Tag Archives: working holiday visa

Travel | What it’s really like to work as an au pair in Australia?

imageUnless you’re sitting on one heck of a trust fund or you’ve just won the lottery, Australia is pretty impossible to travel long-term without working. I worked lots of different types of jobs during my first year down under – hospitality jobs in a theatre and a bar, I got my hands dirty working on a farm, I even became a sales manager! Talk about variety, but one experience stood out above all the rest, for all the wrong reasons. You always hear about backpackers taking an au pair jobs while in Australia – for some it makes them brave enough to move over here having a job already lined up through an agency. For others, it’s a nice break from hostels and a chance to have your own room and live with a family for a while. It can be a great way to get childcare experience for those hoping to work in this industry, or in teaching, in the long run, but it can sometimes be totally different to what you expected.

My time as a nanny was without doubt the worst job I have ever worked in my life. I had never once underestimated the workload I would be taking on, the fact that I wasn’t that keen on children or what the job would entail, and yet I was still horrified by my own experiences. Saying some of it out loud to friends really showed me quite how much I put up with while I was there, and because of this, I wanted to write this post so that other backpackers travelling Australia will be a bit more prepared than I was. I’m not just going to focus on my terrible experiences, because that’s just not fair, I know several people who have had amazing experiences working as au pairs for really lovely families, but I also know some who have really struggled. This post is here to give you all the information so you can make a decision for yourself whether the job is for you, and to know what to do if it doesn’t work out.image

My experience

“I worked as an au pair for three months in Charleville – we’re talking 800km west of Brisbane – which was an incredible opportunity to experience real outback Aussie life. I took the job at the last minute when I struggled to find anything else and on first glance it looked like a good opportunity. It offered me $300 a week plus my own annex, food, gym membership and car/scooter access. I was looking after two boys (6 & 7) who were at school during the day, when I would have cleaning tasks to complete – I would get them ready for school and do drop-offs, then look after them after school, take them to their activities and prepare dinners. It sounded like the dream job for an au pair, but the reality was very different.

“I was never told that one of the children I would be looking after had special needs and with limited experience of looking after children I think this was vital information. This child actually turned out to be the most precious, he was loving and kind and sweet, and once we settled in he was great to look after. Saying goodbye to him was hard after several months together. The other child however, was spoilt, overindulged by his parents who were never there, he bullied his brother and was violent towards me. I don’t blame the child for one second, but the constant changeover of nannies in the home plus a lacklustre attitude to parenting hadn’t helped. Neither had the way his mother spoke to me, which he keenly imitated.

“Every day I would be kicked, punched, slapped, pinched and spoken to like I was worthless by both child and adult. I would be told I should be dead because everyone hated me, or that I was selfish and lazy. I worked 12-14 hour days dealing with every body fluid going, scrubbing, cleaning and cooking for the family and most nights I would finish late, sometimes several hours after I was supposed to finish.

“The family had no respect for their home, it was filthier than most hostels I have stayed in and they would constantly throw rubbish everywhere. Their menagerie of animals would leave trails of droppings across the floor and would piss on the carpets. One weekend, I had cleaned the house on the Friday and left it spotless, the family went on holiday that Sunday and left me to do a deep clean of the house. When I went in on the Sunday, there was rotting food laying all over the kitchen, there was rubbish everywhere, clothes scattered, shit on the floor, there was no end of filth in a house that had been pristine less than 48 hours earlier. It was this spiteful behaviour that became my daily life.

“There are some even worse things including abuse over social media that I won’t share on here, but I want you guys to understand, I worked my arse off for this family and was treated terribly. It makes me really sad that I never got to experience the amazing bond you can get with some families as an au pair, but I could have done no more to make that happen. Despite this, my outback experience was one I will never forget for the amazing people I did meet along the way, it’s just a shame my working life left so much to be desired.”image

Holly’s experience

Holly is an English girl I met while I was working as an au pair, she was a real rock through my three months there and helped keep me sane on many an occasion. She was also working as an au pair for a local family but had a completely different experience to mine. Read on to find out about her job:

“I found the job on Gumtree, I must have applied for around 50 nanny jobs in total and only two ever replied! The one I got and another one prior to that but decided this one was a better fit! I worked for a family in Charleville, in outback Queensland. I was only supposed to work there for three months but ended up staying with the family for over a year, and even moved towns with them!

“I didn’t get a very big wage which was the only thing I didn’t really like about the job, I worked from 7am till 9pm, six days a week so it was long days and very intense! I got $300 a week which doesn’t sound like much at all but I was quite lucky because my family paid for me to live in a house in town, I ate with them 6 days a week and they also provided me with a car and fuel (mainly for work purposes but I could use it in town socially) so the money I earned I got to spend on what I wanted.

“I looked after twin girls, they were five months old when I arrived and 17 months by the time I left, so I saw them change and grow up so much while I was there including crawling, first steps. I was pretty much their second mother, my involvement with that family was pretty intense. I cooked, washed, cleaned, fed, changed, bathed, shopped, played all day! Some days I had the twins just by myself which was hard work and other days the mother and I both looked after them.

“I honestly LOVED this experience. Charleville is so out of the way its not somewhere your average backpacker would’ve stumbled across but I’m so glad I did. I love the town and have made some great friends through it, and the bond I had with the family is one that I think will last a long time. Obviously not everything was perfect, things rarely are but on a whole I wouldn’t have changed this experience at all. At least I can say I’m prepared for my own children now. And I don’t think I ever would have done a lot of the things I have if I hadn’t come out here, I can’t say going to a rodeo or mustering cattle was ever high on my list of things to do but I did them out here!

“What advice do I have for other people interested in doing something like this? Say yes to everything! Life is too short to say no or be too scared, especially when you’re going to a completely new town by yourself. Just be brave and get stuck in! Enjoying yourself is the most important part!”image

Coping with your au pair job:

You might get lucky and have an amazing experience like Holly, or you might suffer like I did, but if things don’t turn out the best with your au pair job – here’s how to cope:

  • Try and have a Skype chat with the people you will be working for before you actually go there, it can help put your mind at ease and prepare you a little.
  • Make sure your job role is clearly outlined before you start – hours working, what your package (accommodation/food/transport) will include.
  • Nanny jobs can often be found on Gumtree instead of through agencies – this can be a good way of finding work. But make sure you vet them as much as possible beforehand – safety above all else and never go to an outback job without letting someone know where you’ll be.
  • Be prepared to work long hours and have a job that will take over your life, but also make sure you have boundaries and allow yourself to have nights completely off from the job.
  • Make sure you get your pay – don’t leave any outstanding when you leave as some will try to get out of paying you.
  • Make sure you get payslips and if you have to drive a vehicle for them, make sure you are insured.
  • Try and raise any problems – if you feel confident enough – with the family and see if they are open to discussion.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no – you’re an employer, not a slave.
  • If you’re somewhere outback, make the effort to get to know people in the closest town, don’t be stuck out on your own with a crappy job. My friends got me through three months of that job – I couldn’t have done it without them.
  • If you’re going very rural – check out this post I wrote on 18 things you learn from working in the Australian outback
  • If you’re in the outback or somewhere secluded and don’t feel safe, contact a friend or someone who can offer advice and get you out of there.
  • If you’re with an agency, contact them and raise concerns, see if they can transfer you to another family.
  • If you’re doing it for a second year visa and think you can battle through, see if you can stick it out, don’t risk finding an even worse employer and losing the hours you have worked.

imageIf you need any advice or have any questions about au pair work, leave a comment below or message me on Facebook or Twitter.

Have you worked as an au pair in Australia -what was your experience like? Where else in the world have you worked as a nanny?

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Backpacking | My ultimate guide to finding a job when travelling Australia

imageYou’ve booked your ticket, you’ve quit your job, your visa is ready. You’ve got a bit of money saved but you’ve heard how expensive Australia is and figure it won’t be long until you have to find a job. But how easy is it to find a job in Australia? That’s the question that plagues the conversations I have with friends, messages from readers and the Facebook groups for backpackers down under. Well, I’ve teamed up with Dimitri Roumpos of Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs websites to put your mind at ease and prepare you for job hunting in Oz. I’ve posted before about my top tips for job hunting when in Darwin and top tips for getting that second year visa, but this post will be focusing on the best ways to seek work, what you need to have prepared and how on earth you find a job that will qualify for your second year visa. So sit back and prepare to learn all you need to know to get a good job in Australia – coming from a girl who figured it all out as she went.

What you need to have prepared:

  • A working holiday visa or a student visa to work limited hours – you cannot work on a tourist visa.
  • A tax file number – apply when you arrive and it’s posted out within a few weeks.
  • A bank account – you will need to set this up immediately and make sure you also have a Superannuation account (for this you will also need an…)
  • Australian mobile number – easy to get a SIM from a corner shop/supermarket, go for Telstra as they offer the best coverage even in the outback.
  • White card – this is compulsory for anyone that wishes to work in the construction industry in Australia.
  • RSA – this is compulsory for anyone who works in a job with alcohol involved – bars/restaurants etc will require this and there are different RSA’s available for each Territory. Northern Territory is the cheapest and easiest to get online, New South Wales and Victoria require you to actually attend a session at a centre.
  • CV – always arrive with two or three copies of your resume at the ready. You want to make sure you have one that is in your chosen field with all relevant experience (mine is a journalism CV) then another that focuses on hospitality work with bar/restaurant experience. Then it can also help to have another specialised CV available – I have one that focuses on administrative experience and another on sales experience and all of these have come in handy at one point or another. If you have any outdoor work/construction/manual labour experience, this is also a good one to have at the ready.
  • References – whether you have good references from back home or you put down a mate’s number – make sure they are aware they may get a call and have something prepared.

Preparation is key and having all this ready can really make a difference to the speed at which you find a job and can actually start work. I had all this ready and it meant I got two jobs and started both the following day which really helped my bank account after the East Coastimage

Where to look for work:

  • Sign up to Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs, like the Facebook page and follow on Twitter to make sure you get instant updates of job alerts.
  • Use social media to ask friends/contacts when you move to a new place – if lots of your friends are travelers too this could help get you a tip. This scored me a great bar job in Darwin thanks to a friend-of-a-friend messaging me back.
  • Word of mouth – speak to other travelers in your hostel, they’ll always know if anyone is leaving and their job might be up for grabs.
  • Hostels – check the jobs board daily and talk to staff, they have all the insider information.
  • Hayes Recruitment are fantastic for finding administration jobs and, if you’re looking for sponsorship, a more long-term prospect. My friend found a job as a property manager and is now being sponsored to stay.
  • Job seeking agencies – don’t get sucked into paying to join a club or job fair who promise to find you a job, just get out there and find it yourself. It saves you money and is quicker.
  • Print off CVs, walk to every business/cafe/bar/shop in town and ask to speak to the manager. If they’re not available, ask what time they will be and go back. It’s much easier to secure a job in person than over email/the phone.
  • Check out Seek and Indeed – they’re great for the professional job seekers.
  • Gumtree and Craiglist are a used a lot more in Australia than the UK – I found my second year visa job on Gumtree. Obviously be careful but don’t write them off as full of creeps. These are great for one-off labouring jobs and these can be almost as good as a full-time job.

It can be difficult to know where to start when you’re job hunting, but don’t let it put you off actually looking. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find something. If you don’t have access to a computer go to the library, print CVs at Peter Pan’s for free and speak to everyone. Don’t let it get you down if you don’t find something straight away, just change your approach and get a friend to glance over your CV.image

How to find a second year visa job:

  • First of all try to choose a Territory where you would like to work – narrowing your search to QLD, VIC, NT, NSW, WA, SA or TAS can really help when trawling through endless job lists. Also, you’ll be spending three months in a place – make sure your location is suitable.
  • Be aware that a lot more different types of job count in the Northern Territory and you don’t have to be quite so remote when completing your 88 days there as you would in Queensland or Victoria.
  • Think about the type of work you would like to do – you could do anything from fishing and pearling, to fruit picking or landscaping, even working in a vineyard counts. Think outside the box and turn it into a travelling experience not just ticking off your 88 days. I have a friend who worked in real estate and on a cattle station and said it was an amazing experience, he was glad he didn’t just stick to fruit picking. Check out a full list of suitable jobs here.
  • As mentioned, sign up to alerts from Fruit Picking Jobs and Working Holiday Jobs, plus any others you can find, these are great for finding work. Also, check out Gumtree as this can be a goldmine for second year visa work – be careful and don’t take risks.
  • Look carefully at what is offered as part of the deal – some will offer reduced wages to cover food and board, others will charge you after wages have been paid. Be savvy and compare different jobs so you have an idea of what is fair.
  • Likewise, compare wages for fruit picking, check how they pay – whether by hour or by bucket and make sure you aren’t getting ripped off. You can actually make and save quite a lot of money doing your farm work, but you have to be clever about the job you take.
  • Speak to other backpackers/friends who have completed their farm work and see if they can recommend a job/place, also listen to the warnings. I heard on the backpacker grapevine that Bundaberg was still accepting backpackers despite there being no work, so I knew to avoid.
  • Try and get it out of the way in plenty of time – don’t leave it until the final three months as seasons and work aren’t always reliable. Give yourself six months to complete it and then enjoy the time if you get done early.
  • Make sure you get payslips, evidence of you working – pictures etc – and any paperwork signed off. You need payslips now since the laws have changed – and you need to have been paid for the work. Extra evidence will help you if you end up being one of the unlucky ones to get investigated.

Don’t say I just need to do my 88 days! I was amazed how many people said I need a job so I can do my 88 days to get my second year visa. Whilst we know that is the reason most backpackers seek regional work, stating that that is your pure motivation, does not sit well with a lot of farmers. By stating this your basically saying your heading out to a regional area under sufferance and you can’t wait to get the hell out of there!

Dimitri Roumpos

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Top tips for job-hunting:

  • If English is not your first language, get a friend/dorm mate to check over your CV and right any wrongs. Bad spelling is a big no-no for employers.
  • Be available – if you’re asked when you can start, tell them straight away.
  • Have a smart outfit at the ready for interviews – and if you’re going for a hospitality job having an all black outfit can be helpful in case you’re asked to start the next day.
  • If you can’t find something immediately, ask in the hostel. There are almost always opportunities to work for accommodation or to take on paid roles in hostels.
  • Don’t be afraid to big yourself up – list your skills and talents with pride.
  • If you don’t have any experience, gloss over the truth. A lot of jobs, especially in bars/cafes/restaurants, you can learn on the job so if you’re not getting anywhere you can easily pick it up if you’re willing to work. I don’t recommend outright lies claiming you can do circus tricks while laying tables but it’s okay to bend the truth a little.
  • Ask those already working to recommend you at their workplace – I got a lot of my friends jobs in this way.
  • Don’t give up. It can seem hopeless and frustrating if you don’t get something straight away, but don’t lose hope. Keep at it and you will find something – it’s much easier to find a job Down Under than it is in the UK!

What do the travelers say?

  • “Word of mouth. My friends were at a hostel where the manager finds you the work. Just had to wait til there was a free space at the hostel and then was working two days after.” – Devon Tobin
  • “Go to a cattle station or crop farm where you get to do actual helpful work that’s fun and really teaches you something!” – Holli McCarthy
  • “Remember that people also can do construction in all of NT, SA, Tassie and lot of other smaller towns for the second year.” – Robin Lassinniemi
  • “I had to be up as early as 6am as the farmers were up posting jobs. The good jobs went fast so you had to be up at the crack of dawn.” – Stuart Harrowing
  • “Make sure you’re getting a legal wage ($17ph) and check how many days are you actually being signed off for? Don’t assume a week sign off if you didn’t work the weekend.” – Jodie Green
  • ” I lied about being a farmer in Sweden on Gumtree to get a job.” – Richard Andersson
  • “I’ve heard a few stories about people working picking jobs and having to spend most of their pay just on the accommodation and food but I think if you can make the right contacts and get smart about it, you can find some good jobs out there. Pro tip though: prepare an iPod with all the music/audio books you can get your hands on, three months is a long ass time and the days go faster if you’re listening to tunes!” – Paul Jefferyes

imageWhile I was in Australia, I worked in a bar/restaurant, a theatre box office, as a nanny, on a cattle farm, and in sales. All of them were a great experience and I’d really recommend getting in a range of different work while away. It keeps things interesting and broadens your skill set, plus you can make great money in all of these. Darwin is a good bet if you need work fast, particularly in dry season, I managed to find two jobs within an hour when I was at my poorest. If you need good money quick and don’t fancy taking your clothes off, it’s worth trying sales, I was on $2,000 a week in Melbourne within just a few weeks and it gave me invaluable work experience. If you have any questions about finding work in Australia – leave a comment below, find me on Facebook or Twitter, or email me at absolutelylucy@hotmail.com

How did you find a job in Australia? Any top tips for finding work? How did you find your second year visa job?

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Charleville | The Charleville Cup & exploring the area | Australia

imageMy first day in the town turned out to be an interesting one, the whole town had turned out for the Charleville Cup, a horse racing championship that took place on the same day as the Melbourne Cup. It gave me a real taste of life in the outback as I had the opportunity to meet pretty much the whole town and to see everyone dressed up to the nines. Coming from rural England, it was interesting to see the huge similarities and contrasts between that and rural Australia. Thinking back now, I was very lucky to arrive in time for the event because most of the people I met that day turned out to be some of the best friends I have made in the town. I’m so glad that I did meet them straight away because I think otherwise I could have had a bit of a lonely time in the town and might have struggled to meet as many people. I was amazed to meet a whole gang of English girls but it was great to hear some familiar accents among all the broad Queensland drawls, definitely comforting to know that there were some people who understood how nuts it is for an English girl to find herself living and working in the outback like this. The day was filled with horse-racing, fashion shows, betting and drinking, and was a great welcome to the town, I think better than any day I have been here, that one really summed up what my life would be like for the next three months.imageI’ll be honest and say it took a few weeks to really adapt to the slower pace of life in Charleville after the last few months in Darwin, it took me a little while to realise there would be a lot more empty time spent here. Instead of spending my nights dancing my heart out and partying, I would exchange for a life of lazy mornings spent sleeping in, afternoon workouts at the gym followed by quiet nights in front of the TV. It was a shock to the system and to start with I couldn’t cope with how bored I was, it seemed such a waste of time to relax but once I got over the shock I realised it was exactly what my body needed. I started to really enjoy having a break and pushing myself at the gym to get healthy and fit again – I’m probably now in the best shape I have been since travelling because I’ve been determined to get fit. I’ve taken the time to do other things I enjoy like cooking in a real kitchen, instead of a pathetic hostel offering, I’ve been reading and lazing by the pool. I’ve still missed a lot about my old life but knowing it was just for a short time gave me the motivation to make the most of it instead of fighting against it.imageDon’t think for a second that means there is nothing to do in Charleville – it’s just different. One of our favourite things to do was to get out of the town and head to the Ward, a part of the Warrego River where you can swim. On weekends you’ll go there and often see groups who take boats and jet skis up there – I never thought I’d be seeing people riding jet skis in the outback that’s for sure! It’s lovely and I remember the first time I went up there, we stayed floating around in the muddy water at sunset, chatting away while I watched kangaroos hopping up the banks of the river while horses drank further downstream. I went several times after that and one friend even made me jump off the bridge – I lost my sunglasses but totally worth it! For some it might be a muddy river with huge fish that jump out of the water, but for me it was a taste of the real Australia – a side that even many Australian haven’t seen for themselves. I got to see how these people had grown up and to experience, if only for a little while, how they live. That’s what travelling is all about, experiencing other cultures, other ways of living, and throwing yourself in the deep end to experience it for yourself.imageDon’t worry, I wasn’t totally sober and devoid of nights out for the last three months, we still went out every weekend for drinks at the pub or parties at the Bowls Club or one of the houses in town. There was something going on most weekends if you knew the right people and luckily I did, it meant I always had something to look forward to each week and that the weekends flew by! The nightlife may not have been particularly buzzing, but there was a good crowd to have a few drinks with and laugh a lot with each time so we had plenty of fun. I did also get to experience some pretty entertaining nights including a Bachelor and Bachelorette Auction to raise money for a sports team – everyone was hilariously drunk and bidding on the brave would who had got up on stage. There were also great parties over Christmas including the annual Boxing Day party which had a huge turnout and was a great night filled with dancing and lots of drinking games. And of course, just a week ago I was celebrating Australia Day with a barbecue, pool party and drinks with friends – so I’d say I’ve done pretty well over the last few months.image

Have you spent time in the outback? Where did you find yourself? How was your experience?

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Backpacking | It’s payback time for ex-backpackers! | WIN

imageI’ve been a bit off the radar for the past week – don’t worry I’m still alive! I’ve just relocated to the other side of Australia to start my regional work which will qualify me for my second year visa. It all happened a bit suddenly and I didn’t have time to plan on some posts to cover the moving and settling in time but don’t worry – I’ll be making up for that soon and have lots lined up! But for now, I’m back with a competition for all the backpackers who read my blog – I’ve joined forces with a new company called Backpay to offer you all the fantastic prize of all that dollar you forgot about. Remember when you arrived in Australia and everyone was talking about new back accounts and superannuation funds? Well, the money in that superannuation fund is something that you get back by filling out the right paperwork. For most backpackers that can mean getting thousands of dollars returned to them upon leaving Australia – a pretty sweet deal if you ask me! I’m looking forward to claiming mine back when I leave, but for now I’m sure there are plenty of backpackers who have still left theirs unclaimed and would love a cheeky cash boost.

Founded by a former backpacker, Backpay is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Damien, who spotted a niche in the market after progressing from being a backpacker himself, to starting his own backpacker accommodation in Sydney, and eventually setting up the company. Back in 2000, during the Sydney Olympics, Damien moved to Australia for a working holiday and now, 15 years later he prefers Damo as he’s now a proud Aussie citizen. After years of getting to know backpackers personally, Damien discovered that it was a pretty common occurrence for many of them to leave unclaimed cash in the form of superannuation and sometimes tax. This year has seen the launch of his new company, Backpay, which is here to solve the problem, with Damien remaining passionate about driving the business towards returning every dollar to backpackers after they leave Australia. The only criteria travellers have to fulfil is that they have been in Australia at some point on a working holiday visa and that they have now left the country – you cannot claim while still in Australia.

Now I’m still a long way off claiming my own superannuation or tax back, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought carefully about how I would spend it… My top five ways to spend it seem to boil down to the same final list:

  1. A month in Bali and Fiji
  2. Travelling Europe
  3. A flight home and some serious shopping
  4. A new car
  5. Savings for a big trip like South America

How would you spend yours?


WIN – WIN – WIN

To win the chance to claim back your super and tax free of charge – click this link to like my Facebook page then comment on the link to this post and tell me what you would spend the money on! The winner will be announced Friday 20th November.

Good Luck!

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