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In light of all the recent scam stories coming out from Mildura, one of our members, who will be named “Mary” wrote the following piece about her time at the infamous Dons accommodation.

The Story

In June 2014 my boyfriend and I travelled to Australia from England to start our one year working holiday. We staying in Brisbane for two weeks, looking for any farm work available as we wanted to complete our regional work early. As it was the winter it was hard to find any work going, however we came across an advert on gumtree for ‘Citrus Picking’ in Mildura. On the ad it stated that we would be picking citrus fruits-oranges. We contacted the number on the ad, and talked to one girl, who we assumed was the receptionist or had some relation to the farm. She had told us that there was accommodation for couples on the farm and that the pay was approx $22/hr. We actually had to leave our hostel that day as all the rooms had been booked up. So given all these factors it ticked all the boxes and so we booked our flights, paying $800.


Get A Job Now – Don’t Get Scammed



Arriving in Mildura

We had sent our flight details to the girl on the phone so they knew what time to pick us up and they assured us they’d be there. We arrived in Mildura at 11:25am yet never got picked up until 1:30pm.
It was the contractor, Don, who picked us up. Before he even drove us to our backpacker accommodation, we had to sign a form saying that the money we pay the contractor was for a “job search” and not for rent. He drove us straight to a cash machine, where we had to withdraw $900 to pay upfront. This was actually for two weeks rent each, plus a bond.
He then drove us straight to our accommodation which, to our surprise, was a house with about 30 people living there (4 bedrooms). After having a strict talk from the ‘head of house’ (who had been there for four weeks) about the rules of the house and respecting Don (otherwise he would kick us out without question or delay-which he has done many times before), we then got shown to our room….the garage, with 6 bunk beds in it and no heating. At this point I was feeling very uncomfortable, unwelcome and very homesick.
We got told to go and buy some food for the week and some clothes/shoes suitable for the job. This rinsed us of all of our money. We had nothing left.

“The Working Week Begins”

We started work the next day at 7am, it was freezing and after a very cold night, we weren’t feeling ready at all. We turned up to a farm full of rows of dead vines, no fruit. We were vine pulling. We could only afford thin gloves and we spent the whole day until 6pm, pulling old vine branches off the wires. It was extremely hard work, time consuming, getting whipped all over our bodies and across our faces every two minutes from the vines. We had to count how many vine trees we had pulled by the time we got picked up and it got written down. We were then told we got paid about 15c a vine. In a full day we earned max of $30 each a day. “Rent” was $150 each a week. If we worked 7 days a week we’d earn max $210 each, leaving us with $60 a week for living essentials.
We got back to the house to share one kitchen with everyone and two showers (even though we were told we were only allowed to use one). Then to bed in the freezing garage, which was only accessible from outside, and back up at 6:30am with swollen and very sore hands.
We found out after a couple of days, that the girl on the phone, was just another worker, one of us, who had only been there for two weeks previous to us, who got paid $20 per person she signed up, so obviously she sold the fruit picking job well.

Backpacker Job Birthday Blues

On the third day we had there, it was my birthday. I don’t think I have ever been so down waking up on my birthday. When my boyfriend saw how upset I was, we both decided we had had enough and we had to get out. We had been talking to another couple in the house who had been working there for two weeks and they were still waiting to be paid. If this was the case for us, we wouldn’t be able to afford food never mind rent. We were relying on the pitiful pay to pay for everything. We couldn’t afford anything. It was slave labour. We had also been told that we had to give two weeks notice for leaving to get our bond or any money back. There was no way out of it really.
I called my mum, who lives in England and told her everything, she was so disgusted by it all and paid us to head back to the City. We stayed up that night and packed all our stuff away and booked two buses and a train to get back to Melbourne. We snuck out of the house at 3am and got the transport back to the City and paid for one night in a hostel.
Since then, we have slowly been building our money back up to afford what we came here to do, experience Australia. In reality we will only be able to afford three weeks travelling the country before heading back. And it is because of this we now don’t have time to complete our regional work.

Moving Forward

We haven’t liked talking about it and just put it behind us but if we can prevent any of this happening to other travellers that would be great.

Have you been scammed?

If you have been scammed you should report the crime to your local police office and also get in contact with Fair Work Australia. You should also make other people aware of the situation by posting the information in our fruit picking scam forum.
If you think you are being treated unfairly or your operator is running illegal accomoation or work conditions please don’t hesitate to contact the fair work ombudsman. You can also contact us with your situation so we can post on our Facebook page or newsletter to see if others are affected.

Get A Job Now – Don’t Get Scammed

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Backpackers Leave Their Money for Australian Government
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Dimitri /

G'day Guys, My name is Dimi, I'm one of the admins/starters of . Freddie and I started this community to help working holiday makers and harvest workers find jobs in an easy and transparent manner. We're not just here to help you finding jobs, anything related to your working holiday down under, we will help try find a way to make it easier for you too achieve. Getting your tax done, deals, travel spots... you name it. If you ever have any questions or feedback please don't hesitate to ask. We're always looking for ways to improve the site and help meet our members needs and build a stronger community. Hope you're doing well and best of luck. Cheers Dimi

24 Responses to “My Mildura Nightmare”

  1. James Stone

    Hi Sorry to hear you fell into this scam aswell,

    This happened to myself and my friend as well but luckily people told us to get out of there as soon as we arrived at the house and we did not hand over the money, Don threatened to beat us up but we had a lucky escape. People should be extremely wary of going to Mildura for farm work !

  2. Sam

    I don’t really see anything wrong with this, except you didn’t do your research properly before you went. You have 12 months to complete your work, so your two days spent picking vines won’t have made a difference. Comparing it to slave labour is also pretty offensive too. Life is hard and so is the regional work, don’t expect everything to be handed to you!

    • kate

      I totally agree. He is given the job straight the way. Which is great. You don’t want to have to wait ..and pay rent while not given a job for a week or so do you. You come there for work so you should be ready. Plus if it’s cool that’s just the weather. You don’t expect him to put a jacket on for you and cuddle you and tell you to go back to bed and ddon’t worry about work?
      .15 a vine is actually a good price. Pulling vines ia easy I have don’t that before and you can pull 2 or 3 down at the same time. Also cry baby you get whites by the vine. So is this anyone’s the contractors fault. Also that’s your problem if you don’t have money to get better glove. How can all this be a scam.

      • SIMON

        Yeah these comments just sound like something to come out of dons mouth why would you even comment if you havnt anything constructive to say you just sound ridiculous ….never been never judge….iv been and their story is lightly told they could be way more offensive cause less than scum doesnt even start to sum up that man

  3. Sean

    Me and my friend were also caught in a similar situation in mildura. No money was being payed and when it was in was a small percentage of what we were owed. Mildura itself has a very bad reputation for conning backpackers. If at all possible stay clear as its not just one hostel. They are all linked and are there to relieve you of your money.

  4. LJ

    Hey guys I had the same experience with the same guy, i’m sure his name is Dom not Don though, he’s a bully and this experience also meant I had to return home earlier. I even wrote a gumtree advert advising people to steer clear of Mildura. This guy is an obese brute of Turkish descent I believe and will drive round in a white van. As said he uses other people to lure you in with a promise of good pay. Slave labour was mentioned when I was there too. This guy needs locking up!

  5. matt linham

    i had the exact same experance and by exact i mean word for word just couldnt figure out where to post it, i never got any notise that i was actully getting the days as well im asuming you had the same. i asked for notifaction that the 88 days were being signed off in some way. do you still have any of the contact details for them im sure there has to be something we can do about it, i also have 2 people on facebook i believe that can back it all up as well and this was in late july 2013. i did find out a day or 2 before i left that he has actully been on there version of crime watch which was another reason i left not soon after i was only there for about 2 weeks before i couldnt take it anymore coming back every night and you arms legs and everything else was bleeding and ripped to shreeds i gave up on gloves after about a week and 4 pairs of gloves. such a horrible place did they show you where you stayed if you didnt behave it was in a caravan that looked like it had been on top gear in a mud pile in some random field with an outside toilet and no shower. but like i was saying there has to be something we can do to stop him doing this to other travilers and anyone that needs the 88 days. i planed it perfectly so that i could fly home right after for xmas. WE NEED TO STOP HIM

  6. Julie

    i traveled round Oz yrs ago with my boyfriend and lived in Nangiloc about 40mins from Mildura. We stopped on a caravan park and i suppose we were lucky as we picked oranges, grapes work was plentiful and as we were hard workers each farmer sent us to work on their friends and family farms once their crop was picked. Orange picking is hard work but u have to get on with it if u want the money gosh we were rich for backpackers. We met lots of good friends and thinking back it was the hardest work i have done but it was good fun. The hardest thing i did was pick water melons bent over all day and lifting the heavy melons to the truck and its bloody hot in Mildura. I met lots of good farmers who r good friends still so just because of one bad issue with this Don bloke don’t let it put u off not everyone is like him.

  7. Ferris

    im an Aussie and this guy is well known for doing this. Please share this story and his details. He gives us all a bad name!

  8. Ferris

    Do not deal with this guy

  9. Brayden

    As a Mildura native, I can say with absolute certainty that Serdar “The Don” (as he likes to call himself) Donmez is a pathetic man and the laughingstock of Mildura.

    He’s in a youtube video abusing fruitpickers, and he’s been on national media for his terrible treatment of fruit pickers. I don’t know about any other fruit picking jobs in Mildura but they’re automatically better than him. Avoid at all costs.

  10. Jason78

    Apparently this and other posts did something, so I don’t know if it is true but according to facebook he is under investigation and there are pages about him and whatnot, here you can see two: one apparently ran by the guy himself and another by people against him.
    Hope this helps, I felt really bad for you guys after having read the ordeal you went through….

  11. Sam

    I too fell foul of this horrible man in June/July 2013. Lucky my friend and another guy we met got put on picking oranges so we made the $450 back, just! We were put in a caravan park next to his house which contained around 6 caravans. He threatened to not return the $150 bond but as there was 6 of us (all guys) leaving at the same time, we used his own techniques against him and since just 2 days before a few lads trashed one of the caravans whilst exiting, he arrived minutes later apologetic and dropped us off at the train station. Never again would I step foot in Mildura, horrible bland place. I wish there was something to do to stop other honest backpackers from getting sucked into this trap! Whilst we were there, the girl taking the phonecalls for new backpackers was his ‘girlfriend’. A 19 year old with either no self respect or no money and no way out.

  12. Sam

    Oh…after this I took a WWOOFing job…maybe check that out as I went on to have the best experience of my life, went to work for free in exchange for food and accommodation, within a couple of weeks they started to give me a good wage. Best of luck to everyone

  13. Scott

    Hi guys,
    I have heard these stories too often, promises made, but delivery those promises falls way short. The fair work website has some hints and tips to help prevent this from happening. Before you accept any work, please try the Harvest Labour hire office, located on the corner of 10th Street and Deakin Avenue (access off 10th Street). They have a good idea of who is a legit operator. There are some that just want to make money off you, but there are a lot of farmers who appreciate the work that gets done and will treat you fairly and respectfully. Unfortunately like everywhere in this world there are people who will not. If you find yourself in a position where you have been ripped off please contact the Fair Work Ombudsman and let them know what happened. Best advice is if someone takes you straight to the ATM to get hold of your cash before showing you what you are paying for walk away even it means if you get stuck for accomodation. If you need a place to stay get on couchsurfing or the like to see if someone can put you up for a night or two. The stories I have heard it would even be better to spend the night sleeping outside than falling prey to some of these people.

  14. Amy

    I also had a “lovely” experience with Don. Me and my two friends only had to complete 2 more weeks for get our second year visas, which we told Don right off the bat. We started working on day 2 in Mildura and so we asked Don if our 2 weeks would start from then or if he only counted days we actually worked. Well. He flipped out and told us he wouldn’t sign out days unless we worked the 80days with him. Our visas expired in two months so we didn’t have time to do the 80days and we had already completed 66days at an other farm! We got into an argument about it, so he then called a house meeting while we were out doing groceries and called us the “fucking Canadian bitches” who were trying to ruin his reputation. We left two days later, and by some miracle managed to get our bond back (but not the two weeks rent), and as we were driving away, he yelled “I hope you get raped.” Needless to say, anytime we met someone trying to find regional work, we warned them to stay away from Mildura!

  15. Alex

    The exact same thing happened to me last September with don. I had word for word the same expirince as this person. I was there for 3 days until me and two friends had had enough! We got no money back (each paying 300$ so he made 900$ off of us) when we left and he yelled at us I hope you get raped. I had a great expirince doing regional work in Queensland, it’s a shame he is still pulling this scam with backpackers! Hope something can be done to stop him!

  16. Pip

    I too have a very similar story to this. And I have heard far too many. I too was in Mildura, and the house was a lie to us as well. Greeted by people telling me there was no work and had been no work for weeks. Luckily since I’m a boy, there was work going. And luckily for me, I ended up with an AMAZING farmer! BUT the hostel was a lie, and a rip off.

    My last night in Mildura I had an investigative reported from ABC interview me as he was looking into this one hostel in particular (not the same as yours, but similar).. My friends and I, at the hostel wrote a book which was kept, and as far as I know, still there. The book is for all backpackers, who live there, to tell their story and warn others, so this doesn’t happen to anyone.

    For awhile now I have been contemplating contacting different news agencies to report my story, and hearing all of yours is given me a reason to start this process

  17. kate

    I cant see why this is a scam..He is given the job straight the way. Which is great. You don’t want to have to wait ..and pay rent while not given a job for a week or so do you. You come there for work so you should be ready. Plus if it’s cool that’s just the weather. You don’t expect him to put a jacket on for you and cuddle you and tell you to

  18. My Fruit Picking Disaster | Fruit Picking Jobs Australia

    […]   As bad as this situation is one key lesson to learn is to do your 2nd year visa work when you arrive in Australia. This will eleviate the financial stress ( load up your bank account early) and eliminate the rush of doing your specified work last minute ( help you make better less rushed decisions). Obviously you should never pay big money upfront to recruiters and always do your research on employers.     If you enjoyed reading that you may also like,   My Mildura Nightmare […]

  19. Lucy

    Wow, the infamous Dom. Just reading this made me feel sick and reminded me of the awful experience. My boyfriend and I got lured into his place too in October 2014.
    People saying that he is giving backpackers work and we shouldn’t complain really have no idea. Before coming to mildura I worked on a farm in queensland, a legit farm with a fair farmer who paid us weekly and hourly. That was a great Australian experience I won’t forget, but mildura on the other hand gives Australia a bad name. Especialy the low life that is Don. He exploits backpackers into paying him a huge amount of money and pays us pittance.
    We stayed 4 days and had a lucky escape. We got our deposit back after a blazing row with him and the last thing he said to us and 3 other girls leaving was “I hope you get raped ” if that’s not a scum bag I don’t know what is. Australia really need to police their regional work more tightly, the whole town knew about him and said he was a crook, he was even on the local news and labelled as “Australia’s worst boss ” yet even a year later he is still doing this. He needs to be stopped once and for all!

  20. kat

    We had a completely different experience. We worked for 3 months picking oranges and lemons on an amazing farm in Dareton ( very close to Mildura) . The money wasn’t great and the work was hard ut the farmer was great! Please don’t avoid all Mildura farms as not all of them are bad. My advice would be if you need to pay anything up front then avoid at all costs!

  21. Ollie

    That’s horrendous. I heard multiple stories about people been scammed during my farm work. I stayed in a working hostel during my stay and wasn’t scammed as such, but definitely exploited.


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