When it finally happens, I always tend to shift the blame. It’s never my fault – I just refuse to believe the obvious. “Sorry, your card’s been declined,” said the sales assistant. I was convinced there was a smirk behind that smile. I was also convinced that there must be some money left in my account. Either she had suddenly become incompetent at using EFTPOS, or there had been a huge mistake back at the bank.

I decided to leave the “essential” SeaFolly bikini, with matching sarong and thongs, at the sales desk rather than risk further rejection by trying to pay with my tired-looking credit card. Later on, I began to accept the truth. My prayers to the money god were unanswered. I was well and truly broke. A wave of fear swept over me; my life was going to have to change dramatically. I’d have to swap the late, boozy nights for early starts and alarm clocks.

My days would no longer be free to while away in the sun, nursing a hangover. Instead, I’d have to rejoin the “real” world and earn my beer tokens. In all fairness, I had survived nearly six months of bumming (I mean travelling) around Australia without having to engage my brain. Now the time had come to make use of the working part of my Working Holiday Visa. It was time to get a J.O.B.


Luckily, my funds had dried up in the little cosmopolitan city of Brisbane, in sunny Queensland. If, like me, you prefer to earn your keep in style and not get your dainty hands too dirty, then Brissie could be just the place for you. Let’s face it: we weren’t all made for fruit picking or sheep shearing in the middle of nowhere.

Although it’s often nicknamed BrisneyLand and BrisVegas, there is far more to this city than the average tourist-tat of other major cities. There are, of course, the usual bright lights and bling-bling, however, Brisbane is based around a beautiful, meandering river and is oozing with history and culture. It offers visitors and residents a mixture of flora and fauna, intriguing museums and galleries, tempting cafes and eateries, cinemas and theatres, fabulous shopping malls and a nightlife scene to suit all types of revellers. Touted as one of the most desirable places to live in Australia, it is smaller than its counterpart, Sydney, has a more chilled vibe, and as any Queenslander will gladly point out – it’s friendlier, and a darn chunk warmer!

The only way to get a good feel for Brissie and understand why it draws so many tourists and Aussies into its welcoming arms, is to do as the locals do – live it, breathe it, play it… and work it. Once you’ve decided to stick around for a while, the next step is actually landing a job. Like the rest of Queensland, the pace is slower up here compared to NSW, so you can’t expect to find a job at the click of your fingers Ð but if you have some good skills and experience, your chances are high as there is plenty of opportunity in this thriving and expanding city.


If situations are desperate, the quickest work to come by is hostel work. Many offer cleaning, gardening or receptionist work in exchange for free accommodation, which is a great way to decrease one of your major travelling expenses. Shop around though, as the number of hours required does vary from hostel to hostel.

For full-time jobs, there are often openings in office administration, banking and finance, graphic design, telemarketing or sales, IT, hospitality and also engineering or construction. There’s a recruitment agency for nearly every business sector and once you’re registered, it’s often just a case of playing the old waiting game. Don’t forget to “dress to impress” when you register; you’re not just competing for work with other backpackers, but with locals too.

Sign yourself up with one or two recruitment companies as they send your resume to suitable recruitment companies; a great time-saver, and let them do the hard graft in finding you a job, while you put trainer to concrete and explore the local surroundings.


It doesn’t take long to walk the city and get some bearings. There are suggested city walks at most tour operators. Or, take a wander through Queen Street Mall and maybe do a little window-shopping. The city offers both budget and designer stores, so you can plan how you might spend your hard-earned cash.

Until the money starts rolling in, there are tons of freebies to keep you entertained. Culture vultures can take a stroll around the many museums and galleries lining the city, and then relax in the greenery of the City Botanic Gardens or Roma Street Parkland. The latter has a lovely lake, walled gardens, some unusual water features and a rainforest walk too.

If a lack of dosh means the partying has been put on hold for a while, then you could use your time burning off some beer calories. A swim at the Pauls Breaka Beach or a jog alongside the Brisbane River at South Bank beats the sweaty socks off any swanky gym.

If there’s a few bucks left in the money belt you can catch a bus to the Mt Coot-tha Reserve lookout for staggering views across the city, or hop on the CityCat for a tour of the river.


Once the dollars start banking up, the real fun begins! The possibilities can seem almost endless. Visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to get a souvenir picture of you snuggled up with a cute little koala. No trip to Brissie is complete without a tour of the Castlemaine-Perkins XXXX brewery. After building up a thirst watching the bottles clacking round the conveyor belts, the plush adjoining bar serves up a selection of generous-sized free samples. The limited edition 3X was a beauty.

Brissie may not have its own sandy beaches, but it’s not far to some of Australia’s best. I’d definitely recommend a long-weekend at the beach; a short drive north and you’ll hit Noosa and the Sunshine Coast beaches, or head south for the infamous Surfers Paradise. Alternatively, ferry over to the island of Moreton Bay, where you can dive with dolphins, do some whale watching or even have a go at sand-boarding, but believe me it’s trickier than it looks.

A little closer to home you’ll find some sporting entertainment at The Gabba. Watch the legendary “Kings of the Jungle” – The Brisbane Lions – in an Australian Rules football match (ooh, the guns on those boys!).

For a touch of fine dining the restaurants on the South Bank or in West End cater for all palates. One of my favourite haunts was the rather posh Uber restaurant in the West End. Pricey, but uber cool and worth every cent. For post-work drinks, the city has a feast of bars and pubs, and they don’t come better than the Story Bridge Hotel. It’s an impressive place, built beneath the Story Bridge. You can actually see all the pillars holding up the bridge and hear the roll of thunder as trucks drive by.

For a different viewpoint, the little bars by the Riverside Centre of the CBD look out across the river to South Bank and the Story Bridge. To top the night off, head over to Brunswick Street in the Valley to hear the live noise of an upcoming band.


If you’ve still got cash to flash and you’re feeling risky, then a session in Brisbane’s 24-hour casino Conrad Jupiters is the best place to try your luck. It’s housed inside the Italian-Renaissance former Treasury Building. Sadly, the interior doesn’t match up to the elegance of the exterior, but you will find some novel ways to spend your money.

Whether you’re traveling the east coast from north to south, or vice versa, Brisbane is a great mid-way pit-stop to take a breather, refuel your body and mind or, more importantly, top up the bank balance to fund further travels. And when your wallet is bulging with dollar bills, you can enjoy that shopping spree minus the humiliation factor.