Finding Seasonal Work In Australia
"Finding fruit picking jobs is very easy, provided you don't
have a problem with sweating and getting your hands dirty!"
Finding seasonal work in Australia (fruit picking jobs and other farm work) is very easy, provided you don't have a problem with sweating and getting your hands dirty!
Yes, seasonal work and fruit picking are physical jobs and you won't get paid quite the same as you would in an iron ore mine.
But there are many positive things to say about seasonal fruit picking jobs in Australia.
While I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every minute that I spent fruit picking, I did like the work in general.
I can honestly say that I've always loved the lifestyle and the freedom that comes with seasonal work on Australian farms and orchards.
I also liked the people I met and the people I worked for.
What I Liked About Fruit Picking in Australia
The best part of it is that seasonal work in Australia is so easy to find. You can work for a few days, weeks or months, totally up to you. If you need money, there is always something that needs picking somewhere, so you never need to worry about finances. (Unless you're totally broke and on the wrong side of the continent.)
In regional Australia the seasonal work is there for the taking. Come harvest time most Australian farmers are desperate for good workers. A big crop is no good to them if they can't get it off. It's just a matter of knowing what ripens when and where, and there are plenty of seasonal work in Australia guides and resources available to help you with that. (See bottom of the page.)
Update: as you probably know, some parts of southern Australia have been struggling with a severe draught for many years now, so things down there are not necessarily easy and rosy. Different regions are affected differently, it depends where exactly you go. When you do your research, make sure you get recent information.
You don't need any experience or fancy paper work (CVs, references and the like). Travel to any Australian fruit picking area at harvest time and you will often have a job the same day.
The backpacker hostels in Australia are a great place to start. In major growing regions you will usually find dedicated "working hostels", hostels that help you to find jobs, give advice, arrange the work for you and in some cases even drive you to work!
Other hostels may have lists of phone numbers for farms in the area, farmers might have notes up on notice boards around towns, and of couse the other working backpackers will have a wealth of information to share.
You will also come across Australians and New Zealanders who are full time, all year round fruit pickers. They follow the seasons all over the country and have the best information on everything and everywhere.
How and what you get paid depends on the job and the crop. Some fruit picking jobs have hourly rates, but many farmers pay you for what you actually do, say per bin or bucket you fill, per box that you pack etc.
So often the first few days you make very little and wonder why on earth you are doing this to yourself. But with a bit of practice you can get good at it, and I have known pickers who made a couple of hundred dollars by 2 pm every day and took every afternoon off.
In some agricultural areas it's customary to offer workers accommodation and maybe meals as well. It depends on the type of farm and the region.
Another thing about seasonal farm work is that good workers who stick around are rare. If you are good and reliable you will move up on the ladder, and get more interesting, varied, and better paid work. Farmers also don't mind teaching you new stuff if they see you've got your head screwed on right and you don't mind to do a bit.
Well, and if you can drive a tractor or other machinery, have a bit of mechanical knowledge, or a farming background, you'll be very, very welcome anywhere!
You should get paid weekly, usually by check.
Some of my own experiences
doing seasonal work in Australia
I hated working on the east coast. Too many backpackers for the work that's available, you get paid less, and the whole atmosphere just wasn't what I was used to. (My favourite state to work in was Western Australia.)
I much prefer picking fruit over picking vegetables, because you can munch on it all day, and fruit smells better. Sitting in a cherry tree is preferable to stooping over a row of onions... (I made more money with the onions in the two days I lasted.)
I prefer crops where you get paid hourly rates. The reason is not the money. The reason is that the work is more varied, and that you work more as a team. That's why the farmers are unable to pay contract rates in the first place. If you pick for contract rates you are on your own, and all you do is fill bucket after bucket after bucket... (You make more money on contract rates once you get the hang of it.)
I've had farm jobs where I lasted half a day and told them to stick it. Only to end up a few kilometres further on and do the same job for many weeks. It depends who you are working for and who you are working with.
If you are worried about the physical aspects there is always packing shed work. Shady and easy... Often you'll have the blokes out picking and the girls in the shed. (I hate shed work and prefer to be outside.)
The first few days are always the hardest. If you haven't done that kind of work before it takes some getting used to. Don't give up straight away.
Don't forget, fruit picking jobs are seasonal work and are usually in regional areas. (Select the tab "Visa Applicants" and click on "Regional areas".) So if you do three months of it all up you qualify for another 12 month working visa in Australia!
Give it a go, and if you don't like it move on.
Fruit Picking Jobs In Australia
What? Where? When?
There are many free brochures and booklets available for backpackers, and they include the what, when, where kind of information. (General info, not contact details.) You'll pick up those booklets for free at the hostels.
Once in Australia you can also freecall the National Harvest Information Service on 1800 062 332, and they can put you in touch with the local harvest offices to find out current details. (Weather can delay a harvest or make it start early etc.)
A useful online resource is The Harvest Trail, the official government job search website. It has the best general info on fruit picking in Australia and seasonal work in regional areas.
Go to "Towns and Crops". After selecting a state you can do searches by month, by crop or for specific towns. You can also search for labour providers and find out more about what the seasonal work involves and the usual fruit picking pay rates.
You can also download and print the whole guide here. [PDF] Read the introduction carefully. It should answer a lot of your questions regarding seasonal work in Australia.
Of course, coming over here and just hoping things will work out is a scary thing to do for many. I did it, but it's not for everyone.
If you are nervous about the idea, and concerned that you won't find enough work or not fast enough, then I have good news.
There is a very easy way to get your WHV, get help with finding harvest work, and even help with your second year visa.