Let me tell you I NEVER thought we’d see this day come!! After almost a year trying to get our farm work completed we finally finished it 14 days before our 1st year visa ended!
We started our farm work in Margaret River, Western Australia almost as soon as we arrived. Thinking we’ll get it out of the way then we don’t have to worry about it. How wrong were we! We managed to complete 4 weeks farm work all in all in Margaret River then somehow got sucked into the amazing lifestyle we were living in Dunsborough and didn’t end up leaving for 4 months.
In August we decided to come back to farm work and start again, with 4 months until our visa ran out we thought we had loads of time! How wrong were we – again! After trailing through the internet desperate for farm work we applied to anything and everything with the hope we’d get it finished as soon as possible. Stupidly I decided to apply for a Piggery, why? I’m not too sure. Not thinking we’d hear back, one day we got a phone call.. can you come and start on Monday! I was really apprehensive and didn’t really want to go, the ad said dirty work but Conor was insistent so we made the 3 hour journey to Gunbower. We made our way to Gunbower, on the border of Victoria & New South Wales about 30 minutes from Echuca. We arrived on a Sunday evening in August, to this village in the middle of nowhere with only a hotel and gas station. We found the address and met our new housemate, an Irish fella that was leaving the following week. We settled into this house, a bit run down, with no double glazing, it was freezing!
Not knowing what to expect we arrived at the piggery the next morning ready to start work at 7am. The owner took us through all the pig sheds, from the big males and females to the farrow shed where pig were giving birth.
To put it bluntly my job was basically to hose the pig shit out of the pig pens, great I thought! Not too hard and I didn’t even need to get in the pens with them. I then had to feed the pigs in the morning and afternoon before we left. I could get used to this I thought. Little did I know how Conor’s day had been. I’ll try not to go into too much detail as it might put you off your bacon sanies but basically once the pigs had given birth overnight Conor had to clean up all the left overs including half made piglets, dead piglets, placenta and shit! After work Conor was nearly in tears and told me all about his job.
We lasted exactly 3 days and couldn’t do a minute longer! So I texted the owner saying sorry we didn’t realise the job we going to be like this, unfortunately we won’t be coming back! We received a text back saying I need you for another week! No chance we thought! We headed straight to the house, packed up our things into the van in the dark and skipped town without looking back! We headed over the border into New South Wales and stopped the night. It then took him 10 weeks to pay us after threatening to contact Fair Work Australia!
The next day we headed for Griffith, on recommendation, I knew a lot of people that had done farm work there! We arrived at Oringal Backpackers Griffith and greeted by the just delightful Caesar the owner and the most arrogant guy you’ll ever meet. Having just arrived, not even checked in he pulled Conor and I into the office and said straight away I don’t like English people, there loud and drunks. Next he said I don’t really like couples, there always arguing, the rest of the conversation went on a little like this. He shooed us out saying we’d probably get work starting on Monday.
At least this was one good thing, a job! The backpackers had 2 hostels and a share house and we were put in the top hostel called Shearers Quarters, which was basically a wooden shack and in the middle of winter was pretty damn cold with no hot water. We were put into a 4 bed dorm room with two guys but decided to stay in our van for more privacy. Fortunately a week after we arrived there was hot water, thank god.
Of course Conor was straight into a job at a orange packing shed, his job was to stack the boxes of oranges onto pallets to be taken to the supermarkets. He had this job for the whole 4 weeks we were in Griffith however it wasn’t so easy for me! Each night the hostel put up a ‘jobs list’ sheet stating what job you were doing the next day and what time you had to be there. It seemed everyday for me was a different job which is really no job when you need to get your days signed off.
My first job was also in a orange packing shed but I was sorting orange, this entailed 10 hours a day of standing and picking out oranges with black marks, dents or mould on them which couldn’t be sent to the supermarkets for people to eat. This only lasted a couple of days then I was sent on my own an hour outside Griffith to prune rose trees for a farmers wife – so boring!! It was then I started to get annoyed, I hadn’t been given a proper job which I could get my days signed off and my time was running low.
Then I got sent with 8 others to a hostel nearby which were going to employ us on a hazelnut farm an hour away. The hazelnut farm would be sending hazelnuts to Nutella and Ferrero Rocher. I began working with them late August, it was still cold and our job was to dig out the baby hazelnut branches so they could be replanted elsewhere.
At this time we were still at Casears hell hole in Griffith so decided we’d take the leap and go and work for Brian, who ran Globe Backpackers in Griffith and Narrandera. He could offer me and Conor work in Narrandera on the hazelnut farm which would guarantee we’d get our 88 days. So we moved again, off to Narrandera and all started well. Until it poured and poured and poured down for 3 weeks and we had no work!! Why did this have to happen to us! Honestly we had the worst luck with farm work possible. After all the rain stopped luckily it was none stop work from then til the end working 6am – 3pm Monday – Saturday which meant the money was coming in nicely as we got paid $21.60 an hour. We lived above a closed down pub with 30-40 other backpackers from Britain, Scotland, France, Germany, Italy, Chile and Argentina! The work wasn’t terribly hard but as spring and then summer approached it started to get a lot warmer one day reaching 38 degrees in November. Our work ranged from hoeing, pruning, planting, picking up pots and weeding. In the end we finally completed our farm days after starting 2 weeks after we arrived in Australia we finished 2 weeks before our visa ended!! And what a relief it was, I only wish we’d gone to Narrandera from the beginning although the town wasn’t nice, the job was stable, good money and the people we met are friends for life.
After doing farm work it’s pretty clear this 88 days regional work is a stupid ploy to do backpackers over and that’s exactly what happened to us! The hostels are only out to make money from you, charging you extortionate rates for accommodation, charging for travel and taking a cut of your pay! A lot of farm jobs also pay under the Australian minimum wage which is outrageous.