Working Holiday Australia Experiences
Fancy plenty of time to swim in the Australian surf, cuddle koalas, and gobble juicy barbequed prawns at night? By travelling to Australia on a 'working holiday' visa you can earn more dollars to fund travelling for longer and enjoy more of these iconic experiences. Our tips will help you avoid the pitfalls and get more from your time down under.
If you're aged 18 to 30 from an eligible country (eg, the UK, USA, Canada, most Western Europe and Scandinavian countries, Japan, Taiwan and Korea) you can apply for a working holiday visa which allows you to work while travelling for one to two years in Australia. You will earn the same amount of money as an Australian worker and have the same rights. Plus, if you want to stay a second year, you just need to work in certain rural areas or specialist industries during your initial year.
Farming is one of the more popular gigs for travellers in Australia © innerfocus / Shutterstock
Why work when travelling?
It’s easy to overlook that word ‘work’ in working holiday visa and concentrate instead on ‘holiday’. Yet there are loads of rewards that come with working overseas that are even better than going somewhere on vacation.
Sophie Schmitt, a French traveller to Australia told us she picked fruit and took care of children on her Australian working holiday visa. Her experiences benefited her beyond seeing Australia: “The good thing about the working holiday visa is that you meet other travellers out on the farm, and then you meet them again down the track. There is a sense of community. People share tips. It’s better than just a holiday.
"Working gives you the opportunity to stay longer and discover more. You’re throwing yourself out there, and you learn! It changed my life. When I returned to France, I realised I can find a job anywhere because I thought, ‘I was travelling and working for that long. I can do anything’. It was the best thing I did for myself.”
Sophie does caution though that “Australians are unlikely to give you professional work knowing that you are going to leave soon”. Instead she turned to nannying and child-care agencies in Melbourne, which would call her in the morning to ask if she was free for work that day. Unlike a regular job, where taking a day off is a no-no, Sophie confessed, “I’d just tell them I was unavailable if I didn’t need the money that week!”
Makoto, from Japan, worked in a Japanese restaurant in Sydney, but he also picked fruit and helped teach archery to Japanese kids at weekend camps. He says he loved the Australian work culture. “Making friends and going out with them makes it a good experience here. Everything is so amazing for Japanese people because it is so different from our culture. You have to do everything by yourself – no friends, no family – but even this is a good experience, ’ he explained.
Nothing beats a cold 'sundowner' after a hard day's work © Thoom / Shutterstock
What will I do?
Maddy Busch from Collaroy Beachhouse YHA in Sydney says that a lot of travellers are surprised by how much they’ll get paid in Australia for labouring work, painting or gardening. “Workers are usually paid between AU$20 to AU$25 an hour, but you have to balance that with the cost of living. It’s a lot higher here in Australia than some people realise, ” she warns.
Debi Forster, manager at Port Lincoln YHA in South Australia, helps her guests find local work but also tells it like it is. Working holiday makers working at a fish factory near her in 2014 were paid $21 an hour, "but it is smelly work. They sorted pilchards, which are frozen into 20kg blocks that they need to lift into a freezer. The smell goes all through your skin and clothes, ” she explains. “I tell them, don’t wear any clothes that you want to keep when you leave here. And when they walk in the front door I tell them: ‘Shower!’.”