A still of a video promoting PALM workers berry picking in Queensland (Image: Nunes Cosbar/YouTube)
A still of a video promoting PALM workers berry picking in Queensland (Image: Nunes Cosbar/YouTube)

Daily social media posts showcasing the good, bad and banal are luring East Timorese temporary migrant workers in Australia away from their nominated employers and on to the road in search of better labour conditions and wages. 

On YouTube, smiling berry pickers remind audiences to “love your job -- everything will be easy” and that strawberries are sweet but “not as sweet as your smile”. On TikTok, machines propelled by the sound of Céline Dion travel at lightning speed through sun-drenched crops. On Facebook, workers dance their way through rain, hail and shine to the motto: “Although the wind and rain may blow, we work with happiness. Be strong brothers and sisters.”

A two-part Crikey investigation has revealed the precarious lives led by East Timorese in Australia working under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM), many of whom have learnt the hard way that a protection visa is neither a financial safety net nor a means to work.