My experience as an Australian work-holiday maker

post by MileyCyrus · 2012-12-09T22:09:21.984Z · score: 27 (28 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 17 comments

Contents

  Alice Springs
  Remote Australia
  Adelaide
  What’s next?
  Is Optimal Employment accurate?
None
17 comments

I read Optimal Employment and decided to try a work-holiday in Australia.  Several people have asked me how it's going, so here's my first take. I haven’t finished my work-holiday yet, but I want  to provide this information now so that potential travelers can make a decision before the hiring season peaks next summer.

Alice Springs

I came to Alice Springs in late April, and secured a job at a fast-food immediately. They offered me $26/hr after super and penalties. I didn’t get many hours, but it was enough to cover expenses. I took the job so that I wouldn’t lose money while I was looking for a better job.

Finding better job proved tough. I quickly applied to all of the sit-down restaurants and bars in town, and they all said they preferred locals. I signed up for a couple of employment agencies, but they were concerned that I had didn’t have any experience serving alcohol. I borrowed a phonebook and called random business on the Plenty Highway and that didn’t work.

This continued for five weeks. I found this period stressful because I get anxious asking businesses if they’re hiring, and then I feel humiliated when they say they’re not. There were fun times: I toured Uluru and met cool people in the hostel. But in the back of my mind I was always stressed about finding a better job. After five weeks I was about to head south in search of fruit picking work. But then I saw a flyer.

Remote Australia

A gas-station/convenience store was looking for staff. It was a full-time job, with meals and accommodation costing $40/week. This was exactly what I was looking for! I called immediately and got the job because I was American and nobody else had called before me.

This job was pretty much everything Louie described in Optimal Employment. I had practically no expenses, no responsibilities, and free entertainment after hours. At any given time there were three backpackers (including myself) working there, and one would be switched out about every month. We played a lot of video games and ate a lot of barbeques. We also attended a concert and a rodeo. I saved a lot of money and had a lot of fun, but I was anxious to leave after six months.

Adelaide

Australia prohibits backpackers from working the same job for more than six months, so I had to leave. Around this time I discovered that I had distant relatives living in Victoria, and they wanted me over for Christmas. This left me only three weeks to work. I decided to look for fruit picking work, since I heard they’re more willing to employ backpackers for short periods.

I flew to Adelaide, but I cannot find any fruit picking work. And I hear there's very little in Victoria. I could go to West Australia, but even if I found a job over there, it hardly seems worth it to fly there, work for two weeks, and fly back to Victoria on Christmas Eve. So now I’ve got to fill up two weeks in South Australia or Victoria.

What’s next?

I had originally planned to work 88 days of fruit picking work, so that I could get a second working holiday visa next year. (Most Americans are NOT eligible to do this. I can because I’m half British.) But I’ve heard a lot of bad things about fruit picking, that it’s miserable work and that you make little money (or even negative money). And I’m 70% sure I don’t want to come back to Australia next year anyway. (I want to teach English in Shanghai). So the new plan is to spend Christmas in Victoria while applying to TEFL jobs, and then tour the east coast for a month. Then I’ll fly back to the states and hopefully start teaching English in March. In the meantime I will have to entertain myself Adelaide/Melbourne.

Is Optimal Employment accurate?

Pretty much. You’ll probably earn more money on the job than Louie estimates, because of penalty rates and an increasing minimum wage. And there’s a chance to hit jackpot: I met a LW lurker in Alice Springs who said she was banking $1000/wk after expenses working at Lasseters. Mining and fishing jobs are also lucrative if you can get them.

But there’s also a risk of not finding a job. It took me five weeks to find my remote area job, and I’ve met some backpackers who ran out of money and while looking for work. Immigration requires you to save up $5000 before you start your work-holiday; skirt that law at your peril.

Overall I’m pleased with my visit to Australia. Even if I though I’ll be bleeding money the next couple of months, I’ll still come back with a nice profit and wicked memories. If you’re young with a sense of adventure, you should definitely consider it. A lot of people want to visit Australia “someday”, but it gets more difficult when you’re older and have more commitments.

I’m planning to write another post with tips for working in Australia. Requests welcome!

17 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by DanielLC · 2012-12-09T23:05:10.224Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I came to Alice Springs in late April, and secured a job at a fast-food immediately. They offered me $26/hr after super and penalties.

I find that surprising. If the government has a high minimum wage, they can require the fast-food places to pay that much, but then the jobs would be nigh impossible to get. Why are they that desperate?

comment by dbaupp · 2012-12-10T00:11:15.560Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just for reference, the minimum wage is only $15.96, so this fast food place is actually desperate for workers.

comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-12-10T02:19:05.052Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's the base minimum wage, there's also mandatory penalty rates (extra money for weekends, holidays, late hours ect.) and superannuation. In my case, the restaurant cut a deal with the government where they paid a higher base rate in exchange for not having to pay penalty rates. But the government is still setting the wage, not the free market.

comment by gwern · 2012-12-09T23:27:25.532Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think that question was already answered:

And there’s a chance to hit jackpot: a LW lurker I met in Alice Springs says she banking $1000/wk after expenses working at Lasseters. Mining and fishing jobs are also lucrative if you can get them.

It's Dutch disease.

comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-12-09T23:21:47.392Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Beats me. I wasn't even the least qualified person; some of my coworkers could barely speak English. The Alice Springs unemployment rate was less than 3% at the time, not counting backpackers.

comment by dbaupp · 2012-12-10T00:25:24.806Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Alice Springs unemployment rate was less than 3% at the time

This surprises me, since the NT has serious problems (e.g. the unemployment in the surrounding area is ~20%, with occasional townships at about ~8%).

Do you happen to have any insight into why Alice is such an outlier?

comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-12-10T02:14:50.982Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect most of the variation comes from the aboriginal population. There are whole villages in the Northern Territory where nobody has a job and everybody lives off welfare.

Edit: Half of the territorians live in Darwin, where the unemployment rate is around 2%.

comment by lukeprog · 2012-12-11T09:15:19.698Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for sharing this report! I do look forward to your list of tips for working in Australia.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2012-12-10T06:19:29.596Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I met a LW lurker in Alice Springs who said she was banking $1000/wk after expenses working at Lasseters.

Did you run in to each other in real life and only realize you both read LW after conversing for a while? Because that would be really cool.

comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-12-10T06:37:42.983Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's exactly what happened! It makes me wonder how many other people in Alice Springs also read Optimal Employment.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2012-12-10T09:20:03.025Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Too bad you didn't organize a meetup.

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2012-12-10T04:26:22.952Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was a full-time job, with meals and accommodation for $40/week.

Typo?

comment by pewpewlasergun · 2012-12-10T04:53:18.837Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To clarify, the cost of meals and accommodation was $40/week.

comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-12-10T04:36:56.908Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If there's a typo, I don't see it. It really was $40/week if that's what you're getting at.

comment by Matt_Simpson · 2012-12-10T04:52:24.717Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you mean the pay was $40/week, or that you paid $40/week for meals and accommodation? I initially thought the former, but now that comma is staring me in the face...

comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-12-10T05:39:27.578Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The meals and accommodation was $40/week.

comment by David_Gerard · 2012-12-10T00:34:37.301Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I could go to West Australia, but even if I found a job over there, it hardly seems worth it to fly there, work for two weeks, and fly back to Victoria on Christmas Eve.

The bus. Me on the bus in 1994; I'd be surprised if it's changed much. At least we have phones that do MP3s and ebooks these days.