Former backpackers struck by Cupid's arrow fear romance will suffer with tax hike plan
They came for the experience but were struck by cupid's arrow in Western Australia's rural Great Southern region and now call the place home.
Former backpackers said such encounters would be less common now following a proposed tax hike on backpackers announced by the Federal Government earlier this week.
The tax rate will jump to 32.5 per cent from July this year prompting a swift response from the body representing farmers.
Increasing a tax on what backpackers could earn, which is already quite little, will make it just that little bit harder for them to get out into the regions — which is the real Australia, in my opinion.
Malene Brownley, originally from Denmark
The National Farmer's Federation said the tax hike would dissuade backpackers from seeking employment in regional towns.
The Federation's general manager of policy, Sarah McKinnon, said the effects were already being felt on farms across Australia.
"Backpackers are a critical part of our workforce," Ms McKinnon said.
"We are already starting to see a reduced number of backpackers coming to rural and regional areas and that means it's harder for farmers to find workers.
"We simply can't afford to have the rug pulled out from under us, leaving farmers with fewer, or no workers in the next peak season."
Chance to see the real Australia
Two former backpackers, now permanent residents also fear international visitors will miss the chance to be "young and free" to experience regional Australia and perhaps lose that chance of meeting "someone special".
"I certainly didn't come to Australia with that in mind, or the money for that matter," Merriden resident Lisa Arthur said.
She originally arrived in Australia 26 years ago as part of an exchange program from her home in the US state of Wisconsin.
"I was only coming for a year at most; two kids and a husband later and I'm still here," she said.
Ms Arthur said working as a backpacker in regional parts of Australia also offered the chance to embrace the nation's "true character".
"I came over from a place that is the polar opposite of Merriden and was just happy to work, earn a little bit of money and keep travelling," she said.
"But I fell in love with the town, its people and of course, my now husband.
"It's the little stories like that I fear will be missed by this tax increase.
"It will have a flow-on effect, not just for the farmers but the fabric of regional towns."
From Europe to Bruce Rock
Malene Brownley came to Australia from Denmark in 2003 in search of work and adventure but was soon swept off her feet by a plumber in the town of Bruce Rock.
"I was very fortunate to be set up with a lovely host family who took me in," Ms Brownley said.
"The money was never part of the equation and I'm sure for a lot of backpackers looking to come and work out in the regions, it isn't the case either.
"It's simply a way of being able to afford to stay in one spot and really soak in the character of a town.
"Increasing a tax on what backpackers could earn, which is already quite little, will make it just that little bit harder for them to get out into the regions — which is the real Australia, in my opinion."