Some of you may be thinking, why on earth would you want to work on a farm in a country thats home to some of the most deadly spiders and snakes.
Well here’s why. Completing 88 days or a solid three months of farm work enables you to extend your one year working holiday visa to two years.
Here’s how it works. You can work on different farms and each full day you work, you get it signed off by the farmer. But very often completing your 88 days can take a huge amount of time. I’ve met people who have been doing their farm work for 6 to even 8 months! This is because most of the work Is highly weather dependant and many farms only provide couple of days work each week.
The best option is to find one farm that can supply you with work for three whole months. This way the amount of days you work doesn’t matter, as long as the farmer can sign you off as a full time worker for a three month period.
This is obviously so much quicker than working on multiple farms counting 88 days.
When I first started working towards my second year visa I was counting individual days working on multiple farms including lime and potato farms. After three weeks of very little work I secured myself a job on a potato farm that had guaranteed three months of employment. Sometimes I worked ten days straight and had ten days off, sometimes it was just a two day week, and I even worked 28 days straight with no breaks praying for rain so I could rest.
Working hostel or farm accommodation?
So when searching for farm work you must decide, are you going to choose a working hostel or are you going to go straight to the source and find a farm directly.
If you have access to a vehicle, finding farm work for yourself is totally doable. You will be able to find your own accommodation if you can’t stay on site. There are many websites you can use to find work like, Gumtree, Seek, Jora, Backpacker Job Board and The Job shop (Job Shop only covers WA and NT). If you find yourself in a town you’d like to work near, go to the job shop, sign up and make friends with the staff, they can help you (especially if they like you).
If you have no car however your options are pretty limited to a working hostel as they do provide transport to work each day.
How do working hostels work?
Most working hostels basically make sure every bed is filled, year round. This is so they can be making maximum money out of backpackers who are desperate for work.
In order to fill these beds they advertise jobs, all the time, even when there is no work.
These hostels are usually very expensive and can be anywhere from $180 – $280 a week! The working hostel I stayed in charged $180 if they hadn’t bothered to find you work that week or $250 if you had worked a full week. Even if you had not been given many hours they would still try to take more money. Wifi, food and laundry were not included in the weekly price and they took a deposit for kitchen utensils.
The working hostel I stayed in would send out a group message each night at 6pm with a timetable stating who would be working the next day, and which farm you would be going to. Everybody was desperate for work, yet only about quarter would be lucky enough to work each day. Frustrations grew as new faces appeared and old ones waited patiently.
My most valuable piece of advice for anyone about to embark on their farm work journey would be: Do not accept piece rate pay.
Piece pay means that the wage is not based on how many hours you work, but the weight of fruit you pick. The reason you should avoid this is because in most circumstances the farmer is only paying piece rate to get away with paying less than the hourly wage.
I’ve met people who earned as little as $5 per hour on piece pay when the average hourly wage is $22ph.
So how much money can you actually make?
I made $7000 (AUD) in four months. I didn’t buy drinks and I spent $10 a week on food.
I saw so many people spend all their hard earned money on alcohol and expensive food, and they couldn’t work out how I had left with a years worth of travel savings, well now you know.
Concluding all this, just read lots of reviews, go with your gut instinct and talk to people.
I’m wishing you all the luck in the world.
⁃ The Lost Girl
Ps. Keep reading to find about about my personal experience at Tolga Country Lodge…
The Tolga Country Lodge Story
As told by Beth Johnstone
It was a sunny day when we arrived, and our spirits were high after being told we would both be starting full time jobs on Monday.
Unfortunately as we would soon discover, the sun is the only thing that remains good and constant at the Tolga Country Lodge.
It was the morning of our check and after a long bus journey and a judgemental look up and down we were handed paperwork and told to fill it out. After reading carefully and taking some pictures of the documents we decided to take the chance and stay to attempt to complete or 88 days of farm work.
After looking around the lodge, handing in our signed documents and paying a $300 bond followed by $220 for our first weeks rent, we were told we would be living in Kairi (a completely different town than tolga) in the over flow accommodation. We asked where this is and the receptionist told us it was 7km away.
With no choice now that they had taken our money we took the first bus to Kairi (having never seen or heard of it until that moment).
Part of my soul died that day, the day I laid eyes on where we would be spending the next few months. The room was disgusting and smelly, holes gaped open in the floor and walls to reveal a sad darkness. There were no curtains just a mosquito net laden with corpses of the withered insects that had the misfortune to die there.
There was one shower and two toilets in the rather depressing looking bathroom.
A week passed as we heard stories of the lack of jobs on the farms and with no sign of work my confidence of completing 88 days of farm work begun to crumble into an oblivion.
Two weeks of sitting in the grotty room above Kairi pub had passed and I had been lucky enough to secure myself a place working on a full time potato farm. The evening before my first day on the farm I waited patiently to see the working timetable. The timetable was posted on the WhatsApp group at 6:30pm and guess what.. My name wasn’t on there. Names of people who had just arrived only days before were written next to the job I had been promised.
This is a good time to introduce you to Trish. Trish is the receptionist, an alcoholic and probably the most useless person you could possibly find behind any desk. Most of the time if you have a problem or a question she is either to hungover to speak to you and tells you she’ll sort it another day, or she is already sitting at the desk with a whisky, mentally signed off for the day. But on this day I’d had enough, I’d had enough of sitting in my smelly room, had enough of sitting in the ant infested kitchen and I had definitely had enough of using the last of my New Zealand savings to keep myself alive in this skid mark of a location. So after exasperatingly typing out my fury concerning this broken promise I put myself to bed.
6am came and with it came chaos, Trish had decided I was to work after all. I grabbed some food and water and jumped on the bus.
Honestly working on this farm was physically the hardest thing I’ve every done but our farmer was nice, we got paid fairly and the girls I worked with were great. Despite working twelve hour days with just a half an hour break, the farm work its self wasn’t the worst part of my time here. The worst part was Tolga Country Lodge and the greed that consumed the place.
Many things happen at the Tolga Country Lodge/ Kairi “Hotel” that you wouldn’t even believe. So I’ll try explain just a few of them.
1. Kitchen chaos – due to a couple of inmates leaving various items of cutlery and pots and pans dirty around the kitchen, Trish (receptionist) took it upon herself to remove all the cooking equipment so people could no longer eat or cook. Soon after this the decision was made to charge a $30 fee for plates and cutlery, which on top of the $300 bond is quite frankly a disturbing thing to ask a backpacker to pay for a hostel. During this series of events Trish (the alcoholic receptionist) would turn off the gas in the building deterring people from cooking anything at all! That’s one way to stop mess she thought.
2. Common room catastrophe – rumour had it, Pompy (owner) was sealing off our common room/ food storage area from us for two weeks to allow members of the public in for a party. When I asked if we could have a bit of money taken off our rental cost (as we would be storing our food outside and have nowhere to sit and eat) he laughed in my face. Soon arrived the day of the party and tensions in the hostel were high as our kitchen was used for a walk way in and out of the party for the band, excessive lighting and music equipment and the catering company who were supplying the food/ bbq for the public. As the band begun their sound check the prospects of getting any sleep before work the next day were ground level. It was 11pm on the night of the party and the music was only getting louder. My bed was shaking from the vibrations of the live band and with no signs of the party terminating I decided to take a trip downstairs to find out if the music could be lowered. Surprise surprise, the music could not be lowered and would be going on till midnight. No apology was made, and very little sleep was had. We weren’t even aloud to join in with the fun, we backpackers were not invited to this gathering that was being held in the accommodation we pay for.
3. Vehicle violation – To our horror we found our lives being put in risk easy day whilst on our commute to work. The vehicles the lodge supply the backpackers were disgustingly unsafe, some with no break (better get practicing those hand break stops), some with no windows, some with no door handles (you literally had to enter the car from the back seats), and on top of this most of the cars were infested with cockroaches that crawl around your feet if you finish work after dusk.
4. Fire fears – no fire alarms in the entire building we were staying in.
There are so many more things I could say, but you get the picture.
Avoid this hostel like the plague.