Searching for Regional Work in Australia: The Good the Bad and the Ugly


Here is a guest post from an old friend of mine Nikita Tighe. Prior to commencing her travels she often commented on my Facebook posts or messaged me with questions about travelling before finally making the leap herself a couple of years ago. Since then, she has never looked back! Here is her story of finding regional work in Australia in order to secure a second year visa, showing the good, the bad and the ugly!

‘When we first arrived in Australia our plan was to complete our regional work asap. So we began our search online for anything available. My boyfriend at the time found an ad on gumtree and emailed our interest. He received a response from a woman based in Mildura, a small town outside of Melbourne. We asked some questions about the type of work we would be doing and where we were staying but she was reluctant to provide any information. Instead she advised us to contact her when we arrived in Mildura and explained she would pick us up from the train station.

As we were desperate to get it out of the way, we thought nothing more of it and left Sydney the next morning. On the 10 hour bus from Melbourne, I decided to Google Mildura. To my surprise there were a lot of negative reviews from other backpackers, which led me to a YouTube video of a Farmer named Don. The video was of a news reporter interviewing Don, asking why he was scamming backpackers. He can be seen shouting abusive language at backpackers, who said he told them they would be staying in a hostel but when they arrived they found a dirty caravan. They were asked to pay two weeks rent up front, however they only stayed one night as the next morning Don accused them of trashing the caravan and told them to leave. They didn’t damage the caravan and Don refused to give them any money back. Having watched this video I was anxious about where we were going!

When we arrived at the station we were greeted by a man (who didn’t give us his name)  in a van and there were 3 male backpackers. Initially I didn’t want to get into the van as we were told a woman would be collecting us, however my boyfriend assured me it was ok so off we went. On the way to the hostel the man asked my friend and I if we would be interested in phoning other backpackers and telling them about the work on his farm. He said he would pay us $20 an hour and sign off our visa. We agreed to it, however I knew this wasn’t right as it didn’t meet the criteria for a second year visa.

The backpackers sitting next to us didn’t speak a word since we got in the van, which I thought was odd as backpackers are generally friendly. So I started a conversation and out of no where the man became quite abusive mocking the guys. Next he asked us if we wanted to stop at the supermarket before we got to the hostel, we explained we didn’t as we were tired. However 10 minutes later he asked again, when we said no he then asked if we wanted to go to the cash machine to pay our fees for the weeks. At this point I was suspicious as he was asking for $500 upfront, so I asked if we could stop at the supermarket.

When we got out of the van I told my friend and boyfriend we weren’t going to the farm as I now knew the man was Don! They thought I was overreacting until they watched the video. We were all a bit worried as we needed to tell him we weren’t coming and had to get our backpacks from his van. My boyfriend went back and said we weren’t coming with him, he asked why and he said “the girls watched a video on YouTube and don’t trust you” Don explained the video wasn’t true and said he was suing the people for making it. It was late in the evening and we were now stranded at a supermarket with no where to stay. We went to a cafe to look online, we found a motel and booked in for the night.

The next morning I was determined to find work as I didn’t want it to be a wasted journey. I found a hostel and spoke to a guy called Larry, who explained he had some work going on an asparagus farm. We started the next day in a packing shed. When we arrived we met a woman named Sue, who showed us what to do. We stood packing asparagus for 10-12 hours a day, you weren’t allowed to talk while working or go to the toilet unless it was on your break. We had 3 breaks a day, two 10 minutes and 1 half hour. When we were on our break outside one day I lay on a bench to stretch my back as it was sore from standing. When I stood up one of the backpackers shouted “spider” everyone looked around then directly as me and literally screamed and ran away. I had like idea where the spider was so I looked frantically and asked my friend where it was. She stood there frozen and didn’t answer me. I began to panic as i couldn’t see it then suddenly a guy used his iPhone to flick it out of my hair!!! My friend then answered me and said she couldn’t help as she was afraid because it was “massive”. I looked on the ground and saw a huge wolf spider that had been chilling in my ponytail. Fortunately it wasn’t poisonous, however it could give you a nasty bite!

So after 7 days straight and 70 hours work, we were exhausted and fed up. We returned to our hostel after a 12 hour shift to find that everyone had left, the hostel was empty and there were men disassembling the bunk beds. We asked what was going on and they explained we had to be out by 8pm. The guy who owned the hostel told us he was on house arrest, he had to be home by 9pm every night, therefore he was closing down the hostel. He didn’t have anywhere else for us to stay, so we went back to the motel we stayed in when we arrived. At this point we were done with farm work, we phoned Larry and told him we wouldn’t be going back. Larry explained we wouldn’t get paid if we left and we didn’t. So over $1000 down we packed our bags and left. After this experience I decided I no longer wanted a second year visa and planned a trip up the east coast instead of looking for farm work.

working in a nut factory

After one month travelling to the most beautiful beaches and meeting backpackers from all over the world I changed my mind. I did want to stay a second year and see more of this beautiful country. This time we went through an agency to find work, we paid $100 and the lady told us there was tomato picking available in a place called Bundaberg. She booked us into the hostel and we made our way on a 16 hour bus from cairns to Bundaberg. When we arrived in Bundaberg we were put on a waiting list for work. We waited for 3 weeks before we were offered work in a Macadamia factory. We were told we had to purchase our own uniform, which was all white t-shirts and shorts.

When I arrived for training I honestly thought they were checking me into the nut house! Literally, lol. Our job was to pick the bad nuts out of a selection of nuts on a conveyor belt. We had to wear ear plugs as the machinery was so loud, so you weren’t able to talk to your colleagues or listen to music. The work was challenging and mentally draining being stuck with your own thoughts 7 hours a day. There were times it tested my sanity and I wanted to give up but it was the people I met in the hostel that got me through it. We were all in it together and somehow managed to keep each other sane. I actually decided to stay an extra two months after I completed my days to save some money and book a trip to Asia with my new friends to celebrate.

We made it, it felt like such an accomplishment and now here we are spending a second year in Australia, all the nuts together!’

regional work Australia