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Where to find a job while cycle touring in Australia

Alia Parker's picture
Grape picking makes great seasonal work while cycle touring in Australia.

Seasonal employment in Australia is a popular option for many travellers, especially those planning to stay longer than a few weeks. The relatively high Australian dollar, temperate climate, available opportunities and the use of the widely spoken English language make the country an attractive place for visitors to earn a few bucks, but many locals also enjoy working on the seasonal employment circuit because of the flexible and free lifestyle.

The availability of seasonal work opens up a world of opportunity for those interested in undertaking a long-haul bicycle tour around Australia because funding such a trip often prevents many people from realising their dreams. Rural areas in particular have a wide range of jobs available for those looking to work anywhere from a few weeks to six months, making it easy for cyclists to plan work stops into their ride.

Don't expect anything fancy; in general, you're looking at labouring jobs like driving a tractor, checking bore water, picking or packing fruit, cleaning rooms, working the bar or packing meat. Many rural parts of Australia struggle to fill these lower-paid jobs, which is why they've become so popular with cycle tourists, backpackers and locals who enjoy the freedom of wandering about.

Finding a job

Many farm jobs will be advertised on local noticeboards in rural towns or in hostels, so luck and timing can play a factor. Big centres like Alice Springs are often a good place to start and this was how cyclist Thomas Andersen from Denmark picked up his job on a cattle station in the Northern Territory. You can read what he had to say about it in our Riding Now section. However, there are websites that specialise in these markets and it is possible to pre-arrange your employment in many cases.

One particularly well organised industry is fruit picking. The Australian government runs the Harvest Trail website, which advertises harvesting jobs around the country and also has resources that allow you to search for information on which crops are harvested in which part of the country at different times of year. Other useful sites include Workstay, Workabout Australia and TNT as well as OneShift, which is handy for picking up the odd short-term job in larger centres.

Some seasonal jobs help in arranging basic accommodation for workers, but most workers arrange their own, which is usually at a hostel or campsite.

Australian residents planning a long trip won't have a problem picking up any of these jobs, however, if you're from overseas, you'll need a work visa. Some employers have been known for paying "cash-in-hand", keeping you off the books and out of the tax-man's sight. This practise exists, but keep in mind that it is illegal and if caught, foreigners will be deported and your employer will be hit with a hefty fine and possibly jail time. The majority of cash-in-hand workers are never caught, but a significant number of arrests are made each year and farms as well as the restaurant and bar business are always a focal point. The Australian government introduced new powers to crack down on illegal workers in September 2012 and placed a greater onus on employers to make sure their workers have visas.

Getting a VISA

If you're aged between 18 and 30 years old, you're laughing; you're eligible for a 12-month Working Holiday Visa, which is a relatively straight forward and common visa to apply for. If you work in a rural area for three months, generally in the aforementioned jobs, you'll be eligible for a 12-month visa extension, giving you two years all up. As a general condition of this type of visa, you can only work in the same job for a maximum of six months.

If you're over the age of 30 and not an Australian resident, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but working while you ride is going to be very hard unless you run your own business over the internet. Those over the age of 30 aren't eligible for a Working Holiday Visa. The easiest option for you would be to just come here to cycle. But other types of visas are available if you are a skilled worker and plan to come and work here for a longer period. In this case, you could apply for a 457 Temporary Work Visa – the only catch is that you need to find a company that is willing to 'sponsor' you, that is, pay a fee to the government in order to hire you. If you're thinking of this option, the focus of your trip to Australia will be mainly to move here to work with a bit of cycling on the side because once here, you'll be tied to your employer. Additionally, once you leave the company that has sponsored you, you must either find a new sponsor or leave the country within 28 days, which will limit the amount of time you can cycle here. You can often find sponsored jobs by typing 'sponsored' into the keyword section of your job search or by contacting the employer and asking if they will consider your experience. If you happen to be married to an Australian citizen, you can apply for a spousal visa, which will give you a lot more flexibility, but be prepared for all the paperwork.

Other options

If you don't have a work visa, one place you may have a little luck earning a bit of cash-in-hand without breaking the law is to run small private errands for people, usually in larger cities. Take a look at Airtasker, a website where people post errands they need done, such as help washing the dishes at a dinner party, gardening work, delivering packages and changing light bulbs. These are little "errands" with a small cash "reward". It won't make you rich, but it may pay for dinner.

Another alternative that may appeal to those of any age is WWOOFing (that is, Willing Workers On Organic Farms). WWOOFing isn't a 'job' so much as working a few hours a day on a farm in exchange for meals and a bed, so it isn't going to help you build up your bank account. However, it will allow you to stay in a particular area for an extended period of time at no cost, meet other people and have some fun at the same time. Some hostels and volunteer organisations also offer the opportunity to work for food and board. Since you're not earning money for these positions, you do not need a work visa.

Image: Grapes at harvest. Source: Tourism Australia.

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