On 23rd August 2016 British backpacker Mia Ayliffe-Chung was brutally murdered at the Home Hill Hostel in Townsville Australia. Tom Jackson, a fellow British backpacker who tried to defend her was also murdered. At the time Mia was carrying out her 88 days of regional agricultural work – a requirement of the Australian government in order to obtain a second year visa to stay in the country. Their killer was another backpacker, Smail Ayad, who has since been diagnosed with schizophrenia – it was his first psychotic episode. The murder initially hit the headlines because Ayad is reported to have shouted Alahu Akbar as he killed Mia.
During the aftermath of this traumatic event, Mia’s mother Rosie became acutely aware of the issues surround the 88 day visa requirement – the many problems and glaring shortfalls of the system. Shocked and disturbed by what she was uncovering and what she was hearing from many other backpackers who contacted her to share their stories, she found herself propelled into the centre of a campaign to bring about legislative change.
Over the first chaotic and grief stricken days following Mia’s death, as Rosie travelled out to Australia to bring home her daughter’s body, she wrote a series of blogs sharing her emotions, and it was from these that the idea for this book grew.
Mia was Rosie’s only child and she brought her up as a single parent. Her death was traumatic and life changing. In her memoir Rosie describes movingly how she has found the strength to come to come to terms with her loss, drawing on inspiration from her daughter’s short life. She also explains how she has become the driving force behind an international campaign to press for change to the 88 days system – without which Australian agriculture would not be able to function properly, with backpackers providing almost a third of the seasonal labour force. As a consequence, three Australian States have now introduced Labour Hire Licensing laws, and the incumbent Australian government is considering a raft of proposals concerning the 88 days, recommended by the Parliamentary Inquiry into Modern Slavery
Ultimately this is a story of a mother’s loss and her fight to protect others suffering a similar tragedy.
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