Thinking about doing 88 days of farm work in Australia for your 2nd-year visa?
JUST SAY NO
So you’re loving your life in Australia. You fancy taking on another year (or even another two!) and doing the 88 days of farm work for the visa requirement. Think again! To qualify for your second-year visa. You have to complete 88 days of specified work, more often than not; farm work.
You could take a chance and waste $500. Apply for your visa without working and get it accepted without investigation. Or ‘pay off a farmer,’ as I’ve heard it put. But let’s face it. That’s 15 shades of wrong and does not look good on your profile should you ever want to do anything else in Australia.
Like, live there…
Or you could work honestly like the rest of us. Be subject to underpay, exploitation. At times downright slavery under a completely unregulated system! Sound fun?
3 Measly Months
88 Days doing farm work in Australia, sounds easy right? It’s just 3 months hard slog with amazing rewards. No, In most cases it takes more than 4 or 5 months to complete those days. Due to scammy farmers, rainy days, spraying days, you could lose a whole lot of time pretty quickly. Plus, that’s after the weeks you spent actually trying to find a farm.
Recently the rules about the 88 days changed. It used to be that you could WWOOF (Worldwide Work on Organic Farms). Which meant volunteering on a family-owned farm. Offering your services in return for bed, board and an incredible experience. Not anymore. With volunteering out of the picture, paid jobs became the only source. This is where the problem lies. Fairwork Australia has regulations that you can check out here.
The main rule here is the pay rate for farmworkers. The minimum wage rate of Australia MUST be offered to deem a job eligible for the visa. As of now, it is over $18 full time and $22.39 casual contract. Many farms act on a piece-rate basis and have done for a very long time. This contract-based system was to offer employees a chance to earn extra money the harder they work. These days, it’s a cool proof way for employers to pay workers a huge slap under the minimum. Blaming the workers for their own laziness.
I picked blueberries. On the worst farm, I worked people were picking less than 10 buckets a day on average for the season. We were paid $6 a bucket. I’ll do the math.
22.39 x 7.5 = $168 a day minimum wage rate
$6 per bucket x 10 = $60
Okay, some people are just not cut out for it. Or are lazier than others. I soon discovered that the boy and I were remarkably natural pickers. Sometimes could manage more than double the amount of most people.
$6 per bucket x 20 = $120
Still way below the minimum wage expectation… how was anyone to win this game?
They don’t, the farmers do.
And their even more convoluted website – ‘Australia’s not so great immigration website’
From what we could work out, immigration neither knew nor cared what the actual rules were. Multiple calls and queries left questions unanswered. We even heard it said that the rules decided by Fairwork were not those of immigration. Saying that immigration doesn’t care what your conditions are. As long as you do the work and your farmer signs for the days.
In essence, this is almost half the time of the first year taken up living on a farm with horrible standards. Working in gruelling weather conditions. You’re either freezing cold on a winter morning with the frost stopping your fingers from grasping berries. Or sweating buckets in the summer sun. Frying in the heat and eaten alive by Australia’s incessant infestation of flies. The whole time feeling constant stress and worry that you might run out of days. Or you might not get paid enough to qualify. For what? Another year in Australia that you could have enjoyed the first time around.
If I could go back and change my mind, I would. If people ask me if it’s worth doing your farm work I will say NO.
I say enjoy your first year, it will be more than enough if half of it isn’t spent wasting time knee-deep in blueberries. Still, want more time? There are a few more options:
Take a course in something new and live as a student.
Offer your skills in a job that is eligible for sponsorship.
Marry an Australian.
All three options are easier, more educational. And way less soul-destroying than farm work.
If that still hasn’t deterred you, read on for the best tips to your second year.
Farmwork Australia – Earning your 88 days
Just to remind you; DON’T DO IT! ENJOY YOUR FIRST YEAR. Rosie Ayliffe is doing terrific work to try and regulate the program in honour of her daughter, but right now it’s still horrific.
If you’re still not satisfied, read these tips to put yourself on the best track to completing your 88 days of farm work in Australia.
Get a car, there’s nothing worse than rocking up to a farm, realising it’s one of the seven circles of hell and is a two-hour walk away from civilisation.
This plan didn’t exactly work out for us because our van broke down and we ended up in a completely different state. More about that coming up. But, this is the exact reason transport makes it to the top of the list. Our farmwork search was made 10 times harder and more dangerous without a ride.
From shady strawberry farms run by the Asian Mafia to dick picks from a ‘farm owner,’ our slavery farmwork search was a real ordeal. By planning I don’t mean have exactly where you’re going, how many days you’re working and what time of year it’ll be down to a tea. I spent a lot of time since I first arrived in Australia searching for my prospective work. Emailing countless farm owners, small businesses and scouring Google Maps. I met some wonderful sounding people, and some of them even went out of their way to help me, but nothing worked. The reality is most small farm stays can’t pay you, therefore aren’t eligible for your visa. Anything that can pay and is a great option gets snapped up immediately.
BE CAUTIOUS AND DO YOUR RESEARCH
There are some unconditionally amiable folk in Australia, but like everywhere else in the world there are oddballs. If something seems too good to be true it probably is. You won’t be getting picked up in the morning to be taken to an amazing vineyard, stay in your own house and be paid $24 ph. You’ll wake up to dick pics. Others are a little more trustworthy, but still want to break all the rules. I was offered a three-month farm stay with a room and food included, but I would only be paid $200 a week. The ‘lawyer,’ that was offering the position swore it was legitimate, but according to Fairwork Australia it was not.
DON’T GO TO A WORKING HOSTEL
I can’t speak for every working hostel, but just as a rule of thumb, working hostels are bad news. I’m pretty sure I landed on one of the more decent ones around the country. Great reviews (in a world where people pay for that kind of thing, I know right.) beachside location and an owner that seemed to want to help. The point of a working hostel is this:
Either the owner gets paid to send workers to the farm or;
The owner promises ample work to get people to stay at the hostel.
Basically, the whole charm for a hostel owner is the money. The more Backpackers in the hostel, the more local houses he can rent ‘cash in hand,’ the more dollar in his pocket. People come and go, who cares about their welfare. People have had amazing stories of friendship from living at working hostels, but if you look a little deeper there are harrowing tales to be heard. If it seems like the lifestyle for you then great! But I preferred my money in my own pocket and my sheets free of bed bugs.
FIND YOUR OWN FARM
If you find a place renowned for its farming industry they will not be hard to find. If there’s a working hostel nearby, there’s bound to be a butt load of places to work for your 88 days. Another reason why a car comes in handy! When you reach your chosen destination, drive around! Speak to people! I can’t stress this enough. After getting in a whirl of a pickle, disaster after disaster, we finally ended up on a decent farm. Why? Because we found it for ourselves.
If you find yourself on a scammy, underpaid, under-appreciated Farm DO NOT settle. Work a few days or weeks until you can move on, why would you want to spend more than 88 days or months of your life feeling mistreated? This goes hand in hand with no7.
DO IT EARLY
The best policy if you do decide to subject yourself to torture, I mean farmwork, is to find it and complete it as soon as possible. It often can take up to 5 months to complete your 88 days due to any number of things. I.e moving farms, rainy days, spraying days, season’s ending, not enough work etc. If you get it done early you’re more likely to have the chance to find a better farm if the first 1 or 10 suck, and save yourself a whole lot of stress wondering if you’ll manage to get the whole thing finished in time.
CHECK THE SEASON & AREA
Do you want to be picking blueberries in the searing summer heat? Can you even lift watermelons? Are you deathly allergic to spiders? Put some thought into what you can and can’t do and the regions and times of the year it can be done.
Coffs Harbour is saturated with blueberries.
Victoria has bins of oranges.
North Queensland is good for bananas (and giant spiders.)
Tasmania is famous for apples.
Farmwork is hard work, long, hot days can lead to malaise and dehydration pretty quickly. Always keep enough water to stay hydrated and top-up sunscreen regularly. Australia has a big hole in its ozone layer and you will burn!