It’s become something of a right of passage for younger longer-term visitors to come to Australia with a Working Holiday Visa. If you are between 18 and 30 and are prepared to try anything (officially for no more than six months at a time), you are allowed to work to fund your travels – or simply work to experience Aussie life at ground level.

In practice, the only jobs open will be temporary and generally unskilled. Old faithfuls are harvesting or farm labouring – the Harvest Trail (1800 062 332, jobsearch.gov.au/harvesttrail) has information about such jobs, but remember that crop-picking means hard work for low wages (usually paid on a commission basis). It’s also worth noting that harvest work is often on farms or plantations some distance from a town. Some employers will provide transport to and from a workers’ hostel in a nearby town – sometimes, but not always, free of charge. In other cases, you will be given basic accommodation on the farm or be required to pitch your own tent.

For casual work – bar or restaurant, construction and factory work – Sydney-based agency Travellers’ Contact Point (02/9221 8744, travellers.com.au) has a branch in most of the major cities. Other dedicated traveller job agencies include Travellers At Work (taw.com.au) and Work and Travel Company (worktravelcompany.com); both are based in Sydney. All help with all aspects of working, from organizing tax file numbers to actually finding jobs, but either take a commission for finding work or charge a membership fee. Specialized temp’ employment agencies in cities (basic office computer work, accountancy, nursing, catering and so on) have better, higher-paid jobs on their books, though they often require full-time or longer commitments. Finally, travellers, hostel staff and notice boards may be the best sources of all, especially in remote areas. In fact, some hostels occasionally offer free nights in lieu of cleaning work – and some even pay you.

One word of warning: Australia is increasingly tough on people who work on tourist visas or expired working visas. If you’re caught, your visa will be cancelled, you will be asked to leave the country immediately, or taken into detention in the interim. Furthermore, you are extremely unlikely to be granted another visa even after the set three-year period.

Study and work programmes

AFS Intercultural Programs afs.org. Intercultural exchange organization with programmes in over fifty countries.

American Institute for Foreign Study
aifs.com. Cultural immersion and study programmes.

BUNAC bunac.org. Travel and work agency that helps members find work through resource centres nationwide.

Conservation Volunteers conservationvolunteers.com.au. Volunteer work on conservation projects in reserves and parks across Australia from one day to four weeks. About Aus$40/day charged for food and accommodation on some projects.

Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) ciee.org. Leading NGO offering study programmes in Australia.

Earthwatch Institute earthwatch.org. Scientific expedition project that spans over fifty countries with environmental and archeological ventures.

Visitoz visitoz.org. Work on Outback farms and stations organized before you arrive in Australia. Previous experience not required – participants stay on a training farm for five days, during which suitable work is found – but driving licence required for many jobs.

WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) wwoof.com.au. A popular way to experience rural Australia in which you work for board and lodging not cash, so no work visa is required. Four to six hours daily, minimum stay two nights; everything else is negotiable. A one-year membership ($60) buys you the Australian WWOOF Book of 2200 host farms to contact (plus email updates) and basic work insurance.

Essentials

Everything you need to know before you set off.

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