I knew even during my first week in Syndey that I wanted to stay there for a while. Whilst most others in my group were heading up the east coast I decided to stay and find a job and a flat for a couple of months. So it was the new year once I was settled in my flat that I started the task of job-hunting. I wanted an office job but wouldn't rule anything out.
You need a tax file number before you can start work, this is really easy to apply for and can be done on the Australia government website.
I had a list of temping agencies and set about emailing them all my CV explaining what work I was looking for etc. My flat-mates were working for an agency called Employ and I would never have actually found this one without them telling me. I emailed several times and phoned up telling them that they had been recommended to me. I may have even gone into them personally. I was eventually set-up with an appointment to see one of the consultants where we had an informal chat and I took a typing test. They said they would ring me when anything comes up. It took three weeks from that appointment to them offering me the job. I called them regularly to make-sure my name was in their minds and this I believe with my eagerness was what got me the role.
In the meantime I was handing out resumes to anywhere that was advertising (important note here, make sure you have your correct phone number on!) and scouring seek.com.au and other job websites. I got a trial with a little sandwich place in the CBD which didn't go too well. I went there and was being pro-active asking the girl there questions about making the sandwiches etc but I got told off! My job before leaving the UK was working in a deli where making sandwiches was a main part of it but I don't think they believed me here! Anyway I was glad when I left the trial.
The job I was offered was working in the accounts department of a pathology firm in North Sydney. It required travel each day by bus and later by train when a new station opened, but it meant I got to go over the Sydney harbour bridge every day!
My role here was dealing with payments that came in from health funds for patients and helping in the allocation which involved a lot of computer work. I also opened some mail, did filing and helped the other staff members. I enjoyed working here. When there was lots of work I could happily sit there, though it was often monotonous and there were days when there was not much work. The staff there were lovely and really welcoming and we had treats and they got me a present when I left after three months. My wage was excellent, it was almost double the minimum wage here and I was able to save a certain amount each week after paying rent. Agencies normally pay weekly which is great. I am not sure if it is all agencies but they do not pay holiday.
I left to go travelling around the country for six weeks and came back as I needed more work. I moved back in the second flat (I moved flats) and it was just over a week before the agency found me some work. This time is was central, right in the CBD, you couldn't really get anymore in the middle. It was ironic really who the company was. It was one of the big health funds that we used to moan about when I worked in the other job. Here I worked in the department where all the mail was sent to. I opened the envelopes and put them in the correct file to be sent to the relevant department. I also did a bit of computer work and helped empty and fill the bags that were to sent to each branch of the company in Australia. The pay here was slightly less but I could walk to work so that made up for it. Again the staff were lovely and one of the lads here was the boyfriend of one of the girls I lived with in the first flat!
I left here after about three weeks but as with the first job I could have stayed longer. I think this is an important thing to remember. That although when they offer you a job they may say it is only for X amount of weeks, it is likely that if you are ok then they will ask you to stay longer.
I enjoyed my time working in these places; though at the time I couldn't wait to leave as I was eager to travel. The wages were great, the people lovely and the atmosphere was casual. It seemed to be that as long as you got the work done, you could take it as your own pace. Uniform also was more casual, at least in the departments I worked in. Although I recommend turning up in black trousers and a smart shirt on the first day like I did but if it was like where I worked I could just wear nice trousers and a plain t-shirt!
What I will say about looking through job adverts is that emails are pretty much useless. Of course send an email too so that they have a hard copy but if there is a number then call them. They get so many emails that they can just delete them, but speaking to them they are more likely to listen.
Working here meant I met and integrated with Ozzies and enjoyed life as one that lives in Sydney rather than one that is visiting it.
So my tips for finding office work:
- Be pro-active, phone instead of email or even better go in person
- Keep in regular contact with the agency
- Don't dismiss short assignments
- If there is a number phone it!
So that was my experience of office work. If you are still reading then well done. Of course there is much other work to be sought from shop work, childcare and bar work. Though for bar work you will need to have a RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certificate which can be obtained easily by completing a short course.
The reason I left the second office job was that I needed to complete my three months seasonal work to qualify for my second year visa. The normal route is fruit picking work however there are a few different options as long as the area you are working in counts. Check on-line but it is generally any rural area, but do check first. One such option is volunteering using either the Wwoofing, www.wwoof.com.au, or HelpX website, www.helpx.net, in which you volunteer your time a few hours each day in return for accommodation and meals. The majority of these places will count for your visa. You can browse on each site but you do have to pay to be a member on the first to contact places. With this though you do get given a book with all those looking for helpers which would be handy on the go. I used the second site as it was free and after looking at pictures and reading reviews organised a one week stay in a town called Alexandra a few hours drive from Melbourne.
The owners had a cottage on site which was rented as a B&B. They had ducks, chickens, sheep, a calf and a pony. During my time there, which I extended to two weeks, I slept in a little caravan and helped for 4-5 hours each day doing a variety of tasks including: mucking out the sheep, cleaning the B&B, mowing the lawn, painting the little house they were in the process of doing up and sanding. I learnt many new skills and even got to hand feed Molly, a lamb we were looking after for someone. I was not alone here, I worked alongside Yan, a lovely girl from Hong Kong and we would spend our time off walking into the small town going to the library and then eating dinner with the family.
My next stop after going back to Melbourne was the town of Mildura, about 12 hours away on a coach. Getting numbers from a backpacker magazine in the hostel, I had contacted numerous working hostels and found one who told me there was work.
This hostel in Mildura had the most facilities out of the few there with a small swimming pool (too cold until my last week there to go in though), a little lounge and kitchen. For the first five weeks I probably had about nine days work. One day was spent cutting buds off vines twigs that would then be planted and another I marked out in the soil where each plant was to be planted. About seven of these were spent wrapping silver pouches/ foil around almond trees/twigs in the ground. I didn't actually mind this one, however the work finished after those days.
After five weeks I eventually got onto the one everyone was after - orange packing. Make sure you keep asking for work and making your name known, be persistent! People were told that there was work available before they came when there sometimes wasn't so do be careful.
Working here 6 days a week (7-7 most days) I earned $14.50 an hour. This was absolutely fantastic if you compare it the other jobs I worked which were mostly paid by piece, ie. so many cents per tree. The fact that there was little time to spend my wages meant I could save the majority. We got there by mini-bus each day, one of us drove it, and $6 a day was added to our rent for this.
The first two weeks were agony on my back, I was massaging my back during every break we had but thankfully I then got used to it and was pain-free. I worked in a huge factory where the majority of us packed oranges into boxes. Others worked on the juice line (really bad oranges to be sent to another factory to be made into juice) and sorting (all the oranges coming in from the orchards were initially sorted). On each line were loads of bins above a conveyer belt where the oranges were dropped into. Picking them up to place them in the box we had to quickly judge whether they could go in or go to juicing. I learn a lot about oranges and when I was back home in the UK I would often look in the fruit bowl and say things like 'this ones got sunburn (yes that's right!)' or 'that's too soft that would never go in'.
We had to pack them in a specific way according to how soft they were. It was pretty easy but so boring. You weren't really allowed to talk so it was basically you and your mind for 12 hours. After planning your next travel or trying to think of all the songs by your favourite band you quickly run out of stuff to think about!
Most of the boxes went abroad but we also packed crates for the supermarkets in Australia.
Some harvest work you will live on site, others you will find your own accommodation or there is the option of a working hostel, the hostel will find you work and you live there with other backpackers working.
As I mentioned I lived in a working hostel in Mildura. It could be a good laugh in the hostel as everyone is in the same boat and on the Saturday night you just want to let off some stream. Mildura was sort of the big town in the area. I say big, but everything was within a five to ten minute walk, from the shops to the lovely Murray river which is great to swim in in the summer! The library and leisure centre was literally two minutes walk away which I took a lot of advantage of borrowing books and DVDs and swimming in the evening after work.
Fruit and veg that were in season whilst I was there asparagus, oranges and garlic and when I left it was apricots and grapes were coming up.
I wish I had stayed longer at my job but it is easy saying that now. Although I did enjoy some sides of living in the working hostel I would have had a much more enjoyable experience if I was there with a friend. I stayed in the same room the whole time, which just happened to be the largest dorm, so there were a lot of new people coming and going. Some were lovely and some did disgusting things which I will not even mention. But in all it was worth doing and enabled me to save for the last part of my trip.
You need to decide where you are going to try find work based on the harvest trail, working out where the demand for workers will be at particular times of year.
www.jobsearch.gov.au/harvesttrail will advertise jobs in each area. It is best also looking in backpacker magazines such as TNT which is found in most hostels, looking on hostel notice boards and contacting working hostels in the area to find out what the situation is.
Work is available piece rate, paid for the amount you pick etc or by the hour. Some will pay cash in hand others into your bank. An important piece of advice I will give is that if you are after work for your second year visa then make sure before you undertake any work that your boss will sign your form or you. I did one job for a week but couldn't get my form signed for it.
Working on the harvest trial is a lot of hard work. You will often be working long hours, outside in the hot sun or in back-breaking work but if you get in the right job it can be great way to save for your next part of your trip. Be prepared to work your way up the ladder if you are at some hostels, doing the bad jobs first before you land the golden one. This paragraph sounds exactly like some backpackers guide but it really is true. If you can get the right job you can get long hours, live in a beautiful rural area and have no time to spend your wages!
===Work in Australia===
Any job is Australia can help you extend your trip and live in this beautiful country. There are lot of backpackers looking for work but if you put the effort in you should be able to find something. I highly recommend travelling and working in Australia as new and exciting experience and a way to fund the rest of your trip.
As Marilyn Munro once purred to an eager camera lens: "Ever notice that 'what the hell' is always the right decision?" Well, with the news that around half-a-million public servants will eventually be downsized over the next four years to bring down the deficit and so half-a-million private sector workers sure to follow its time to get out of town if you can afford it or you are young and adventurous enough to try and enjoy life whilst we all flounder back home. Their minimum wage is one of the highest in the world and their unemployment rate is at its lowest for 30 years.
Britain is broken and with 5 million welfare dependent people of working age here and immigrants pouring in everyday to take your job, if you're not working now or just graduated then there won't be much chance of decent work before 2015. Trust me, any menial work you can scrape here through a temp agency you can get there with bells on in the sunshine. Australia is a great place for the young and sun lovers and with low crime due to its rather selective immigration policy and generous welfare and student grant system there no reason not to kick up in paradise.
The deal for Brits is if you are under 26 and a British citizen then Australia will almost certainly grant you a one year work permit, the best year of your life if you grab the opportunity with both hands. There are restrictions like criminal records and mental health issues and no kids etc but if you tick all the right boxes you're in. If you are between 26 and 30 you can still apply although the chances are reduced of getting the rubber stamp, this aimed more at the '18-year-old than the 31-year-old', as the Aussie High Commission word it on their website. If you achieve three or more taxed work months there and want to stay longer you can apply for another 12 months extension or the right to go for the full five year work permit leading to the citizenship option. They are far more selective when it comes to long term workers though and you will need a profession. Or you can just overstay and work below the radar, the big Aussie cities like any other in the world very keen on the black market to do the worse jobs and keep them functioning. Pom's can't sign on over there with the working holiday visa so we tend to come back when we are broke.
My experience of Australia was in the 1990s when the "Year Out" was a must for students when they graduated, no tuition fees back then and still a decent grant on offer. I wasn't personally a student but always a dreamer looking for adventure. The same students would protest about low student grants all through the 1990s before fees but the same middle-class guys with the placards would be the ones who had the money to enjoy the year out, a non stop full moon party in Thailand their reward from mummy and daddy for graduating. For me I wasn't well-healed enough to even contemplate uni in the late 1980s and so worked for three years in a warehouse driving a forklift truck to pay my passage out there. The airfare was about £700 return then and you had to show the Aussie immigration guys a bank statement with at least £1500 in it to prove you could sustain yourself. I borrowed £500 from my mum to get it up to the requisite on a printed statement and then withdrew and returned it soon after and so the subterfuge complete. If you are reasonably confident you will find work pretty quickly then you can survive on £750 for the firs two months, which you will sit on the beach for anyway. It is a working holiday after all!
Give yourself time for your working visa to arrive and you will have to pay for it. It was £70 in the mid-nineties but has shot up to £200 in 2010, although still a good investment. If you're willing to work then they are willing to let you stay is Australia's attitude. Oh how we need that policy in Britain with other Commonwealth Countries coming here! If you can chop that £200 off your return flight by going cheap with two or three stop overs you won't notice the hit. Direct flights to OZ tend to be £300 more from London than stopovers and so worth shopping around. If you want to stop off before and after OZ there are some great around the world deals and interesting routes. Most go via Singapore/Asia whilst Air New Zealand does one via Los Angeles and then the beautiful Cook Islands. I flew with Quantus (who were excellent) and we got two free internal flights into the bargain which were very useful as the gaps between the cities are huge, of course.
SO once you arrive Down Under with your corked hat and white skin its time to test your shades and sun cream strength. Naïve old me thought I could survive in the midday sun on one of Melbourne's beaches with a mere factor 8 - an hour later I was covered in sun blisters on my face and hands. The sun down there is very strong and hot, even at 6 am. Slip slap slop guys and be prepared to burn.
Melbourne was my early base to look for work although I did spend a lot of time watching sport (the Ashes and the tennis were in town) and sitting on the beach, what people do in Australia, education and worry very low on the menu in the worlds least pretentious country, one of it best attractions. The class system just doesn't exist there and anyone who flaunts their money are usually foreign.
For me Melbourne is the best city in Australia for work because it has the more sophisticated bits yet retains the beach and sun lifestyle. You can hop on a rickety tram after work in your flip flops in the city centre and be at the NCG or Flinders Park twenty minutes later fully relaxed. The beach is there and the British hoards of job seeking students Sydney is swamped by are not.
Before you can start work you must get a tax number. You can queue up for them or apply on line. If you don't get one you automatically pay 50% tax in your pay-packet.
The Aussie minimum wage is $570 Aussie dollars per week, or $15 per hour, about £300 per week. As I said before, its one of the highest in the world and their unemployment is at a 30-year low, under 5%, perhaps why we have to pay $200 to go there.
Melbourne is like a huge Brighton with skyscrapers, its functional beach named after the British seaside town. It's cosmopolitan with its big and sexy Greek population although the nightlife is patchy, pubs literally closing in Australia if there are not enough punters.
Work wise it's stuffed with employment agencies, from Manpower to Randstand, plenty of admin and catering jobs for the short term or longer positions if you want to stay out there longer. Aussies are amiable and laid back in interviews and seeking work so the classier Brit's are highly employable. If you are chasing city and office life then you will have to lug around your leather shoes and trousers and nice skirt for the girls. They tend not to stay pressed in your rucksack or your trendy little suitcase with wheels that are all the rage now.
Backpackers are the cheapest accommodation when you work and travel and its best to pay weekly or even monthly if you are basing yourself in a city to find work. Most Brit's base themselves in Sydney because of its postcard image and reputation but Melbourne has the better options and style of living. I personally didn't work in Melbourne and headed for Sydney with the rest of the poms on Bus Australia after 4 weeks R&R in the Victorian capital.
Sydney is the place for the Brits, the native tongue very common there, almost annoying as you came to the other side of the world to avoid a temp agency full of Londoners. Backpackers base themselves here to work, the hub city to launch your trips around Australia, earn your money for two weeks leading up to their winter in June-July and then launch yourself into the tropical Northern states to warm up. Southern state winters in Australia can be rainy affairs and with dreadful TV it feels like your back home in Northampton. Everywhere in the world is crap when it rains.
I worked in Sydney for 4 months in two batches of 4 weeks, mostly being sent on temp jobs around the city, including a post room for a bank and some hotel work. You can also work your keep in your backpackers for free rent and food etc. Backpackers are the way to go as they are set up specifically for travellers and although dorm accommodation the vibe is great and the crowd eclectic...students and career breakers so mostly brains and some brawn. Sydney central hostels can be in colourful places, none more so than Kings Cross, the Soho of the city. These hostels tend to reflect the neighbourhood and house the party goers and locals without regular accommodation - who may or may not be working. I based myself in Glebe, which is a very Bohemian and relaxed area of the suburbs that's only a couple of miles from the business centre.
As English and bustling the city is the harbour area and beaches are amazing, and if you are taking the ferry to work it's an exhilarating experience as the green ferry boats honk and growl their way past the cruise ships before they roll and pitch on their bow waves. If you're working at Manley Beach the ferry passes the main harbour entrance to the Pacific Ocean and the waves really do roll the ferries around. The water is also full of sharks, great Whites too, all the little coves and inlets in the giant harbour bowl protected by shark nets.
It's bulging with work right now Down Under and if you actually want to save some money then you can build up a nice pile here. If you're prepared to do the hours you can make $500 Oz per week. It's also the time to think about apartment or flat rental to get more space to yourself, working meaning routines and relaxing after a long day in the office or bar etc. I'm sure there's tons of industrial work on offer but driving a forklift or working in a factory is perhaps not really what you're looking for in an Aussie summer. I stayed in a flat in the superb of Bondi Beach and split the rent with a young couple as we worked in the city, the metro train taking us over the Sydney Harbour Bridge every morning, spectacular stuff. There really is no other city like Sydney for commuting, only Vancouver coming close in my mind.
The exodus north begins around May-June for travellers and Brisbane the next big city up the coast, even in the winter months pleasantly warm in the day although a nip at night. It's not the sexiest city in Australia but I had a month there in June and enjoyed the peaceful YHA (the more formal hostels) and met a lovely Italian girl. The freakiest thing was my dorm room window had a tree outside that was also the local hang out (and I mean that literally) for the fruit bat (flying foxes) community, who would squeak and natter away all night pulling faces at me and then mockingly sleeping all day.
I didn't work in Brisbane but there to look at the possibility of agricultural work in the surrounding state to get the sun on my back. All the way up the east coast there's beach resorts and bar work opportunities but farm work seems to be the main pull in this area. There's nothing glamorous with fruit picking, why Brits won't do it in England, backbreaking work, why the Empire expanded so quickly and with this type of slave labour on offer. I picked Zucchinis and Apples in Queensland and I didn't last very long, tough graft indeed. The worse bit is not the sun or the bending but the bugs and snakes. Flies are everywhere in rural Australia. In the cane fields of Northern Queensland you have to wear serious protection to protect yourself from venomous snakes and constant bug bites and its hot and humid work. Most of you who take the work visa there will contemplate transient farm work but let me tell you its hard graft and the accommodation mostly caravans or cheap hostels. I recall a really bad fire there in the wine region about ten years ago that killed a few backpackers. You go to these regions purely to work and drink hard with a few barbeques and log fire chat with your fellow workers, not to party. In fact the holiday visas in most western countries are about finding farm workers.
Once you're in Queensland its Barrier Reef experience time on your trip and maybe some bungee jump or extreme white water rafting to go with, Innisfal up in the rainforest very good for that. Townsville and Cairns are the next two towns on the coast and the launch resorts for the Reef. There's nothing else but tourism and farm work after Brisbane if the truth be told. Some people go north from Cairns into the hardcore and stunning wilderness tropics of the Cape of Tribulation and then on to Darwin but most head out to Ayres Rock in the equally amazing Red Centre. The further past Brisbane you go the less chance of work, even for Aussie, the South East Asian immigrant doing a lot of the mining and farm work here.
I didn't go to Perth and the West Coast as it's literally thousands of miles away and so like going to another continent. I did Ayres Rock and then bombed back to Adelaide to pick up work there. Adelaide is a quiet place in its own way with its old empire feel mixing with modern buildings giving it a tranquil appeal, books over sport here. The nice relaxed vibe makes you want to work there but also make you feel like you are away from the action of Melbourne and Sydney. Its again blitz the agency time and with its stunning white beaches and colourful nature and wildlife you really are in Australia here. They had a cool comedy festival when I was there and it added to the vibe of the laid back fun place. I worked in another office here although it was routine work and so got boring, especially as it was 90% degrees outside.
Well, that was my 1990s experience of Oz although I somehow feel it hasn't changed that much, very few Nobel Prize winners coming from south of the equator but the team well clear of the medals table in the Commonwealth Games. But as I said they are non- pretentious and the lifestyle as easy as smoking a cigar in a high chair in the bar. Just get your ass out there if you have the money or max your credit card out to get some. You will regret not travelling when the time was right when you hit 40 and travel always broadens the mind, and it's great for your CV.