After spending 20+ days travelling around New Zealand in our rented Hugo camper van, we flew back to Brisbane to look for fruit picking work. To get a second year working holiday visa in Australia, as a UK citizen, you need to complete 88 days of agricultural work; probably to prove you’re not a beer lout to the Australian Government.
Scowling through the government owned Harvest Trail website for work wasn’t as helpful as we’d imagined, so we turned out attention to Gumtree and other working holiday fruit picking sites. Within 5 days of online searching, we had found a job on Gumtree, paid the $100 agency fee and booked our ticket to Stanthorpe; where we planned to spend the next month picking big green juicy apples. We didn’t last a month and the apples weren’t big or juicy either…
Sucked in by the promise of a salary at $40 a bin and the probability of filling 4 – 5 bins a day each; we looked forward to our first day at work. Arriving at the orchard around 5am and waiting 45 minutes for sunrise, we were eager to get picking and fill our bins. Placed in a group of 4, on our first day we made $40 each… in 9 hours! Disheartened but determined, we returned the next day and in a new group; I made $50. The most we made during a full working day in our 3 weeks was $80 and we actually didn’t even get paid $20 of that because our supervisor didn’t allow us to label the bin before he forklifted our pickings on to the loading truck.
Our working hostel stay was full of dramatic events too with multiple people being kicked out and even the police being called on our last night, to remove a boy from our room. The reason he was kicked out was because he dropped a Sausage on the floor… I kid you not. It probably didn’t help that he urinated on the owners’ house a couple of weeks before after returning from a drunken night out. The benefit of hindsight eh?
So from someone who’s attempted to work the fields and failed, my advice to any prospective picker is to make sure your job is paid by the hour and bring something to entertain yourself with on the rainy days when you can’t work. My entertainment was 6 series worth of Breaking Bad and a $30 Ukulele!
Oh also, try not to crash a tractor in to another tractor. That wasn’t one of my finest moments… 😉
Some statistics to consider for our contract work in Stanthorpe:
Total stay at working hostel: 25 days
Total amount of days worked: 11 days
Total amount of days rained off: 10 days
Total amount of rent paid: $679.10
Total amount earned after tax: $539.00
Apparently, according to a press release by the owner of the farm we worked on, their bins when full with apples weigh around 400kg. If you base the re-sale value on Coles’ Granny Smith Apples @ $4.00 Per 1.5kg, then technically a full bin equates to $1068.00. Even after you deduct the transportation, factory and full time worker costs, it seems an appalling amount to be paying the pickers $40 a bin, when they’re in a team of 3 to 4 people and on average taking 45 minutes – 1 hour to fill one bin.
So, if you do want to complete harvest work in Australia to get that golden ticket to re-enter on a second year working holiday visa, make sure you secure a paid by the hour job no matter how fast you think you’ll be able to pick.
As always, happy roaming! (Or picking…)
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