Backpackers Working In Australia

September 9, 2005    

Travel Tips Page 5

Visas – The Australian working holiday maker visa scheme now covers many countries around the world so check before you arrive – you may be eligible if you’re under 30 years old. It is only issued once in a lifetime so don’t get it if you’re not sure.

Some travellers start off with a tourist visa, decide if they like the possible work on offer and their experience in the country, and then take a quick cheap trip over to New Zealand to get it there. (You have to apply for this outside of Australia – but a return Sydney-Auckland flight can be obtained for as little as ~$350!)

Work Expectations – The visa only allows you to work for any one employer for a maximum of 6 months, so finding a career or more professional job like you might have back home or what you might have been trained for at university will be very difficult to get. Most of the jobs I see backpackers getting are labouring/construction for the guys and hospitality/retail for the girls.

Traditional jobs of last-resort in the cities are data-entry, and there are also those call centre or commission sale jobs, which might promise more than what they deliver. And if you are lucky enough to have your own transport you can always bank on a job delivering fast-food.

Qualifications & Training Courses – You naturally must bring a copy of your CV/resume. Also be prepared to do Australian industry “work-safe” type courses when you arrive. For example in NSW building site workers need construction site “white/green cards”, and any job connected with alcohol needs an “RSA” (responsible service of alcohol) certificate.

There are others – and note that most/all of these industry certifications are state-based, i.e. they might not be transferable (or even needed) in other states. These work training courses / certificates usually take 1 day to get and cost up to $100. (No-one ever “fails” – I don’t know if this is even possible!)

Don’t Run Out of Cash – The main thing to remember is don’t come to Australia without a float or back up money at home, because it might take time to find work and then time moving between other jobs. Also don’t think that you will earn $1,000′s which will pay for your holiday in style.

Most work will get you about $120 – $150 per day but 30% tax will be deducted. It is possible to later claim back some of the tax/deductions but the process is bureaucratically complicated and is usually only practical upon leaving Australia. The stories of travellers getting tax back are true but you must fulfill all the criteria; see a taxback agent to be sure.

Some travellers I met completely ran out of money but were lucky enough to get 2 jobs working 60-80 hours per week, earning $800-$1,200. But if you call working this hard “a holiday” I guess it can be done.

Seasonal Work Availability – I mentioned before the seasonality situation, which usually creates huge flows of backpackers arriving in certain parts of the country at certain times. If you’re looking for work you want to be arriving before the masses do. For example nearly every backpacker arrives in Sydney in November/December looking for work and readying themselves for the summer’s activities – this is a bad time to look for work.

The smart traveller to Australia should be here in September/October to cement their position, also December is the time when all university and high school students are shoring up their job prospects for the summer break. Arriving in September/October virtually guarantees you a pick of jobs, no-one who looks fails to find work at this time. There is little competition and most employers are hiring extra staff for the summer.

Conversely April/May is perhaps the worst time to be hunting for hospitality work as most employers will be laying off seasonal staff. Labouring jobs are going strong all year except from late-December to mid-January.

Working Holiday Makers Reputation – Furthermore a lot of very popular traveller destinations within Sydney have been scarred by the thoughtless past traveller. This is the person who promises an employer the world and then delivers nothing, usually taking off without notice leaving the business owner high and dry. I have heard travellers tell me that businesses in these areas have signs offering jobs but “not to travellers”. That is why it is better sometimes to look in those less known destinations — like Cronulla!

Where To Find Work in Australia – It is usually the bigger cities like Sydney NSW, Melbourne Vic and Brisbane / GoldCoast Qld that have the best work opportunities and pay rates, and to a lesser extent the smaller state capitals Perth WA, Adelaide SA and Canberra ACT. The popular coastal traveller destinations such as Byron Bay, Harvey Bay and Cairns have enough locals looking for work to fill the vacancies. Byron Bay for example has a local population of 5,000 and has approx 300,000 visiting travellers per year. Do the maths!

If you are fortunate enough to pick up work outside the major metropolitan areas – remember that the pay will almost always be considerably lower – you’ll be in an employers’ market. Whilst pay might be lower, that is true in general of for other prices too – things are cheaper regionally. For these reasons it is better to “work in the south, spend in the north”.

Fruit picking in regional areas is also a good source of finding work, but is normally hard going and low pay. There are many hostels that specialise in these areas and design accommodation / transport and work packages. But because these areas are so boring most of the travellers spend their wages drowning their sorrows at night and don’t save anything. There are always travellers who find themselves stranded in small rural towns, struggling to save enough to move on to their next destination.

Extended Work Visas – A recent change to the working holiday visa scheme is the possibility of a second year subsequent to the first, dependent upon having worked as a “seasonal worker in regional Australia for a minimum of three months” whilst on the first year’s visa. The definitions of both “seasonal work” and “regional Australia” are quite strict – see the Australian Government website for more details…

Next Page >> A Guide To Living Expenses In Australia
Related Page >> Cronulla Beach YHA Sydney backpackers hostel jobs info…