Any backpacker who wants to extend their Australian Working Holiday Visa for another year must complete 88 days of specified work in a regional postcode. For most travellers, working in the back-and-beyond of Australia is a chance to save money and experience the ‘real’ Australia. But before you dive in head first, this is what you need to know about regional work in Australia.
Gumtree is the best resource for finding your regional work. Post an ad with a brief description of yourself and what you are looking for and the farmers will come to you. A word of warning – most girls who post ads will probably receive some less than helpful ‘work’ offers so be careful!
Decide what type of farm work you are after
Do you want to work with animals, harvesting crops or in the mines? I thought farm work was all one of the same but I couldn’t be more wrong! Working with animals is generally more varied but can also involve longer hours and being covered in various animal fluids 24/7. Decisions, decisions…
You will probably get ripped off
Farmers know that backpackers are desperate to get their second year visa so can pay you pittance and work you till you drop in return for signing off your paperwork. If you argue then there will always be another backpacker waiting to take your spot. It’s a rubbish situation so take care.
The chances are that you will be short-changed in some way but be aware of exploitation and put your foot down when necessary.
Find a place which hires other backpackers
Life in the middle of nowhere gets lonely. There can be some fab locals and fellow Aussie workmates but sometimes people who have lived such rural lifestyles can be a bit, well, weird… If you find a farm which hires other backpackers then you are more likely to enjoy your time in the wilderness and connect with some like-minded people.
Try to get work close to an area you want to explore
When we were narrowing down where to do our regional work, we decided to look close to areas we wanted to explore. By narrowing our Gumtree ad to offers within 100km of our chosen destination, we knew that we would be able to escape to civilisation on our days off and see our friends nearby.
Try to visit the farm before you commit to work
Visiting the farm beforehand gives you a great chance to get a feel for the place and your potential workmates. You can have all your questions answered and be able to make an informed decision on where would suit you best.
Working on a cattle station 1000km from anywhere does sound like a romantic idea but when it comes down to it, where on earth are you going to do your shopping? Will you have phone signal? Could you cope with the isolation?
You are potentially going to be staying at your farm for 3 months, that’s a bit chunk of time. Make sure you are realistic with what you can cope with.
Prepare for a culture shock
Working in a regional postcode is like a whole other world. You could watch every Australian film set in the outback, Google until your heart’s content and read every guidebook your Kindle can handle and you will still not be prepared.
You ain’t in Melbourne anymore!
Remember that you can always quit
Farm work can be hard. Working at my new farm is the hardest thing I have EVER done. But remember, you never have to stay in one place. If you hate the work or you’re being exploited then leave. There are plenty of farm jobs out there and if you start clocking up your days early then you will have plenty of freedom to pick up and drop jobs when it suits you.
Working in exchange for food and board doesn’t count towards your visa
From 1st September 2015, WWOOFing (working on organic farms in return for food and board), no longer counts towards your 88 days. Unless you commenced work before the 1st September, this is no longer an option.
Get all your paperwork sorted before you leave
Print off copies of your paperwork and make sure your boss signs off your days. Most applications for second year visas are completed online but it always helps to keep a hard copy for evidence.
Also keep a note of your days in a diary or spreadsheet so you know exactly what you have done and when.