If you’re heading to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa the chances are that you will need to work at some point during the year to fund your travels. The good news is that there are a lot of temporary or short-term jobs which lend themselves well to the transient lifestyle of a backpacker as well as opportunities where you won’t get paid but you can save money on basic necessities like food and accommodation.
Here are some of the most common jobs people do on a WHV and how you can go about getting them.
If you have any kind of experience working in a cafe, bar or restaurant it shouldn’t be too hard for you to find work in the same industry within the big cities. Melbourne especially is arun with food joints which means there are always loads of jobs available for waiting staff, front of house staff and kitchenhands.
For restaurants or anywhere that serves alcohol you will need a license for Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA), for coffee shops you may need a Barista qualification (although it is not always essential like the RSA). Both of these licenses are obtained by signing up to a 1/2 day course in your nearest city. Make sure that you do your RSA in the state where you will be job-hunting because you might find that your RSA for New South Wales isn’t valid in Victoria and you have to take a refresher course (even if you’ve just done it!) The cost of the RSA also varies between the states.
If you’ve worked in retail there are always casual retail positions going especially during Christmas and Summer when shops will take on extra staff for shorter periods. If you’re applying to a big chain they’ll most likely only accept your application through their website but with smaller stores target them by going in and handing them your resume in person.
Most office jobs will want you for longer than your visa will let you work for them (unless they’re willing to sponsor you of course) so the majority of backpackers work as temps. That’s not to say it isn’t possible to get a longer-term office job. Look for contract positions such as maternity cover.
Your best bet finding temp work is by signing up with agencies. Either seek them out directly by searching for professional temp agencies in your city or you’ll find that a lot of office jobs you apply for online are advertised by agencies and even if you don’t get called for an interview for that particular job you’ll get invited to sign up with the agency.
FUNDRAISING / SALES
If you’re a people person and super confident you’ll probably make a good salesperson or fundraiser. Lots of backpackers are outgoing – comes with the territory – and so you’ll find lots of backpackers on the streets of the major cities in Australia trying to get you to sign up for things. Be careful though! When applying for these positions or anything that involves sales (i.e. call centre jobs) make sure that the pay is hourly and not on commission or you might end up working 50 hours a week for next to nothing!
WAREHOUSE / PACKING JOBS
These tend to be manual labour jobs. Even packing jobs will often require you to be able to drive or own a car because even if you’re not driving as part of work the warehouses are located in the middle of nowhere with no public transport options. If you do have access to a car though they often pay well.
Think you need experience to become an au pair? Believe it of not a lot of families in Australia are looking for Au Pairs and if you have a good grasp of the English language that’s usually enough. Sometimes you will be required to drive because the role often involves ferrying the kids to and from school, but the host family will usually allow you access to a car in order to do this. I recommend creating a profile on AuPair.com if you’re interested in this route. It’s a great way to connect with host families and they will often set out exactly what they require and what they will offer you in return. Usually Au Pair positions mostly work along the assumption that you work in exchange for accommodation and food, which means you minimise your living costs, and then there is a small token payment monthly.
The phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of everyone on a working holiday visa. We’ve all heard stories about the horrors of fruit picking – from not getting paid to having farmers refuse to sign off on your second year visa. My advice is to find someone who has done it already and had a drama-free experience and ask them for a contact. Usually when it comes to fruit picking you’re in the middle of nowhere and so you stay at a working hostel with a bunch of other fruit pickers and I’ve heard that it’s these people that will hopefully make your time there worthwhile. Whatever you do don’t end up broke and whiling away your money paying to stay at a working hostel if they don’t give you any work. I’ve heard about this happening and backpackers getting trapped in soul-destroying places for 8 months and still not having completed their 88 days farm work. If your farmer messes you around it’s not going to get better and it’s time to go elsewhere.
Fruit-picking is of course not just for those of us wanting to stay here another year, it can be done as a job for shorter periods of time but rates of pay vary greatly. Most people fruit picking in the long-term are able to save purely because there is nothing where they’re based to spend their money on! Similarly to with sales choose jobs that pay hourly and not by the weight of what you’re picking if you can. Unless you’re picking something heavy like avocados or bananas it won’t be worth your while.
WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. It’s a scheme that operates to hook up volunteers with people who need workers. In return for your several hours work every day on a farm you get free accommodation and food. Unlike fruit picking and other farm work WWOOFing generally has a much better reputation among backpackers for offering a positive experience and a chance to experience the “real” Australia. Unfortunately since the rules changed WWOOFing no longer qualifies you for your second year visa, which means it is in a bit of a decline, but it’s still a great option if you want to save some money and just generally see a different side to the country.
If interested you will need to sign up to the scheme and there is a small administration charge. In return you receive a comprehensive guide to all of the WWOOFing opportunities out there – and there are a lot! – plus access to the online forum where you can find further opportunities.
WHERE TO LOOK: WWOOF
Lots of hostels will let backpackers stay for free in return for a few hours work a week. Usually this will involve cleaning or reception work. Do some research on hostels in the area you are planning on travelling to and email them ahead of time to check whether they can accommodate this. Otherwise you can just turn up and ask but there’s always the risk that they’ll already have their quota of working residents.
A tip is to target the smaller and less popular hostels. Chains like the YHA are less likely to offer the option because they’re always fully booked and so would rather sell their remaining beds and employ professional cleaners who are more likely to do a thorough job (because they’re actually being paid!)