140 years of legal education - making history in Adelaide Law School's 140th year

Adelaide Law School celebrating 140 years

In 2023 the Adelaide Law School celebrates 140 years of legal education. It’s a moment to look back on all that has been achieved across the span of three centuries, but also to look forward at what is to come.

To commemorate this moment in time, we’ve invited Adelaide Law School staff to share some of the history we are making in our 140th year.

Professor Joanna Howe is a leading expert on the legal regulation of temporary labour migration.

In Undocumented migrants: Unearthing new knowledge on a critical source of farm labour, Professor Howe takes a deep dive into the role of undocumented migrants in farm labour supply and the issues surrounding this.

migrant worker

In a country like Australia which has a minimum wage and strong labour laws, you could be forgiven for believing that all Australian workers are paid fairly and treated well. Yet every time you do your weekly grocery shop, it is almost inevitable that you will purchase fruits and vegetables that were harvested by underpaid and exploited undocumented migrant workers.

The Australian horticulture industry has had a long history of endemic labour challenges. These challenges include systemic non-compliance with labour standards, with some sources reporting that farm workers in Australia who pick fresh fruit and vegetables are being paid as little as $1 an hour. The COVID-19 pandemic border closures caused a significant drop in migration to Australia, and with this the true precarity of the horticulture industry workforce was exposed.

The industry’s entrenched reliance on undocumented migrant workers became starkly clear, and supply chains across the country suffered.

“These people are migrants who are working in the industry, but who lack a legal entitlement to work. They might be on visas without work rights, have expired visas, or be working in breach of their visa conditions.” Professor Howe
Joanna Howe

Professor Joanna Howe

Professor Howe’s study will help us understand why some farms employ undocumented migrant workers while some do not, and why these workers are employed in certain farming regions more than others.

“There’s so many questions that still need answering, and without the right data our policies and laws might not actually be addressing the root of the problem.”

Answering these questions and shedding light on the dark underbelly of the Australian horticulture industry is essential as we reach a pivotal moment for Australia’s migration policy – not only because of the swift reopening of national borders and the associated spike in migration to Australia, but also because undocumented migrant workers are extremely vulnerable to exploitation.

Professor Howe’s team will collect this critical data and use it to inform changes to our laws and policies that protect these undocumented workers who are invisible to the Australian public. With these changes, Australian consumers will be able to purchase their fresh fruits and vegetables secure in the knowledge that they were produced sustainably and without exploitation.

Want to get involved in celebrating 140 years of the Adelaide Law School? Learn more.

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