Charlotte came to Australia for an exciting travel adventure. The National Harvest Labour Information Service and MADEC’s regional Harvest Labour Service office were key to helping her find harvest work. We asked her a few questions to find out about her experiences. Read Charlotte’s response to our questionnaire to find out what advice she gives to fellow travellers.
We’ve included her answers just as she gave them to us!
What is your name and age? I am Charlotte and I’m 29
What country are you from? From France
What did you do before coming to Australia (work wise or study?) I was working in UK, behind the computer, great job but too boring for me!
What made you choose to come to Australia? As many people, it was a dream! Been saving up for 2years to come on a tourist visa, and I loved it so much, I dropped everything back in UK and came back on WHV!
Did you come alone or with others? I joined someone that I met on my tourist visa.
What were your expectations of work and experiences before you came to Australia? I actually thought it would be much easier to find farm work, and I really didn’t expect at all so many backpackers (and so many from France!)
(If first year), are you hoping to extend your visa and if so how are you going with your 88 days? End of second year
How have you found places to work? (Harvest Trail website, Facebook, Gumtree, hostels, word of mouth?) Most of the places I found were word of mouth really!! From other backpackers that you meet! Otherwise a few of them were from MADEC and the National Harvest Labour.
What work have you completed whist being In Australia / where? Oooh, I’ve had quite a few experiences !! Mandarins picking, meat factory (I didn’t last long! Not for me!) Avocado picking/packing, blueberry picking, cherry picking, grape picking, cucumber and tomato picking/packing …
Was that working on piece rate or hourly? The mandarins/blueberries/cherries and grapes were piece rate and the rest was hourly.
How did you find working on piece rate? (Difficult, ok, do what you have to do to get the days signed off, got easier as you went along)? It’s challenging, physically and mentally demanding !! Not particularly hard, but on piece rate you have to be fast if you want to make money!
Sometimes you work in very hot conditions, dusty, under the rain. You start early it’s freezing and then it gets super hot. On piece rate you decide to take a break or not, it’s all up to you.
You could work 9h without break if you’re ok with that!
Being fast is not necessarily something you’re good at straight away, you can learn by observing others, and getting tips from them, it depends how much time you’re ready to give yourself the chance to learn and how much time you have to do your days.
The first weeks could be crap with barely any money coming in, because you’re not fast enough, because the crops are not fully rippen, so it’s actually good to be able to start at the beginning if you’re new with that, because you have time to learn the technic and when the season is full on then you’re ready to work well and fast!
How did you find the working conditions? It can be tough sometimes, the long hours, the efforts, keep going all day everyday. But you get used to it, and the support you have from fellow backpackers is the best!
Is there anything that you have done that you didn’t expect to do? Haha, well, yes, kind of all of it ! I love trying new jobs, and learning on the spot! I’ve never picked fruits before coming to Australia, and I had no idea how it would be when I started!
I didn’t expect to carry bags of 25kg of mandarins, or 10kg of cherries standing on a ladder! Or running around with buckets of grapes under 40° sun, or sweat like in a hammam picking cucumbers in green houses !!!
Is the work harder or the same as what you expected it to be? For some much harder (mandarins for example) and for some much easier (avocados)
What has been your best experience / memory since arriving is Australia?
Avocado farm paid hourly, it was chill, no pressure and a great team !! And definitely cherry picking! That was piece rate but at the end of the day you knew why you were working so hard, the money was here ! And it’s all about the people you meet on farm camping, hostels or caravan parks, all these other backpackers who become your best mates after 2 weeks, a whole new family for few weeks/months. It’s not just about the job on itself, the people you work with is the best part ! You live together, you share everything together, the good and bad days, the crappy manager shouting at you, the Tuesday night celebration because we know Wednesday it’s raining! (Yes sometimes you wish for 1 day rain!)
What advice would you give others on a Working Holiday visa? Meet backpackers, talk to them, word of mouth is for me the best to find picking jobs.
They might have tried and can tell you exactly how it is! You don’t have to do your farm work all in one go (it took me 8 farms and a whole year !) But try to start during the first months of your arrival and try to finish them long before the end of your visa. It’s too stressful to wait and keep pushing, and you might end up with having to go to a horrible place piece rate earning nothing just to get your days. It’s also good if you can make money haha!
Not everybody knows where to search and what to search, but for farm work I would advice them to keep calling the national harvest labour, and like the page on Facebook (they post ads now and then), calling the harvest offices, Madec Facebook page, labour solutions and agrilabour, have a look at the harvest trail to see what’s growing where and think about going there on time…
You need to keep calling, it’s annoying and depressing when you only get “no, there is nothing at the moment” but keep calling and be ready to relocate!
Also avoid staying in big groups, farms may need only 2/3 people, sometimes even only 1 at a time.
Have your expectations for work and experiences been met? (Satisfied or let down)
Depends with which ones! I was very disappointed with the grape picking, and the cherries even though it was one of my favourite, I was expecting more of it. But it all depends on the season, if the trees are good so unfortunately there is not much you can do about it!
I was surprised of how hard it was to find farm work, I really thought it would be easy, just driving from farm to farm and knocking on doors, but it doesn’t really seem to work like this anymore. And there is much more demand than offer, it’s becoming harder and harder to find anything now…
What are your plans after your visa extension has been approved?
I’m on the end of my second year, so I’m done with the farm work, and the next plan is WHV in New Zealand!