Stu and I came to Australia on a working holiday visa. This gives us one year in Australia and the opportunity to work to fund our travels. You can gain a second year visa by completing 88 days of regional work. This means that if you are employed in certain postcodes you can stay in Australia for another year. You don’t have to do the 2nd year straight away so you can bank it if you decide to come back to Australia before you’re 31.
Bundaberg is a fairly popular place for backpackers to do their regional work and it hosts a large farming community. You hear a few horror stories of backpackers who have been ripped off by farmers but Stu and I had a good experience all round with Bundaberg.
We chose to find work through a ‘working hostel’. These are hostels where the manager finds the residents work and they usually provide transport to the jobs as well. All you have to do is pay them rent. Most working hostels have a lengthy waiting list because looking for a job is a nuisence that most backpackers would rather not worry about. Luckily Stu and I got into East Bundy Backpackers a couple of weeks after first ringing up the owner Christine. My sister did her regional work there last year so I think that helped! A few days after arriving we both had full time jobs on a farm and were being paid hourly (some farms pay on a contract rate which means you get paid for how much you can pick or pack – not ideal). I worked on a sweet potato farm. Mostly packing but also weeding and planting. Stu worked on a farm where he picked a variety of vegetables in the morning and then packed them in the afternoon. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, farming is hard work. It’s certainly the most gruelling work I’ve ever done, both physically and mentally. Doing the same thing for up to 12 hours a day is tough on your mind and body. Stu’s farmer was a lovely guy but the locals who worked with me hated backpackers and would scream in your face to get you to work harder. There were plenty of days where I wanted to walk out of that packing shed and forget about farmwork forever. However, we both stuck it out, saved thousands of dollars and now have our 2nd year banked should we ever decide to come back.
If anyone is thinking of doing their regional work in Bundaberg you should definitely contact Christine at East Bundy Backpackers on 0741543700. It’s the best hostel in the area with the best jobs. It’s good whether you want to gain your 2nd year visa or just want to save some money to continue your travels.
Bundaberg itself is an interesting place… It’s technically a city but not a city as we know one – it’s tiny! The main attraction is the Rum Distillery but even that isn’t that exciting. There’s one ‘club’ which all the backpackers go to on the weekend where the same band play every weekend with the same set list. Basically there isn’t a whole lot to do there but take that as a positive and see it as a chance to save money over the few months you stay here.
Farm work was such a hard experience but I met friends for life there and without working I wouldn’t have been able to travel for as long afterwards. So for that, I wouldn’t change it for the world.