When my daughter arrived in Australia, I breathed a sigh ofrelief. To my mind, she had reached safe harbor: a job which she had sensiblypre-arranged from the UK, a familiar culture and, like many Britons, extendedfamily and friends in the region who could rescue her should she get intodifficulties.
Venomous snakes and spiders aside, as a destination for agap year student, Down Under could hardly feel more secure. I’m sure mostparents would agree - and have been horrified by this week’s news of a 22year-old female backpacker from Liverpool being rescued by police from anabusive kidnapper in Queensland, after allegedly being held hostage for twomonths.
For many, this was a reminder of my beautiful 20-year-olddaughter, Mia Ayliffe-Chung, who was murdered in a hostel in Queensland, lastyear. To me this was a very different scenario - Mia was dragged from her bedand stabbed to death - but I can imagine how traumatised this girl and herfamily must be.
Mia’s travels were planned meticulously between us with hersafety in mind. I followed her through social media and frequent phoneconversations every step of the way. I'm an English teacher, and havingtravelled extensively myself, I impressed several things upon her: dress as yousee locals dressing; be respectful of other cultures and customs; seek outgroups of travellers and never EVER get into a vehicle alone with a stranger.
I was happy to see from photos she posted from India toIndonesia that she followed my advice to the letter, for once. And yet shetravelled the world in safety only to to be killed in a country we perceive tobe so similar to our own.
Although her suspected killer was not Australian - Frenchnational Smail Ayad, 29, a fellow backpacker, has been charged with two countsof murder - I believe her death would not have occurred had she not joined theAustralian government’s Second Working Holiday Visa programme, which entailscompleting 88 days of (usually) agricultural work in rural regions within oneseason.
This is the scheme on offer to young travellers fromCommonwealth countries, France, Germany, South Korea and Japan, allowing themto extend their visas by a year while plugging a labour gap in a crucialindustry.