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Filipina tourist-turned-caregiver enslaved by Sydney couple for three years

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Apr 26, 2021 7:06 pm

An anonymous Filipina who was kept against her will by Sydney couple Shiela and Joshua McAleer is finally receiving due justice.

The situation began in 2013 when the FIlipina was led by the couple’s promise of extending her three-month tourist visa, as she was only in the country for a quick visit. Three months later, her passport had been confiscated, and was no longer permitted to leave their home. 

From then on, she was forced to be a caregiver and cleaner for the McAleers - working as much as six to seven days a week. She was also often made to tend to their business for hours without pay. 

This all happened between November 2014 and October 2016, until the woman eventually escaped and was welcomed by a nearby community in Australia.  Documents have shown that the McAleers continued to hunt for the woman, as they even hired a private investigator to find her, claiming that she was the husband's missing fiancee. They didn’t get to track the former caregiver again.

Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Police got a tip-off in July of 2017, and the couple was issued court attendance notices in October of 2019.

The McAleers were then found guilty of multiple charges of forced labour of another person, harbouring an unlawful non-citizen, and making false statements for health benefits. They are now facing up to 10 years in prison, with a sentence due on June 11 of this year.

Joshua McAleen after pleading guilty for forced labor, among other charges (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)

“I felt like a slave but I didn’t say anything,” the woman said in a statement. “I did not know when I came that I would have to work 24 hours a day. I did not get paid for my work. I feel it would have been better not to come (to Australia). I had no power to change my situation."

The woman has been freely living in Australia for almost five years now, though she still has recurring fears of the couple that kept her hostage.

Article images  from The Daily Mail and Sydney Morning Herald