First of all (I know I shouldn’t bitch about it really) we were lied to about this mill being able to sign off my second year visa, so I wasted 88 days of my short time in this country being treated like an idiot doing boring manual labour in the middle of nowhere, for no reason.
I shouldn’t complain, the money was good for a backpacker job, but being treated this way for four months really took it out of me. I should have seen it coming really. The more bitter perspective is that everyone here descends from a group of convicts.
Deception is their speciality.
It would have worked out for Todd’s visa, however when they cut our Friday overtime and we politely asked to simply swap over an hour in the week just to get up to the required daily hours, the response from the office was just “speak to the foreman and the response from the foreman was “oh well, that’s just not how we do it around here.”
He was barely listening to the conversation. For the sake of two hours overtime, Todd most likely has to leave a year early.
Secondly, the way they treat women here is shocking.
After 4 weeks of constant stacking, I noticed that the second multi-saw was unattended most of the day, so naturally I offered to learn how to work it, with a little training obviously (it would have taken all of five minutes), figuring it would be much more effective for their business and a cute new thing for my resume. I got one of the sawyers to show me how to use the machine, I read the safety instructions, learnt the correct PPE to wear, and the possible hazards involved.
My first requests to the foreman were met with confusion and then “it’s too dangerous.” After he tried to walk away, and a little fighting the matter, I let him go.
I tried to explain that it’s more dangerous for me to be working at the end of the saw and not know how it works, we weren’t even told where the emergency stop button is. His further objections; of me only being here for two months, among others, were met with arguments of my own, the saw generates roughly 7,300 pieces of wood every day, imagine how much it would benefit the mill just to have the saw working for those two months. I even got the other sawyers to put in a good word for me, and cheekily offered to buy him a drink at the pub in an attempt to lighten the mood.
My next request would be to kindly tell him to f*ck off.
After a week of pestering and standing my ground, I came in to find that they’d trained up an 18 year old boy to do it instead, who flat out refused to wear the correct safety equipment. They’d rather have a very skinny, *sorry Jacob* not very intelligent young boy, not wearing the right gear, work a dangerous saw than a clearly very capable and able woman. When I was told I was sorting too slow and that the sawyer could easily do it twice as fast, I replied with “train me on the saw then or quit yer bitching, this is how I work. You either want it done fast or you want it done well.” To which, I got another laugh, as clearly it’s incomprehensible that I, a woman, would actually want to learn to work the machinery. Later on, I was speaking to one of the forklift drivers and he mentioned that he would love for someone else to do his job, my offer to learn the forklift was met with even more confusion and laughter.
What’s worse is that even the women here play along. I’d say the mill is roughly 60/40 split men and women, but the rivalry between the girls here is ridiculous and the unwritten deal is that women stack while the men saw. There is only one woman here who I’ve seen use a saw and she’s known for having a screw or two loose. Very safe. One woman even suggested that I use the air hose instead of the shovel as that’s a man’s job, and most of the cis-gender women here present as male most likely because they think it’ll make people take them seriously. And smaller things like the women have to wear their hair up but the men with even longer hair leave it down as it would be much too girly for them.
It’s not just me who’s noticed this; at every Air Bnb I’ve been to, every backpacker I’ve mentioned it to, has had a similar story of the country folk being a severely backwards and harmful bunch.
It’s infuriating knowing the rest of the world right now is fighting against modern issues of equality and the mistreatment of women in the workplace, while this mill out in rural Queensland is treating their female employees how one would imagine them to be treated decades ago; still maintaining damaging backwards mindsets that were fought against and put to bed in the early 1900s. Going into the country in Australia is like taking a huge leap back in time, in many more ways than one.
Most people here are either too lazy to work or completely incapable of doing their job.
One of the forklift drivers is known for being dangerous, is constantly dropping palettes of wood, working hours behind schedule and you’re warned regularly to be careful he doesn’t run you over. There doesn’t seem to be any attempt at reassigning him to something he might be good at. There is literally a raving schizophrenic, clinically insane local in charge of one of the heaviest pieces of machinery (with only one eye), and a badly disabled elderly man who often screams into nowhere and aggressively throws wood around. There seems to be no support for poor old Tony Jones, and while I support the effort to give him responsibility he might not be afforded in a more metropolitan environment, it is also extremely dangerous to have him unsupervised around the other employees.
There is a huge untouched sexual harassment problem.
I have faced sexual harassment since the beginning, mostly from two other employees. Comments such as “do you want to wear my jacket? Don’t tell your boyfriend.” and “come round later for a smoke…”, and one said I hurt his feelings when I joked about someone else being attractive. I was also very inappropriately, and repetitively offered a birthday kiss from one of the older men here. They would constantly creep up behind me to make me jump and make inappropriate comments about other female employees’ appearance, both to their faces and behind their backs. It’s horrible feeling like you can’t report behaviour like this because you literally couldn’t afford to be dismissed, knowing that this solution would be far easier for them than actually tackling the problem. And even more frustrating having it not understood, or belittled, by my boyfriend because as a man, he never encountered anything along these lines at the mill. It really makes you feel like you’re losing your mind.
It’s easy to let the little things get you down here. I mean, there’s not a lot else to do.
When they’re changing the blades you’re expected to help at the next station, which usually means joining a group of five all stacking wood from the conveyor (clearly a one person job), from what Todd told me, the nail gun requires a certificate and full protective gear including a face cover and gauntlets, and it’s low on pressure so even if you are specially chosen to use it, it doesn’t work anyway. You’re either being rushed to do a quick job badly or moving as slow as you possibly can and still beating the unmotivated locals. And that’s not to mention all the health and safety violations; I regularly see multiple people, including the foreman, walking along the top of the conveyors, leaving running machinery unattended, reaching into saws.
No point reporting it, it’s just how they do.
I think my main problem is the foreman. He is sexist and powerful with it, but still just a small-minded caricature of the old world. He may be powerful but his power lies only here in the small town of Dingo and all I can do is take all the money I can for this place and warn others not to come.
When I leave, I will use this time to afford travels across the world, for me and my brother, I will have earned that freedom. The foreman, with his oversized moustache and ridiculous cowboy hat, will be stuck in this small town living negatively for the rest of his and his family’s lives.
Essentially the place is run inefficiently and dangerously by very sexist, small-minded and dangerous people. So unless you’re desperate or willing to put up a fight, put Dingo sawmill on your blacklist and drive straight past.