There’s normally one reason why travellers do fruitpicking work – they’re desperate to extend their working holiday visas for a second year by doing three months of seasonal work. But as many then realise, there’s a lot more benefits to harvest work than simply putting off the flight home.
You get the chance to work outside, meaning you’re working on your tan, not just your job. Positions are generally fairly easy to find and the working days, while tiring, are often relatively short.
But perhaps most appealing for the more dedicated see-the-world traveller-type is the chance to spend a few months really getting to know an area and its people which you might not otherwise have visited, thereby getting a glimpse of Australia that most backpackers simply wouldn’t see or experience.
The crops you get to work with obviously vary massively depending where you are and what time of year it is, but the jobs currently available for January contain a pretty wide selection, with everything from asparagus and cherries, to grapes and lychees. And the beauty of it is, as Gary Locke from Work in South Australia explains, “as long as you have got two arms and legs you’re good for fruitpicking work”.
While some aspects of the trade, he adds, do need some level of training (for example three days for grape vine pruning), most of the jobs available require no qualifications or experience – just a healthy body. Plus, if you pick the right farm you can rack up enough seasonal work to sort out your visa and complete your Australian rite of passage in one foul swoop.
“When it comes to apple and citrus farms, the work can easily go on for three months,” says Gary. Harvest work varies wildly in pay. Labourers should expect to earn anything from $60 to $150 a day. “Fruit picking is very easy, but not for everyone. Packing is poular with the girls”.
Admittedly the harvest industry has not always enjoyed the greatest of reputations amongst travellers, but that should not put people off, insists Gary. “We listen to the backpackers and if we get bad feedback about a farm we don’t send backpackers there again,” he says. Indeed, that work is backed up by the Aussie Government, whose Workplace Ombudsman inspects farms to make sure foreign workers are not being exploited.
If you want to stay longer in Oz, check out our visa special next week, where we’ll explain all your options.
An interview with a Cherry Picker
ANGELA PERKIN 31, UNITED KINGDOM
What did you do at home? I worked for a department store doing displays and merchandising.
So what do you do now? I pick cherries in Wandin, a small town in Victoria.
What’s the pay like? I get $10 per crate. On a normal day I pick two crates per hour and work as much or as little as I want.
How did you hear about this job? A Canadian friend picked here last year and told me he made a lot of money.
Do you see your current job as a career? No, but I meet a lot of people who have followed the harvest season for many years. They specialise in a certain fruit and follow it around Australia, then they pick during the opposite season in Canada or elsewhere.
Do you meet interesting people through your job? Lots of backpackers, lots of travelling Aussies, and locals.
What are the best points of your job? Working outdoors, being next to nature, eating fresh cherries, camping on the Murray River in bushland filled with kangaroos, koalas, cockatoos, galahs, and kookaburras.
Any bad points? It can be really hot or really cold, and it can get hard climbing up ladders.
What are you doing with the money you earn here? Saving to travel around Australia in a van.
Where have you been so far? Most of Western and Eastern Europe, Turkey, Thailand, Canada, USA and Central America.
What are you going to do when you get home? Save money to travel more.
Give a little back
If doing your bit to preserve some of Australia’s natural beauty is more important than saving some cash to finance the next big binge up the east coast, then maybe you should try some volunteer work. For the last 25 years, Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) has been working to protect the Aussie environment – and they are always looking for more people willing to help. CVA has recently moved into Western Australia in a big way, opening a new Perth office at 2/343 Newcastle Street in Northbridge. As a result there are loads of opportunities to help out on projects within Perth or further afield, at locations like Pumululu (Bungle Bungles), Exmouth in the north, Coolgardie in the Goldfields and Denmark in the south-west. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1800 032 501.