How to get a backpacker job in Australia
Believe in yourself, use little lies, don’t get exploited and be flexible
Finding work on a working holiday visa and backpacker jobs in Australia always depends on yourself and a bit of luck to be at the right time at the right place. Do yourself a favor and don’t go to Australia without money. The country is too beautiful to start your backpacking trip around Australia broke and stressed out looking for some job. I recommend to be able to survive a few weeks in Australia without a job, at least a month. In general, there are some backpacker agencies and useful websites to start with. One of them is: https://backpackerjobsaustralia.net.
The first four months in Australia, I was able to live of my savings. I realized, that it had been a wise decision to save up some money before the trip. I had worked full-time, had sold my old car, had shared my flat, had eaten cheap self-made food, had sold a lot of things on Ebay and hadn’t spent a lot of money on clothes or going out for more a few months. I had the idea about going to Australia more than half a year before I finally applied for the visa.
Easier to start with a filled up bank account
I started my backpacking trip around Australia with a few thousand Australian Dollars on my bank account after I had bought my flight tickets. And in Australia, the money was going quicker than I had thought. I know, that it can be hard to save up that much money without a well paid job and after you just have finished school or university.
I was 29 years old, when I went to Australia and had already worked for a few years in a professional job. I’m not saying, that you should not do it without money. It will be just a little harder. To have some money on my bank account made me feel more calm. I had time to arrive in the country, get organized, get a feeling for my new surrounding, do sightseeing and to enjoy before finding backpacker jobs in Australia.
Backpackers face higher income taxes
Be aware, that foreigners on working holidays currently pay no income tax in Australia until they earn close to 20,000 Dollars, the same tax-free threshold enjoyed by residents. That will change. Under the new rules that take effect in July 2016, for tax purposes they will now be considered “non-residents” and pay tax on every dollar they earn.
Read more about the changes for backpacker jobs Australia on: www.bbc.com
Desperate broke backpackers hanging around in city hostels
Already on the day of my arrival in Sydney, I saw desperate travelers in my hostel, completely broke, just eating pasta with tomato sauce and cheap white bread with jam every day and not leaving the hostel anymore.
Many of them were looking for backpacker jobs in Australia. Sure, there are a lot of opportunities to work in big cities, but there are also a lot of jobless backpackers around. Most backpackers were traveling the popular east coast up North to Cairns or Darwin. Those east coast towns were the places, where I decided not to join the fight for a job. If you are interested to leave the backpacker bubble and to get an authentic inside view of Australian life, you probably have to go to places, that are known for a more alternative lifestyle off the backpacker trail or even better: Places, that you have never heart of or thought of before. It’s worth trying!
Backpacker jobs Australia: Skills wanted
If you are an open-minded polite and clever person, you will succeed finding backpacker jobs in Australia. Don’t put your expectations too high. Be ready to get your hands dirty. Australia is not just waiting for you. Especially young travelers sometimes get disappointed when they have to face hard work and difficulties finding jobs quickly.
The better your English skills are, the better the chances to find a job. If you are skilled in hotel or restaurant work or have learned a trade, future bosses might even look for you. If you are interested in fruit picking jobs, don’t go to the mango farms in the wrong season. Traveling a little bit ahead of the sun and the main tourist season increase the chances of getting employment. So don’t forget to think about the weather when you plan your trip.
Go back and ask for a job twice
There are endless fields of work, that a backpacker can work in. Hotels, campsites, hostels, cafés, bars, restaurants, country pubs, special events like car or horse races, factories, offices, travel agencies, farms, cattle stations, building, mining, pearl farming, shops, national park resorts, cleaning companies, supermarkets and as au pairs.
It sometimes helps to think creative and to just walk into a shop or whatever and ask about job vacancies. Ask in your hostel, ask fellow travelers for ideas, look at black boards in your hostels. It might also help to walk in twice within a few days and to convince your future boss of your willingness to get your hands dirty.
Important for the job search: Get a CV ready
No matter, what kind of job you want, many employers will ask you to hand in a CV (Curriculum Vitae), a resume – printed or online. I would not recommend to create a fake CV, but a lot of backpackers make it look a bit nicer to get better chances of employment. Just don’t exaggerate too much. You have to prove your skills in case, you get the job.
You can prepare a CV even before going to Australia instead of doing it in a busy hostel. Print a few copies and be ready to start the job search straight away. There is a special way to write an Australian CV. The good thing: pictures are not necessary. Here, you find an example: www.travellers.com.au
Lying about how long you want to do a job
On a working holiday visa in a backpacker job in Australia, you are allowed to work for up to six months for the same employer. Some bosses especially in the tourism business love to employ staff for a season or want you to commit for three months.
That is why in job interviews, I always said, that I can stay up to three or four months. Sometimes, I eve stayed longer. But sometimes, I quit earlier. It can happen, that you don’t want to stay three months. It is just important to communicate with your boss at least a few days before you want to go. You get usually paid weekly. Worst case scenario with a stupid boss, if you leave earlier: You lose a weeks pay. But it has never happened to me.
But honestly, a lot of people are just looking for a few weeks of employment, because they have limited time in Australia and want to travel a lot. In the end, you never really now, how things develop. You might change your mind or are not good in the job or simply don’t enjoy the atmosphere. Sometimes, people are promised to be able to work full-time, but there is suddenly simply not enough work. Not being able to earn enough money can also be a reason to look for a new job or to find a second job. I experienced that once.
Be flexible to work all around Australia
If I wasn’t able to find a job in a specific place or town, I went traveling on. If you really need to find work and if it doesn’t work out in a certain place, it doesn’t make sense to hang around there for weeks. That was my personal experience. You loose money and just get frustrated.
Use the time to enjoy traveling and start looking around in the next town. It might be an even more authentic experience not to live in a backpacker hot spot like Byron Bay, Airlie Beach, Sydney, Perth, Cairns, Darwin or Melbourne.
There are small and beautiful places all around Australia. I was surprised, that I got offered a backpacker job in a souvenir shop in Alice Springs right away after a chat with the saleswoman. At that point, I didn’t need work. But if you are desperate, consider also places, where not everyone wants to stay – for the sake of stocking up the travel account. The wages might be even better in less attractive places. I was sometimes surprised to see backpackers working even in random service stations in the outback in the middle of nowhere.
Believe in yourself!
Don’t worry about applying for jobs, that you have never done before. Well, if it is not tattooing, waitressing in a four star hotel or working as electrician, you might get a chance to try it. Australian work life is a lot about learning by doing. Use common sense and be honest to yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. If your English is shit, you won’t be lucky finding work in a travel agency or a shop for a start. But it is allowed to apply for jobs, that you are curious about. If you smile and try your best, you will have fun learning something new.
Backpacking jobs Australia: Don’t get exploited at work!
Be aware, that there is a high minimum wage in Australia. Right now, it is 17,29 Dollars per hour for a full-time employed adult. I once got offered a cash in hand full-time job in a pizza restaurant in Melbourne working for 10 Dollars per hour. That is rubbish and it doesn’t help saving up some money for traveling. I wouldn’t have been able to afford working for 10 Dollars per hour concerning the high costs of living and food. No way. Australia is a very expensive country. And no Australian can be legally employed full-time for 10 Dollars per hour. Same in backpacker jobs in Australia. If you have a work visa, don’t let people exploit you. Read more about the minimum wage: www.fwc.gov.au
Some employers tend to take advantage of backpackers and their situation. I met a lot of travelers, who hated their backpacker jobs in Australia, worked under difficult conditions, had horrible bosses or even approved health risks. Especially, on fruit picking farms, the situation can be tough. Read more about foreign worker exploitation: www.bbc.com
It can happen, that employers even don’t pay you, if you work for example cash in hand. If you feel treated in a bad way, don’t stay. Don’t get sad. You don’t need to stick to a bad job. You are free to move and you will find something better for sure! You just have limited time in that beautiful country, that you should enjoy even at work. There is always more than one job around in Australia. And the majority of people and employers are fair.
‘Cash in hand’ jobs
If you don’t have a working holiday visa and are looking for a backpacker job in Australia, it can be tough. I met quite a few people getting paid cash in hand for different reasons. I even met people being illegally in Australia after their visa had run out.
All of them were pretty nice people. But most of them had a slightly tough time finding jobs. The only way, that I know, is basically to ask employers directly. For some travelers, it works as some employers are happy to save some taxes and payments into the superannuation fund. It’s possible, especially for short time jobs. But in general, it doesn’t work well. You cannot really rely on it. Your ways to find work without a valid work visa while traveling are very limited.
It is absolutely illegal to work in Australia without a valid work visa. Not many employers want to take the risk. They can get fined in case, you get caught. And if you get caught working without a visa, you will get promptly sent to a detention center, quickly deported at your own expenses and banned from Australia for three years.
A must for every bar and restaurant job: The RSA certificate
RSA means Responsible Service of Alcohol. That is a very bizarre test, that you need to pass for every bar or restaurant job almost everywhere in Australia. You basically learn not to serve a drunk person. With a bit of common sense, it is almost impossible to fail (You can look up the right answers online before ticking the boxes). It costs around 20 Dollars. It can be helpful to write on your CV, that you have a RSA certificate. In case, you get the job, you need to do the test immediately. Different companies offer the test online as for example:
Work & Travel: Helpful websites and job agencies
- Gumtree is a great website for almost everything like jobs, lifts, renting rooms and flats: www.gumtree.com.au
- You can find backpacker jobs at Facebook: www.facebook.com
- Backpacker Jobs Australia: https://backpackerjobsaustralia.net
- Backpacker job agency Darwin and top end: www.backpackerjobcentre.com.au
- Nationwide Backpacker job agency: www.thejobshop.com.au
- Backpacker job agency in Perth: www.aussijobs.com.au
- Helpful backpacker job boards: www.jobs4travellers.com.au and www.taw.com.au