Make Your Australian Working Holiday Work! PART 2.

Trip Start Jan 13, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Thursday, July 26, 2012

(Not read Part 1 yet? Find it here)

Once you've fallen in love with Australia, 1 year to explore
this incredible country just doesn’t seem enough. And it isn’t. So as you
probably know, you have the option to extend your visa by another 12 months by
completing 3 months specified work in a regional part of Australia. You
can find which areas of Australia are considered "regional" with this table on
the Immigration Website
. You can find a list of specified work types here. Fruit picking, pearl harvesting, working with horses or herding sheep, there
are so many options!

Finding the right agricultural job can be a task and a half.
I have found the National Harvest Trail website
pretty useless for jobs with out-of-date adverts and very few listings although
it is handy to find out what season is going on where and at what time. Gumtree
always has plenty
of listings. Below are the three main types of agricultural employment for
those on a Working Holiday Visa. (Note: Always double check before taking on
any work that your employer can sign you off for your second year.)


Picking fruit is generally low-paid work. You’re likely to
be paid “contract rates” which means you’ll be paid for how much fruit you
pick. $30 for picking a bin of mandarins might seem great, but when you
consider that 1 bin = 1 tonne (standard bin size), some mandarins are barely
bigger than a golf ball and you have to balance on a ladder and gather the
fruit into a bag hung around your neck before transferring it into the bin
which altogether could take you 4 hours on your own…well you’re getting paid less
than $10 an hour to break your back. But if you like the great outdoors, enjoy
hard work, don’t mind spiders lurking in trees and fancy a full-body workout
every day for 3 months…then picking can actually be a great laugh once you team
up with others and make the most of it. Don’t forget a long sleeved-shirt, sunglasses,
a hat and your sunscreen.


You can get jobs pruning fruit trees, nut trees and grape
vines by hand. Again you are usually paid contract rates per-tree or vine which
can work out as poor as $9 an hour so make sure you check out the rates and how
long it takes to do each tree or vine. If you get paid hourly you will be given
a time within which you are expected to complete the’ll be lucky to
be getting paid hourly so don’t take the piss by taking a 2 hour lunch and
working at a snails’ pace. Vine pruning is especially good if you are working
with a friend or partner because you can take a side of the vine each and prune
away while having a good natter. As with picking, you’ll need a long sleeved
shirt, sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen.

Sorting and Packing

This is the option Vicky and I went for. We sorted and packed
oranges in a packing shed in Renmark, South Australia. We really enjoyed this
work. It was for a large company which paid well ($23 an hour plus extra for
late nights or weekends) including paying tax and superannuation properly which
a lot of smaller employers don’t. It is very boring repetitive work in a dirty noisy
atmosphere, lots of machinery and dust. That said, the time goes fast and there
is a good chance you’ll be working with locals which is a great opportunity to
get to know the real Australia. We made some very good friends, ended up living
with locals and Vicky has even returned to the same shed this year to work
again! Read more about our experience in a packing shed.

How about Working Hostels?

A Working Hostel is essentially a backpackers’ hostel in a
regional area where the owners act as a go-between for local farmers and fruit
block owners who need seasonal staff. The farmers don’t have to take time out
of the business to spend recruiting and the hostel ends up full to the brim
with people paying rent and probably hanging around for 3 months. Win/win
situation. But maybe not for the workers.

Working Hostels often hook you in by advertising work on
Gumtree, “Fruit Picking/Packing work
available, Good Wages, Accommodation provided, Call on: ….”
But when you
turn up at what you think is going to be a quaint little family run farm, it
turns out it’s a hostel. Yes accommodation is provided, but at your expense. Often
when you arrive there is no work for you and you will be told that there is
some coming up, so you pay your rent in the meantime and wait and wait. I have
known people wait for weeks with nothing then eventually get 2 or 3 days’ work,
then nothing again for weeks. A fabulous way to waste time and money and become

A lot of Working Hostels will ask for a bond of a few hundred dollars when you check in. How they justify
this I’m not quite sure but it is basically so if you quit any job they find
you, they can keep the bond, even if you leave due to incredibly poor wages or bad
conditions. They have no legal right to do this, but check what you sign when
you check in because you may unknowingly be agreeing to this. Hostel owners
will promise you the world to get you in and paying rent, so beware false
promises. Ask upfront about any bonds and tell them to get stuffed if they
require one.

A lot of Working Hostels will also make you believe that if
you leave the hostel you will lose your job. If for example you find cheaper accommodation
elsewhere and wish to move, speak directly to your employer about continuing to
work for him/her to clear up any arguments. Employers are usually unaware of
this “clause” and really couldn’t care less where you’re living, as long as you
turn up and do your job.

Please note that what I have written here does not apply to
every working hostel. It really is a case of trusting your judgement, looking
up reviews online and speaking to fellow travellers to find one that can be
trusted and will be of as much benefit to you as you are to them.

Wwoofing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms)

Wwoofing is an exchange of 4-6 hours of work a day for a
learning experience, accommodation and often food. Smaller businesses and
family-run farms call on the services of travellers to help them with day to
day running of their operation. It can include everything from household chores
and child-minding to ploughing fields and cattle herding. Often you will live
with the family. The spirit of it all is exchange. The families and
business involved have a lot to teach about permaculture, animal welfare, and
stock control, organic farming…the list goes on! Check out for more information and to sign up to receive
your membership and book. It is a great way to experience something
out-of-the-ordinary and to see how the real Australia works. Placements include
bat hospitals, yoga retreats, naturist communities, even a family who live in a

88 Days or 3 Months?

I have always insisted that the Immigration website is
confusing and my point is proven when it comes to finding out whether you need
to complete 88 individual days of work, or 3 months from start to finish. I
ended up calling Immigration to find out. Here it is, plain and simple:
If you are on a casual contract you will
need to complete 88 individual days of eligible work in a regional area of
Australia. A days’ work is considered to be anything upwards of 4 hours. Keep
count of the days you work because it is unlikely that your employer will.
If you are on a full-time contract you
need to be employed in eligible work in a regional area for 3 months start to
finish. So for example, from September 1st to December 1st,
regardless of how many days or hours of actual work you complete. This really
is the better option but rather rare.

Don’t forget, you aren’t required to complete the 88 days all in one go. You could do a couple of weeks fruit picking in Bundaberg, pack bananas in Darwin for a month and Wwoof on a sheep station in WA to make up the rest. It is entirely up to you, but if you’re mixing it up like that you need to count 88 individual days’ work. It is important you keep track of days worked, company names and ABN’s and contact details. You will need these when you submit your application for your second year visa. You can find the form here.
Always apply within the last month of your 1st year visa.

Tax Back Time!

At the end of every financial year (30th June)
you can, and should, claim back any tax you are entitled to. You could see an
accountant or a specialist “backpacker tax return” company and pay them a fee
(usually flat rate or a percentage of your tax return.) I would personally
choose an accountant out of those two options because I don’t trust anything advertised
in super-bright letters and an 'exciting’ font, aimed at backpackers with the
slogan “Too DRUNK to do your own tax

If you go to an accountant or tax return company you will
need to provide all of your end of year statements that you get from each
employer you have worked for, either by email or through the post, so keep your
previous employers informed of your current address come tax return time (even
if it’s just the address of a local post office where you can collect post

There is always the option of doing your own tax return by
downloading an online tool available through the ATO website. My theory is, you’ve
gone to the extent of getting all your tax info together anyway, you may as
well do the rest yourself and you won’t be charged a fee. Vicky, being the
organised one of us both, did both our tax returns.

If you really can’t be arsed to do it yourself (and fair
enough, without Vicky I probably would have got confused and gone to an accountant)
make sure you shop around. Beware getting ripped off, especially by companies
specifically aimed at backpackers. A friend was told by a company that they
would charge her only $100 and they could get her $4000 back as she’d been working
as a graphic designer in Sydney earning lots of dollars and paying lots of tax,
good eh? Not really when you consider that when she did her own tax return she
got back over $5000. So that company really weren’t charging just $100 were
they? They were enjoying about $1000 of her tax money that she had earned and she was entitled to.

Once you’ve got
your second year visa and your tax back…well…Australia is your oyster!


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