Travelling Australia chasing farm work is the means by which many backpackers extend their stay. But how do you get to the farm and where do you stay once you've arrived?
Here are some tips.
Want to extend your working holiday? Some tips
Backpackers are starting to return to Australia. Before COVID they made up a large part of Australia’s seasonal horticulture workforce. New arrivals will know that if you hold a working holiday visa (subclass 417 or 462), you can extend it and stay for a second or even a third year, by working in Australian farms. You can do a lot to make finding this kind of work easier. Well-prepared travellers will have many more opportunities.
Achieving your 88-day target for a second or third-year visa needs a bit of planning. So, first of all make sure you know the rules. Check the Australian government website for resources to assist you.
Consider buying a car or van
Australia is a big country with a sparse population, so there is usually no public transport in the regional areas where most of the farm work is situated. You may be able to travel to a town near where the work is available, but the actual farm may be many kilometres away reachable only by car. Having your own car gives you a big advantage. Consider sharing a vehicle. Many backpackers share a mini-van that can double as accommodation.
There are companies that specialise in hiring cars and vans to backpackers. Most will also offer a ‘sell and buy-back’ arrangement for longer terms. Some even include camping gear as part of the deal.
Working hostels will help
Backpacker hostels in regional areas are often called ‘working hostels’ as their guests are all employed on nearby farms. Working hostels can also help with getting jobs. For travellers without their own car, these hostels may assist with transport to farms for a charge.
Always try to find someone already staying at the hostel to confirm that work is immediately available. It is not uncommon for a hostel to promise work, accept rent in advance and maybe a bond, but once committed the guest finds the work is not as promised. If work does not start for some weeks, or is only a few hours per week, this can leave the backpacker trapped at the hostel and unable to move on because they have run out of money.
Social media and rating websites are also great places to get this information.
Living the farm life
Some farmers offer accommodation, either on the farm or in a nearby town. Although not common, always ask if beds are available when enquiring about work. Sometimes farms will have an area available suitable for a tent or a van. Grassy areas with shower and toilet nearby are often enough, especially during summer. Sometimes these are offered for free, or at a low fee. Find out what is available before you leave for your destination so you don’t get stranded with nowhere to stay.
Harvest Trail staff can help
If you are uncertain about where to travel, how to get there, and what accommodation is available, the Harvest Trail Information Service can help (free-call 1800 062 332). The Contact Centre operators will inform you of your options, then can direct you to the regional Harvest Trail office which deals directly with the farmers. Vacancies and helpful information are also available on the Harvest Trail website.
Travellers Auto Barn – car & van hire
Wicked Campers – car & van hire
Jucy – car & van hire
Australian Department of Home Affairs (Immigration and Citizenship) https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/work-holiday-417
Australian Department of Home Affairs (eligible postcodes)
Australian Fair Work Ombudsman
Australian Tax Office (tax file numbers)