The Australian Working Holiday Visa is synonymous with one number: 88. That’s the number of days it is required to work on a farm to obtain your Second Year Visa. In every hostel across Australia you can hear mutterings about fruit picking, farm days and a whole lot of horror stories. “Did you hear about so and so? They only earned 50 dollars a day.” The stories go on and on. Everyone knows about the exploitation of workers on farms, it’s all over the news, all over the internet. Just last week a new report emerged stating the exploitation of workers is ‘endemic.’ However, our experience couldn’t be further from this horrendous stereotype.
Luckily, James and I escaped the dreaded fruit picking experience. Instead, we landed a gig on a Cattle Station 200 kilometres from Alice Springs, NT. Just this week James and I have managed to complete our required days. What has our experience been? Over worked and underpaid? Hardly, we’ve loved every minute and are planning to keep working here for another 3 months!
Napperby Station is the most isolated place we’ve ever been to. Just yesterday we jokingly discussed at dinner that your Tinder radius would need to be set at 200km to find any matches! But, in all honestly, we have grown to love that isolation. Being able to hike up a hill and not have a single building in the distance for as far as the eye can see is a wonderful feeling. It’s us workers and cattle for miles and miles. It’s a surreal feeling for someone who lives in a ‘small town’ back home that’s actually twice the size of Alice Spring, our nearest town (200 kilometres away). The quiet serenity is incredible. Oh, and the fact there’s no people means no light pollution, so, at night the sky simply lights up with millions of stars.
So, what is our job? A little of this and a little of that, which mean every day is unique. We aren’t spending every day picking oranges. Although, we do maintain an orange orchard which grows the most delicious fruit. All the misery of picking the fruit is forgotten when you sit and eat fresh oranges straight from the tree. We also do the gardening, feed the other workers, cut down bushes, look after the chooks (that’s Australian for chickens), work in the store, collect the rubbish and take it to the dump. There isn’t any monotony and boredom here. I honestly believed my three months on a farm would be a story to tell the kids for all the wrong reasons. We couldn’t have been more wrong. I don’t think I will ever enjoy a job as much as I do working here.
There’s no stress, no worries: life is simpler out bush. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city we can simply enjoy our time in the ‘real’ Australia. Another aspect of this job that we love is that we are working with Aussies. Yes, I know how stupid that sounds but too many backpackers do their farming in a working hostel. You live and work with other European backpackers, you never meet any Australians even though you are living and working in Australia!
I’ve learnt a lot about Australia and Australians in our time here. Those kangaroos and dingoes all foreigners idolise as Australian icons? They get shot on farms because they are pests. Also, I thought Brits had foul mouths, they’ve got nothing on their Australian cousins! And wow, Australians love a stubbie to finish their day.
But the biggest bonus of this job is the wages. You remember those headlines you’ve read, well we are being paid the same as our Aussie counter parts. We have a salary with accrued annual leave. We are earning more than newly qualified teachers, nurses and social workers in England! Unlike the horror stories (most of which are true!), we are getting a fair wage for a fair days work. We hit the farming motherload!
Of course, there are down sides, no job is perfect, otherwise we would all be doing it. It is hot here, and I mean really, bloody hot. At the moment, the weather is topping out at around the forty-degree mark. While most days are in the high thirties, but it is only the beginning of spring! It’s only going to get hotter. Whipper snipping, chopping down hedges and physical labor aren’t so fun at those temperatures. Also, I miss being able to just pop to the supermarket to buy whatever I fancy at that exact moment, although my bank account doesn’t! However, all—in-all we couldn’t have asked for a better experience for our 88 days.
Should we have feared farm work? Not. At. All.
Read all about how I worked for food and accommodation in Australia.