So you’ve booked your flights, saved up your travel money, said your goodbyes, and your now heading on your way to Australia for a trip of a lifetime. The brochures suggest nothing but fun, new friends, famous land marks, valuable life experiences, sunshine, and great opportunities to earn whilst you travel. Is this the actual reality though? By and large, yes. Australia has not only brought me special memories of visiting some of the most fascinating places on earth with like minded people. It has also taught me valuable life lessons, from finding work in a strange new city, to putting a roof over your head thousands of miles away from home. Whether that be a tent on the East Coast, finding a hostel in search of regional work, or setting yourself up longer term.
However I, and many others I have met, have continuously found one common problem. And that is finding a well paid job and fairness in the work place.
I landed in Sydney in April 2013. Myself and 4 other boys bought a car and headed up the East Coast after a week in the city. Our 1st goal was to complete our 88 days of regional work to secure our 2nd year visa’s, and to subsidise future travel. After various stops in the likes of Byron Bay, Nimbin, Surfers Paradise, Brisbane etc, we found ourselves in Bundaberg.
A town famous for back packers wishing to work on local farms. We arrived with great hope (late at night) but quickly found out that all the working hostels were full, and work out with them, was in actual fact, scarce. You see the farms mostly work in conjunction with working hostels. Some work fairly, give you daily work and pay a reasonable wage. But others take advantage, give you broken days here and there, and we met many travellers who had been stuck here and other similar towns for a lot longer than 88 days.
Some people take up to 5/6 months to complete the visa requirements. Of course the longer it takes you to complete, the more income for the hostels. We stayed at ‘Cell Block’ in Bundaberg. Where it was common knowledge that girls wishing to play, ‘beer pong’ with the manager, may gain work easier than others. Unless something since has changed, I would avoid here at all costs. Weather is of course a factor, but make no mistake, travellers = profit.
After 3 frustrating days in Bundaberg we headed down to Childers, 53.2 km South. Here we encountered the exact same problem. We did not wish to stay at the over priced ‘Sugar Bowl’ (the main camp site in the town) so we chose another local caravan and camping park, where costs were significantly less. However, this site did not have the strong farming links that ‘Sugar Bowl’ did, and finding work was once again proving difficult. After a week of searching, I was offered work on an avocado farm, but turned it down as only I got offered work, and between 5 of us we only had one car. Prior to leaving Sydney, we believed we could all get work together, but the reality was very different. I left for Melbourne and the other lads stayed. And after several months of living in a tent, the boys made some travel cash and completed their specified work. It was not what we all envisaged, and there is a clear link between expensive accommodation, and travellers wishing to work rurally.
Upon landing in Melbourne, my friend from back home found me work as a Plumber (my UK trade). I gained my health and safety ‘White Card’, and was all set for employment. After 2 weeks though I decided I wanted to try something completely different from what I was used to. I then took a position very common to those on the Working Holiday Visa, tele marketing. These jobs are relatively easy to get and they guarantee quick cash. However, making more than $500 per week is quite difficult and regardless of the positive spin marketing companies put on it, you are effectively annoying people. I worked door to door for a charity and later an energy comparison company, and you do receive a great deal of abuse. If you can take it, excel in sales, then by all means give it a go. However don’t believe the adds of, ‘GREAT $$$$$$$’ as most struggle with the hard targets and poor financial return. It is no surprise that these companies have a large turn over of staff and that the directors all tend to drive sports cars. You will however learn a lot about people here guys, you will learn a lot.
Completing my regional work
After my sales experience I went back to my trade for a couple of months where I got decent money. It was then time in November 2013 to start my regional work before my 1st year expired in April 2014. After meeting a girl in Melbourne I wished to stay relatively local to the city. I also wished to stay clear of working hostels after my earlier experience, so I choose to do the ‘WOOFING’ programme. A scheme where you volunteer on registered farms and receive food and accommodation instead of paid work. Your weekends also count towards your 88 days unlike the working hostel model. I cannot recommend this enough. I stayed with a lovely family on an organic farm and did not only pick fruit, but I cooked for the family, done office admin, farm maintenance, looked after animals and learned (most importantly) about a new way of life. You may not earn money guys but the life experience is worth so much more. Companies such as will sell you the book and it is here you can select a farm that you think would be suitable to yourself.
The 2nd Year
Upon completing my regional work I then got an excellent job as a Team Leader/Manager with a Melbourne based Heating & Cooling company. I had never worked in an office before and I learned so much. Not only about business but about myself. The rate of pay was good and I was promised sponsorship. Sadly (like has happened to many) the sponsorship never materialised and I had to leave as my 6 months visa allowance was coming to an end. Guys, companies are renowned for promising this and not following through. My advice is to get everything in paper as early as possible and never put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. Also, never sell your soul to a greedy company director. That is of course, another story..
Thankfully though I am now applying for my Defacto visa with my Australian girlfriend. I love this country and wish to spend the rest of my life here. Until such times as this is made official though I have still been finding well paid, good jobs (in a career I wish to pursue) very hard. So in the meantime (like us all) I must earn money to live. Which brings me to the experience I wish to talk about most ;
I applied for a part time general labourer position with a Melbourne based labour agency called, Amrick. I was called in for an interview at their St Kilda based office. I filled out all the necessary paper work, talked about my vast construction experience of 16 years and was then told to stay on standby for work. Work I did receive. However, at the interview I asked my manager what the hourly rate would be, as you do. He replied, “it varies between sites”. I stupidly went under the pretence that the rate would be around the common, 22-25 dollars per hour mark. Unless, I ended up on a Union site (as implied), where pay rates are significantly more.
As I discovered in my first week though, the rate of pay was only $20.25 per hour. And, you have to pay Superannuation out of your Gross income. I worked with approximately 10 different guys here and we all got paid the same rate regardless of what site we were on. Residential or commercial, CBD or outer suburbs. It was always $20.25. The majority of the lads I worked with were European travellers/students. Can you see why?
Work became less and less with the more I questioned various things. One thing I asked was, if I would receive a higher rate for a Union site, to be told, “No, we’re not a Union signed company mate”. Although he implied otherwise at interview stage (as I mentioned). We also had to pay for our own PPE and travel costs. Leaving us all with very little by the time it hit our bank accounts.
Fair work Australia
I then found out at an interview with another labour agency (which pay significantly more) that this hourly rate, may be below Fair Work Australia guidlines. So I contacted them and found it was. Amrick have since came to an agreement with me and back dated my pay at a higher hourly rate. Do you know anybody that works here or have you applied for a job here? I continue;
I gave them my details of my Superannuation fund. They failed to process them and put me on a default fund. I only found this out when I received a new card in the mail. I queried them on this and they informed me I was told (by my manager) to put my preferred fund details in by a certain date. This was a lie, and I also went on to prove that my details were forwarded in ample time. They have now agreed to compensate me for the charge it will cost to transfer.
The Next Step
As I finish this first blog I am now investigating further into my Superannuation. I will follow up with you all once I have further information.. Along with any other additional pieces of information.
Guys, like I have said. Australia is amazing. The land ofopportunity and wonderful travel. But, always remember never to sell yourself short as there are many out there who will exploit your position. Learn your rights, and exercise them. Fair Work Australia are extremely helpful, use them if you need to. Good luck.