1. TAX FILE NUMBER
The first thing you’ll need to do if you’re planning on getting a job Down Under is get a Tax File Number (TFN). If you don’t, you’ll find the government taking 47 per cent of your earnings, which wouldn’t be very nice, now would it?
It’s really not that hard to get one; just head into your local Australian Taxation Office (ATO), or visit www.ato.gov.au and fill out the form online. If you do go into an ATO office, make sure you take along suitable original documents to prove who you are, and that you’re allowed to work legally in Oz.
What you’ll need to have with you is your passport – with appropriate working visa in it – plus birth certificate, current student photo ID, driver’s licence with photo, a degree or diploma etc. If you’re not sure if what you’ve got will cut it, give them a call on Ph: 13 28 61 or visit the website above.
2. BANK ACCOUNT
It’s time to open a bank account – something that will come in handy if you’re going to stick around for a while, and especially if you intend to get a job. If you’re not actually an Australian resident, to set up an account you have to front up at a branch.
All the major banks have branches in the main cities, so that’s the easiest place to start this mission, especially if you’ve got a big wad burning a hole in your pocket – or even some money!
The biggest banks in Australia are ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Citibank and Westpac. It’s best to shop around for the best deals, because unlike home, there’s no such thing as free banking.
They’ll charge you for almost everything – a member of the TNT crew once received a $5 charge on his statement for farting in the queue – so make sure you get a deal that suits your needs.
Whichever you choose, Australian law requires that you must provide 100 points worth of identification to open an account.
So take along your passport and at least one other piece of ID, such as a photo driver’s licence, student card and credit or cash cards. But to be safe, call ahead to check with the bank before you go and take all the ID you’ve got.
Some banks also require that you deposit some money when you open the account, so make sure you’ve got a couple of bucks up your sleeve in case you need it. And one other thing – get it all sorted by midday, otherwise you’ll have to cope with long lines of disgruntled office workers doing their banking on their lunch breaks.
If you’re unfortunate enough to come down with the dreaded lergy, you’ll thank your lucky stars you visited a Medicare office to pick up a Reciprocal Health Care Card (if you’re eligible). Best to do this as soon as possible because if you get sick while you’re in Australia you’ll be taken care of.
If you hail from Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the UK or Ireland, then you’re in luck, as they are the countries which have Reciprocal Health Care agreements with Australia. This means that for the duration of your stay in Oz, you get free emergency treatment at public hospitals, subsidised prescriptions and necessary medical care from your local doctor (pick one who does “bulk billing” it’ll save you loads of hassle as they do all the paperwork).
All you need to bring with you is your passport as well as proof that you are enrolled in your country’s national health care scheme. They’ll then send your Reciprocal Health Care Card in the mail (NZ and Irish residents will receive immediate hospital care only), so make sure you’ve got an Aussie mailing address.
For more information on the scheme, Ph: 13 20 11 or go to www.medicareaustralia.gov.au.
4. JOB MARKET
Australia’s job market is like a platter of hors d’oeuvres for backpackers. Some positions are in hot demand and are gobbled up before you even have a chance to apply, while others are left over for the truly hungry and desperate. There are some skilled positions and industries that can’t get enough backpackers and have incentives to lure overseas workers. For example, nurses are in high demand in Australia.
Many nursing agencies offer fringe benefits to attract you, from accommodation and phones to reward systems for diligent workers, which may include travel. You may find work as a temporary midwife, with the Royal Flying Doctor Service in the outback, or in the operating room in a busy city hospital.
Agencies always have plenty of positions available for PAs, sales and marketing staff and opportunities in accounting and financial services with wages up to $60 an hour for the well qualified. Temping also gives you the flexibility to leave at short notice and you’re often paid weekly. On the flipside, the employer only needs to give you one day’s notice.
Hospitality skills open up opportunities all over the world, but especially in Australia, with the al fresco scene vibrant all year round. So if you want to cook, pull beers or wait tables, keep an eye on the local newspaper and feel free to drop your resume in to restaurants, asking to see the boss or manager.
Be aware that States and Territories have different legislation governing the serving of alcohol. In some states (NSW, Tasmania and Queensland) you are required to complete a one-day course in Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA), and in NSW, in order to work near the pokies and other gambling devices you must complete the Responsible Conduct of Gambling (RCG) certificate. In NSW these cost around $150 for a one-day course and the two certificates. Hospitality is a fun industry with loads of young people and is quite transient, making for a high turnover rate and regular job opportunities.
Similarly, working in a resort town is a fun way to spend your working holiday. Hospitality training will put you a step ahead of the rest and, when coupled with competent communication skills, you’ll be in good stead for this sort of job. Employers are also looking for workers with enthusiasm and a big smile to make their clients’ stay as easy and stress-free as possible. This option may lead you to Queensland resorts, the laidback lifestyle of Western Australia andNorthern Territory or, from June to September, another option is ski resorts.
For those people who like to get their hands dirty, and enjoy the outdoors but aren’t nudists, then the harvest trail is for you. With more than 140,000 people employed in agricultural and horticultural roles throughout Australia in any given year, it’s obvious there is plenty of work to go around. And under the new changes to the Working Holiday Visa scheme, you can extend your current visa from 12 to 24 months provided you work as a “seasonal worker in regional Australia” for a minimum of three months (for more info visit www.immi.gov.au).
It can be back-breaking work but if you are paid at a piece rate, i.e. per bucket or punnet, then the harder you work, the more you earn. This is common in fruit picking and field work. You’ll find plenty of work on either side of the Murray River, from Adelaide to western Victoria and NSW. You’ll also find plenty of work in WA and Queensland, living life on the land and getting a real taste of Australiana – pubs, VB, dust and utes. You could be reaching for tree crops like avocados, apricots and citrus, or you may be foraging with ground crops like corn, pumpkin, strawberries or sugarcane. To find out about the wide range of available positions in particular regions, visit www.jobsearch.gov.au/harvesttrail or contact the National Harvest Labour Information Service on Freephone: 1800 062 332. Also see
TNT Magazine’s harvest calendar.
5. RATES OF PAY
Ah, the big question on every interviewee’s lips. The one you’re too scared to ask about. You know you’re only in it for the money, but you told the employer: “Oh, I love being bossed around, it’s what I majored in.” Temping and office work can vary greatly from $15 up to $60 an hour for a specialised profession. Likewise IT work, of which there is plenty in the cities, gives a decent return.
A job in hospitality will have you earning a base rate of around $14 an hour but there are penalty rates, depending on your job (such as time-and-a-quarter, time-and-a-half and double-time). Pay rates in resorts are sometimes a base rate of around $12 an hour and may fluctuate, but not as much as hospitality. However, they are offset by the fact that you are somewhere you want to be, amongst snow, or surf and sun.
Harvesting is all about how gung-ho you are about earning the green. Piece work is great as the amount of money you earn is only limited by how hard you go at it.
Harvesting work is paid either by the hour (anything above $10 is good, according to www.plunkettorchards.com.au), or by the “bin”. A bin is like a skip and holds 400-500kg. Pay rates vary, but as a guide, the rate is approximately $28 per bin. New pickers can expect to fill two to four bins per day. Experienced pickers can do between four and eight bins per day.
6. GET MOBILE
As well as keeping in touch with friends and family back home and in Oz, having a mobile phone could simply be the difference between you getting that job you so desperately seek or the other candidate that’s easily contactable. Not to mention the safety aspects of being able to contact someone in an emergency.
There are a wide variety of phones available, but you should definitely look at the pre-paid option.
There’s also the option to use your mobile handsets that you brought with you. All you need to do is purchase a SIM pack and choose the offer that suites you.
7. TAX AND SUPERANNUATION
Once you’ve got your Working Holiday Visa (WHV) be sure to apply for a TFN. Remember that you must apply for your TFN separately either in person or on-line atwww.ato.gov.au/individuals and don’t fret, it’s easier than Coleen McLoughlin with a wad of cash in her pocket.
You have 28 days from the day you start work to provide your TFN to your employer. When you cease working for an employer, make sure to ask them for a payment summary, showing your total income and amount of tax withheld. It is essential to keep this for your compulsory tax return. When filling in your tax return ask yourself, “Am I a resident for tax purposes?” Residents receive a tax-free threshold and a lower tax rate.
Once employed, if you earn over $450 a month, your employer is obliged to pay superannuation contributions (equal to nine per cent of your salary) into a fund. When you leave the country you are entitled to claim the contributions on the basis you will not be returning to the country in the foreseeable future.
To “roll over” your superannuation into a new fund, you will require the necessary forms. If you have worked for more than one employer, your contributions are probably in different funds. This sucks and becomes complicated because the “super” firms have varying procedures for claiming your contributions. Alternatively, for a fee, an agent will make the necessary claims to get your money back. Unfortunately, you will be taxed between 30 and 40 per cent on your claims and you cannot make the claim until you have left the country.