Working in Australia

An introduction to working in Australia

Working in Australia is perfect for many backpackers. As the number one backpacker's destination in the world, and with millions of tourists making the trip each year, staying in Australia long term is high on a lot of backpacker's agendas. Prolonged stay makes working in Australia essential, so we've broken down everything you need to know in a guide to working in Australia.

Thousands of people go out to work in Australia and earn good money. The Australian economy is booming at the moment, much stronger than most other countries, and the minimum wage in Australia is one of the best in the world. These factors meant that Australia beat the recession and the economy continues to grow annually.

Australia is a beautiful place to visit, but the fact that you can earn fantastic money while you're out there makes the attraction a lot stronger.

Daniel Lucas, the general manager of the TCP Group, a recruitment consultancy, had this to say on working in Australia:

"We estimate that there are around 200,000 jobs for travellers available in Australia right now. The jobs market for working holiday makers is going strong in Australia with plenty of opportunities for 18-30 year olds in most industries.

"There is still huge demand for workers in regional parts of the country allowing travellers to earn good money, save most of what they receive and apply for a second year visa afterwards. Any Brits with a sales background, farming background, au-pair or nanny experience, horse-riding skills or nursing, care experience need to buy a ticket and get over here ASAP!"

Working in the sun

Working Holiday Visa (WHA)

  • How much does it cost?
  • Can I get more than one visa?

The UK and Australia have reciprocal agreements so any British citizen aged 18 to 30 can get a working holiday visa (WHV). They cost AU$270 and allow you to work for 12 months from the date you arrive. Anyone over the age of 30 will be denied a working holiday visa.

You can extend the visa and obtain a second working holiday visa if you can provide evidence that you undertook 88 days of agricultural work (for example, fruit picking, working on a ranch, etc) in Australia during your first year. However, you can't work for the same employer for more than six months. Australian authorities check every one in four visa applications, so don't be tempted to claim you've worked when you haven't.

To be issued a working holiday visa you need proof that you can support yourself - AU$5,000 is advised. You can apply online for a working holiday visa and it only takes a couple of hours to complete.

You can leave and re-enter Australia using this visa as many times as you like during your year. However, if you permanently leave Australia without staying for the full 12 months you cannot go back, say, a year later and use the remaining months of your visa, so you need to be careful.

Once your visa has been approved you will be told what you need to do. Basically, your passport will be stamped when you arrive and you'll have a year before you have to leave. Simple really. Everything is tagged electronically so there's hardly any paper-work to worry about.

Harvest work in Australia

  • What do I need to pick fruit?
  • What is the work like?

To work in Australia you'll need a:

  • Australian Tax File Number (TFN) - apply for once you're in Australia
  • Australian bank account (e.g - ANZ, Commonwealth, Westpac) - apply for once you're in Australia
  • A working holiday visa - apply online
  • A good sense of humour

From grape harvesting in Berri, through mango picking in Darwin, to banana humping in Tully , there are hundreds of places you can fruit pick in Australia. Each year thousands of travellers become fruit pickers to bring in the fruit and vegetable harvests, and there are jobs all year round, making working in Australia a dream job!

90% of travellers get their second year working holiday visa by fruit picking. You need to clock-up 88 days, all signed off by a farmer, to apply for a second year working visa. It's hard, physical work, but there can be a great sense of community; you'll be working with other backpackers and locals. And you've all got one thing in common - you need the money.

The hours are long and hard, often working in the baking sun. An average week can be anything up to 10 hours a day, seven days a week.

Harvest factory work. This is another popular choice for backpackers - it's not hard to find short-term, casual work on a production line or in a packing room. The work itself won't be very stimulating, but you don't need any experience or qualifications, and if you're working with a good bunch of people it can be a laugh. You'll find work through agencies, local newspapers or backpacker notice boards.

The wide open spaces that you'll call your 'office'

Working hostels in Australia

It's really easy finding accommodation in Australia. A fair few places have working hostels, which are hostels that will find you fruit picking / farm work. For example, there are a number of working hostels in Berri, Bundaberg, Bowen and Tully, just to name a few. Bundaberg has one of the biggest fruit picking communities, making it great for working in Australia, and everyone stays in working hostels.

The hostel will arrange work for you through their contacts with the farmers. They usually arrange transport to and from the farm to, so all you need to do is show up. Oh, and work too...

Other ways of working in Australia

  • I don't want to pick fruit. What else can I do?

Ranch work - This is a little bit niche and not all that easy to sort out for yourself. There is a demand for people working in Australia as 'jackeroos and jillaroos' as they're known, but it's skilled work and not for the absolute beginner. Companies such as Changing Worlds and VisitOz do offer supported work placements if you're not completely confident of finding a position by yourself. Otherwise, lots of cattle stations have diversified and offer backpackers the opportunity to get a taste of the real 'Outback' experience.

Bar work or waiting - From hip bars in Sydney to tiny pubs in the Outback, there's plenty of jobs available for bar and waiting staff across Australia. Most will require you to have some experience - why not get a job in a UK pub before you go to learn the tricks of the trade? You'll be much more employable if you know a Castlemaine from a Cosmopolitan.

You'll also need a Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certificate, which you can only get once you've arrived in Oz. This involves taking a one-day course (four hours), which will teach you not to serve alcohol to toddlers or unconscious people, and then sitting a written exam about it. The course will set you back AU$70. You can't get a job in a bar without the RSA (legally), so man-up, cough-up, and take the test. No one ever fails.

Office temping - Your best bet for finding work in larger towns / cities might be to sign-up to a temping agency. Businesses approach these agencies looking for temporary staff to work in call centres or offices for cold calling, data entry positions and administration. Working in Australia through an agency is a good option as they pick the most relevant people from their books and offers them the work. Make sure you ring your agency or pop in regularly - if you're fresh in their minds and seem keen then you're more likely to get work. You'll know whether work like this suits you or not: the pay isn't bad, and the hours are generally sociable (Monday to Friday, 9 to 5:30), but you might feel that you didn't go travelling to sit behind a desk.

Sunrise while working in Australia

Tips on how to save money while working in Australia

A lot of farm work includes accommodation and meals, which is a fantastic way to save money, and living on a farm means you don't have much opportunity to spend your hard earned cash.

After a while, and after you've seen your bank balance grow significantly, you'll starting thinking about how you're going to spend your money. Why not travel around Australia or New Zealand? A lot of backpackers in Australia travel and see the world after they've saved up enough mullah.

A great way to save money is to work for bed and board. If you plan to stay in one place for a bit, a great way to cut down on your costs is to do a few hours work a day in exchange for somewhere to sleep and something to eat. Tasks can involve anything from manning the front desk to making the beds, but it's always easy work (even if it means cleaning out the toilets) and you can live a pretty easy life.

You won't make yourself rich this way, but it's a good way of extending your trip without doing anything silly, like working hard or getting stressed and stuff like that, and it does bring something different to working in Australia.

WWOOFing - otherwise known as the WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a loose network of national organisations which facilitate the placement of volunteers on organic farms. Basically, this means you find a farm to work on, apply, get accepted, and then work for a certain number of hours a day in exchange for food and lodgings. Easy peasy...

Working in Australia can be hard but it's fun

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I really save money to travel while working in Austraia?

There's never a firm answer to the question "How much money will I need?" but it is possible to work out a rough budget for yourself. Australia represents many and varied opportunities for lightening your wallet, but here's a rough idea of what to expect. Most travellers budget AU$1,600 - AU$2,300 per month, depending on what type of traveller you are, how often you are drinking (this is where a lot of money magically disappears) and how many activities you do.

Obviously, if you're working in Australia rather than travelling, then you're going to save loads of money. Living in Australia isn't cheap, but it can be... If you buy value food and cook together, then you can save a lot of money.

How much tax will I pay while working in Austraia?

So long as you stick to the conditions of your visa, you can do any job you like in Australia. Minimum wage in Australia is an absolute dream. It is AU$15 per hour, but most fruit picking jobs pay AU$17- AU$21.

You need a Tax File Number. You can apply for a TFN online or speak to a government official on the phone to have your TFN sent to you. You will need a permanent or semi-permanent address and most hostels are happy to supply theirs for this reason.

Appropriate taxes are paid on all earnings, usually at 13%. The rate will be determined by your background and the current working arrangements. These are collected by the farmer and submitted to the Australian Taxation Office. If you fail to provide a TFN you will be taxed at the highest rate of 49%. Working hostels will go through the paperwork with you to make sure you don't get ripped off.

Still worried about working in Australia?

Leaving your mates, family, casual friends, girlfriend / boyfriend, old work colleagues, cat / dog (yup - seriously!) and familiar support structure back home is a really tough thing for most people, but you're unlikely to find yourself feeling lonely.

Quite the opposite. The backpacker community is a fun, lively place. Over 100,000 Brits alone head to Australia every year, so statistically the day you land so will another 270 others! Add in another 400,000 backpackers of other nationalities - so no, you won't be alone, unless you want to be.

That's the best bit about living and working in Australia - lots to do in one of the most amazing places on the planet! Your options are:

  1. Live and work in one region - head to Western Australia, say, and stay there for the whole period
  2. Work for a few months, then move on... work for a few months, then move. The pros are that you can see the whole country by working in Australia. The cons are that it will cost you money and if you don't find work where you end up your cash might run out
  3. Do six months on the east coast, six months on the west coast and spend weekends and time off travelling around seeing the place

Enjoying an ice cold beer after a day's work fruit picking

Other Ideas

With RTW tickets from as little as £749 (though you have to buy your own flight from Nz to Oz) and you might be tempted to do this as part of a Round the World trip. A lot of people are doing this right now as they don't have any job to come back to or they're on no defined time scale (and they're young enough to make the most of the opportunity as they are commitment free)... which means the money you earn in Australia can keep you on the road for a long time.

Often people travel and South East Asia first and then go onto work in Australia. To give you a rough idea:

  • One month in Vietnam could cost you around £600, which is the equivalent of working for 34 hours behind a bar in Sydney...
  • Three months in South East Asia could cost you around £2,000, which is the equivalent of working for five weeks fruit picking...
  • Six months travel around India, Nepal and Burma  (now Myanmar) could cost you around £2,500, which is the equivalent of saving AU$640 per month doing farm work. That's only AU$160 per week! You can earn that in a day...

Gapper comments on working in Australia

Louise Denton, 24, from Birmingham: "I left for Australia on my first backpacking experience in August 2008 on a working holiday visa. I loved it! Australia is so easy to travel around, very easy to meet other travellers and has some fascinating attractions.

"I did my three months farm work, which I loved... Being in the great Aussie outdoors, living in remote areas with some new found friends was an amazing, different experience to home. Australia has so much to offer! I'm so glad I went and worked!"

Charlotte Riley, 25, from Scotland: "I left in 2008 for an eight month trip to Oz after finishing university. I then left Oz two years later! It was a fantastic experience in a fantastic place.

"Australia is such a varied country and each state is very different. I have wonderful memories of the time I spent living in places that were unique and worlds apart from my life at home, whether it was on a farm in rural Queensland or sharing a tiny apartment with eight people on Sydney's Darling harbour! Working in Australia was the best! Do it, do it, do it..."

So that's it. Go. Work. Have fun...


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