Backpacker warned of jail time after picking more than fruit
A BUNDABERG Magistrate has warned a backpacker that he could end up in jail if he doesn't behave himself.
After four successful years of picking fruit in Australia as a seasonal backpacker, Maka Leohiva Taliauli has no plans to quit, intending to return to the country again next year.
But as the 26-year-old backpacker from Tonga has discovered that if he keeps picking fights, it may take away his right to picking fruit.
On Monday he pleaded guilty in the Bundaberg Magistrates Court to one count of assault occasioning bodily harm.
The court heard that on July 11 the defendant was drinking with friends at the Federal Hotel at Childers when he and the victim, who knew each other and were staying in the same accommodation at the time, went outside to settle their differences.
After participating in a "consensual" fight, friends separated the two backpackers, but Taliauli eventually broke away before approaching the victim again and punching him once on the right side of his face.
As a result of the punch, the victim who is a backpacker from Vanuatu, sustained a cut on his cheek and bruise below the eye.
The defendant set off on foot and was later intercepted by police and told them he did not know what happened earlier, other than he had too much to drink.
Following the incident, Taliauli is no longer living in the same building as the victim and now resides at the farm where he works.
Arriving in Australia in March for his fourth year of fruit picking, Taliauli's visa was set to expire this month but he is unable to return home until Australia's borders reopen and hopes to return again.
The defendant's employers appeared in court on Monday to support the backpacker and spoke highly of him to the duty lawyer.
Bundaberg Magistrate Andrew Moloney said while he wouldn't be sending him to jail, he wanted the defendant to understand that his behaviour was serious misconduct.
"What makes it serious is you restarted it after it had ended and there are examples in our courts of people being in prison for this kind of stuff because people have come in for a second go," Mr Moloney said.
"We need as many backpackers and workers who are going to pick the fruit as possible (because) we can't find enough, but to stay here and get that good work, you're going to have to behave yourself."
Taliauli was fined $650 and no conviction was recorded.