Every year, thousands of young tourists from all over the world will head to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. Working in Australia for a year is an incredible opportunity to get to see a beautiful part of the world, as well as to earn some cash. Australia is known to have a higher than average wage compared to many other countries, so you have real potential to earn and save for the rest of your travels.
One of the most popular lines of work for young backpackers in Australia is regional farm work. For many people, doing 88 days of farm work will allow them to apply for a second year visa. Even if you’re from a country where you cannot apply for a second year, such as the US, farm work is still a popular option as it’s a great opportunity to work and save up. As you will most likely be in a small town away from the city, there are little distractions around to spend your money on.
But before you jump straight on a bus heading for the outback, there is a lot you need to consider. Whilst some people will love their time doing farm work and manage to save a lot of money, others will have horror stories to tell – about farmers not signing them off for their second year visa, or underpaying them. On top of this, many regional jobs are only available at certain times of the year. Take the following into account and you’ll be well on your way to finding a great farm job, getting your days ticked off, and earning some serious cash.
1. Do Your Research!
It may be tempting to go for a particular job and travel to a far away town as soon as you see a decent opening. But it’s important to do your research first because sometimes things can seem too good to be true. Research the place you are considering going. See if there are any reviews or articles online about the farm, town, or accommodation you may be staying in. My partner and I almost went to one particular town after being promised a good hourly rate and cheap rent. However after a quick Google search we found out that the farm we had been in contact with had been blacklisted for not paying backpackers and not signing them off for their second year visas. It’s atrocious that the farm was still operating and employing backpackers but sadly these things do happen, and it’s important that you don’t allow yourself to be exploited like this.
Make sure you also contact the farm or place you are wishing to stay to ask about the type of work that is offered and the pay. This way you can get much more information and gauge what type of work you are getting yourself into, instead of just turning up and discovering it’s not what you were expecting.
Lastly, always try to get work on a farm which will pay your wages into your bank account and pay you superannuation, rather than a cash in hand job, as this is a sign that the farm will protect it’s employees and pay them a fair wage.
2. Check What Is In Season
So your friend worked in a blueberry farm in New South Wales, got paid $20 an hour and had a blast? It’s tempting to go to where is recommended and has a good reputation, however if you are looking for work in May, you may get to the blueberry farm and discover there is no work until September.
Naturally, different fruits or vegetables are in season at different times of the year, so it’s important to see what is in season when you require work and try to get work in that field. It may mean going somewhere quite far from where you are now, but if you know that the work is there it will be worth it. The wonderful thing about Australia is that it is such a vast country, and as such you will always find something that is in season. You could find yourself picking avocados or cutting down bananas.
Check Harvest Trail for a comprehensive guide on what is in season and when, in the different regions of Australia. Harvest Trail is a Government resource and their booklets can be found for free in many hostels, or you can find them online.
3. Keep Your Bank Balance Up
Some people will think that when they head off to do farm work they won’t need much money as they will get work straight away. Sadly, in reality, this is not always the case. Many farms will have a waiting list, and even if there is plenty of work you will still have to wait a while for you to begin your work. Even if you do lots of research, speak to lots of people, and know what’s in season, things still don’t always go to plan. You may find yourself waiting for work, or having to move on. Save up enough first to at least cover your accommodation and food costs for a few weeks, and any transport in case you do need to move on.
4. Plan Ahead
If you are just doing farm work for some money and experience, this is not so essential, but if your main reason for doing regional work is to apply for a second year visa, you will need at least 4-5 months left on your current visa.
For starters, many people think they need to do regional work for three months, but many farms will only sign you off for the days worked, not for the amount of time you have been employed. When you consider that you will most likely not work 88 days in a row, it will take you longer than this amount of time to complete your farm work.
As I said above, sometimes things often go wrong. You may be put on a waiting list and have to wait a few weeks for the work to actually come in. Allow the time to do your farm work so you won’t have to stress later on.
5. If You Can, Get A Car
This is not essential. Many people do their regional work just fine without a car. However, you will find that many farms are in the middle of nowhere and if you are staying in a nearby town, you will still need to drive to work. Many backpackers easily get a lift with others, but having your own car means you’re never stuck. You may get employed quicker by a farm as they will have more reason to consider your job application. On top of this, having your own car gives you more freedom. Being in the middle of nowhere in Australia can be boring. With a car you can explore the local area on your days off, or head into the nearest city on the weekends.
Getting a car does not have to be a huge expense. Look on websites like Gumtree to find a cheap, second hand car and don’t be afraid to negotiate a price. Make sure the car is still registered, as registering a car can be very expensive. In the long run, having your own vehicle may save you money in public transport, or chipping in to rent a car to get to work every day. And you can always sell it on at the end of your time in Australia.
6. It’s Not Just About Fruit Picking
Fruit and vegetable picking and packing is the easiest and most popular way to get your second year visa signed off, but there are other options depending on your experience. If you have experience working with children, you could get a position as a live-in nanny on a farm or in a regional area. This type of job will also mean you will usually get your food and accommodation included. If you are an experienced scuba diver you could get a job diving for pearls – this is hard work but there is a lot of money to be earned.
Many people also find jobs on mining sites in Western Australia. The jobs here can be varied – you could work in the kitchens or doing construction. Again, working on the mines can earn you a lot of money and as such are a very popular option.
Consider your previous experience, any qualifications you may be interested in getting, and what kind of work you would ideally like to do, as there are many different options when it comes to doing regional work.