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‘Servant’ worked around the clock and denied access to a doctor, court hears

A Fijian woman allegedly trafficked into forced labour by a Queensland couple worked around the clock and was denied access to a doctor, a court has heard.

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, says she was forced to work as a domestic helper in suburban Brisbane for eight years until 2016.

She said despite cooking the meals each day, she rarely ate with the family, who had allegedly “imported” her as a live-in worker from Fiji in 2008 because they felt a servant was missing from their lives.

The Brisbane District Court also heard the woman often laid awake in her bed at night due to the pain caused by untreated tooth decay, and how she had been forced to clean up after a visiting grandmother who had soiled herself.

Tongan couple Isikeli Feleatoua Pulini and Malavine Pulini are on trial for human trafficking and forced labour offences in relation to allegedly illegally bringing the woman to work in their suburban Brisbane home for about $250 per fortnight.

On Monday, the couple pleaded guilty to harbouring an unlawful non-citizen but deny they trafficked the woman and forced her to work.

During cross-examination of the woman on Tuesday, the court heard she had a phone, a Facebook profile and access to the household’s computer with internet.

She also has a brother and a brother-in-law who are police officers in her home country, the court heard.

Earlier, crown prosecutor Ben Power told the court the woman lived hidden from plain sight, with neighbours oblivious of her alleged forced labour.

Mr Power said the alleged victim had initially worked as a domestic servant for the pair in Tonga in the early 2000s, earning about $90 to $170 a fortnight.

But in 2006, the Pulinis secured work in Australia as a civil engineer and public servant respectively.

Mr Power said the couple allegedly arranged for the woman to travel to Australia twice on a tourist visa.

After the woman’s second arrival in 2008, the Pulinis allegedly took her passport and said they would use it to get her an Australian visa.

Mr Power said the woman feared to ask for her passport back and it was not returned until 2013, after it had expired.

He said the woman felt depressed as the years wore on.

The trial continues on Wednesday.