages and entitlements for work done at Pixie Valley Miniature Horse Stud over a three-month period in 2016.

Lambasting Ms Goh-Edwards in her findings, Ms Scaddan labelled the Witchcliffe woman a “poor representation of Australian employers” who treated the backpacker as “personal attendant”, ordering her to undertake tasks including ferrying her children to and from sporting events, despite having hired her as a farmhand.

Ms Auras took up work on Ms Goh-Edwards’ farm after responding to a Facebook ad looking for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, commonly referred to as WWOOFers, and offering second-year visa regional work.

During her time working for Ms Goh-Edwards, Ms Auras was expected to work 40 hours a week as a farmhand.

However, the WA Industrial Magistrates Court was told Ms Auras worked in excess of this, was given “menial tasks” to perform, and was at Ms Goh-Edwards’ “beck and call”.

Ms Goh-Edwards claimed Ms Auras was a volunteer and, under their arrangement, her pay was withheld to cover the expense of accommodation and food.

But in an email in 2017, Ms Goh-Edwards herself stated Ms Auras was a farmhand and not a WWOOFer.

Despite not paying Ms Auras any wages over the three-month period, Ms Goh-Edwards did pay income tax, contributed to her superannuation and ordered the preparation of false pay slips to help the German woman secure a second-year working visa.

Speaking to the Times this week, Ms Goh-Edwards continued to deny Ms Auras’ claims and said she was fighting to keep her farm and she relied on WWOOFers as she was “crippled” after being bucked off a horse leaving her unable to do hard labour.

Ms Goh-Edwards was also fined $1500 for her actions.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails