Freitag, 10. Februar 2017

Why make it simple? - Organising farmwork in Australia

Where am I now? Tasmania. No wait. That didn't work out. Not at all. So... Mildura or at least around there, in the nowhere in 43 degrees (it's 9 pm right now). The nowhere is quite beautiful here by the way. Long story short: I am in a good place now, hard work but happy, good people, good money, good vibes, good visa. This post was written a bit over a week ago and here's the story.


Picker and Packer Crew (or parts of it) at "home"

Yes. Let's start in Tassie. First stop. To find farmwork for 88 days. If and how that goes will be told in a few weeks in the actual post about farmwork (hopefully with a lot of tips and tricks how to get the better spots.).
But since I already mentioned, a few days ago, that I'm going through kind of a phase, I thought I should share, because I know, there are plenty people who feel my pain and you guys out there - just send me some love (that's right, no messages like "have you tried...?" just love, that's all I need right now.).
Because hey... We all know, Leonie freaks out a bit from time to time and she could have done this earlier and that better researched - but in the end, after a lot of uaaaaarrrrghhh moments, a few tears and forced arguments to let the tention out (I'm so sorry guys, I sometimes really don't understand why you still love me :D), we all know... Leonie will have found a really really nice place, with fair payment and cool dudes to hang around (EDIT: see, told ya, it did turn out like that.). Probably 3 new hobbies and 100 new ideas, 6 new best-friends-forever and some hyper romantic chaos stories. Yes. We all know, it's gonna be okay somehow.
Right now, it is not.
Farm website says "bad harvest so
the cafe has to close" - looks
good for job seekers...
Right now I am sitting in a hostel, asking myself why I am doing this to me, missing my Melbourne-home and the people who make me feel so at ease, running out of money, have arounf 40 numbers on my list to call and have crossed out around 130 on another list, without success. Not to mention that time is running and that I am still grieving over some personal things and absolutely not feel like challenging myself in a new environment... But... Eventhough Germans like to complain, it doesn't change that I need to complete 88 days before June. And its almost February. Let's count days.

Because that is the thing. 3 month is NOT 88 working days.
But let's start from the beginning.

The beginning would probably be organising the first visa but that is another story. This story here beginns with the theory.

Whoever wants to stay in Australia can (besides the usual tourist visa) apply for a working holiday visa. This is in itself quite easy. It gives you 1 year to live in Australia, work here and be a happy little unicorn. If you want to extend your stay and still want to (let's say need to) work, you can extend your visa with several options, which are all kind of bullshit but this is also another story.
Basically, if you don't intend to get married or to spend thousands of dollars, the easiest way is a second working holiday visa.
To get this you need to complete 3 month or 88 days of farmwork in a rural area in Australia.

Okay. Let's stop here. "Why?" asked many of my friends. Well... Because no one wants to do farmwork (and now I know why..) because it's really hard work and the farmer don't want to pay that much of money. Australia has heaps of rural areas tho and the work needs to be done. And thousands, if not millions (last year 40.000 Britains alone applied for the second year...) of backpacker really want to stay. Good combo thought the gouvernment by itself and invented the rule farmwork for visa.
Fair enough. But now here comes the problem: those backpackers really really want to stay in the country. And at one point we're all running out of funds. And farmers know that. So basically farmers and (actually more) agencies and contractors can treat backpackers however they want. We are desperate enough to take it. Or (in some cases) young enough to not know better.
I heard the craziest stories, people who got paid super late or not at all, people who got harassed and bullied when they didn't pick enough fruit or were not fast enough. Hourly vages from 3,20$ due to pay per bin (quantity) instead of hourly pay. Horror stories. That's why the gouvernment made new rules (which actually might benefit the backpackers in theory but also makes it a lot harder to find work, because a lot of things which used to count towards your second visa - like volunteering - do not anymore but not every farmer has changed their work rules...) and a lot of backpackers cheat.
farmwork starts early... Sunrises are
beautiful tho!

I personally really try my best not to, mostly because I really really really want my second year visa and getting caught cheating means you're banned. And it costs like 900$ to buy fake payslips. Not that I have looked that up...

But to be honest... I understand why people do cheat. And no, these people are not all lazy pricess girls, who simply don't feel like farmwork. These are people, who become desperate. Who are running out of time and can't do anything because the season was too rainy and there is simply nothing to pick and nothing to pack and all the farms are filled with people and the poor backpacker has no money to change location and start new (yap, speaking about me now).

So what exactly do I mean with cheating? To explain this, we need to clarify the 88 days of farmwork. so, to qualify for your second year Working Holiday Visa, you'll need to complete three months (or 88 days) worth of specified work (for example fruit picking, fishing, mining or daily duties on a cattle farm) in a regional area of Australia. Since last year volunteer work is no longer accepted as well as barkeeping does not count, even if it's in a very rural area. In fact you need to be able to provide payslips as a proof that you got paid at least the minimum wage and worked in the right job and for the right amount of time.
Which is 3 months. So they say. But only, if you work 3 consecutive months in the same job, on the same farm. In that case 3 month means 3 month of a minimum 40 hours week, so monday-friday, 8 hours per day. If you don't work in one job but with a break in between (or simply change the farm and believe me, fruitpicking is nothing what is mainly constant... So mostly you WILL HAVE TO change spots...) you need to complete 88 days, which means 88 working days (3 month would be 70-75 because you don't count weekends). In this scenario you'll have to subtract the days, you were sick and also those days, where you couldn't work for any reason (rain for example). with time to get from one farm to the other, research etc, you're easily at 4 to 5 months.

leaving or staying in Tassie...?
So back to my situation. I have exactly 129 days until I have to leave the country because my visa runs out. In these days I need to complete 88 days of farmwork. That leaves 41 days of research, changing farms, packing and saying goodbye to everyone. Sounds doable. Yes it is. It definetly is, especially if I can find a 3 months job which would even give me a whole month to travel around or spend in Melbourne, before I leave to Europe.
Why to Europe? Oh that's another thing: So either you apply for your second year visa in Australia and wait for the answer in Australia (you can not leave while you wait, so you need to apply before your visa runs out). In this case you'll get (well, if your application is arrpoved) another year, which starts from the moment you get the approval. The other option is; apply from outside of Australia and wait for the answer outside of Australia (you can not enter within). If your application gets approved then, you'll have another year from the moment you enter Australia again. For me for sure the better option because I can say hi to everyone in Germany and won't spend time of my second year visa abroad, because it only starts after I entered Australia again.
So... 129 days to finish my farmwork. Better less. I kinda look since 4 weeks, since 8 days hardcore (as I said, I have numbers over numbers over numbers and I won't even start with the emails...) and there is... Nothing. The only replies I get are contractors, who ask me to come to Brisbane (I'm in Tasmania, which is basically the other side of the country, with an ocean between but yes, I would do that by now..), pay 500$ deposit and rent for a bed in a cabin without wifi and with a trial periode with way(!) under minimum wage for 2-3 weeks before the actual job with the actual payment starts.
Honestly. Even if I would be that desperate (and I am close), I could not take that because my bank account would not be happy about flight costs to Brisbane, bond and two weeks rent on the spot before I even start to work (and for every young, unexperiences traveller out there. THIS IS A SCAM, DO NOT PAY UPFRONT THAT MUCH MONEY WITHOUT EVEN HAVING SEEN/DONE THE JOB! just use your brain and be safe, please!).

So how are we gonna do that? Gumtree seems to be dead or the ads are not online for long enough. I personally love getting things organised through facebook. Got my house, my furniture, my sport and so much more through facebook groups. So let's do that again. I thought. But facebook seems to have a problem: people rather read posts with pictures. Because of that most people post a picture of themself with their question/post. And because of that it all turns into a freaking dating thing. And not one of the good ones. I had a 64 years old guy writing me, asking how old I was, because he'd like to give me a lift wherever but only if I was under 30 and female (I asked in a backpacker group if someone went from one city to the other and would like to look for farms together on the way). He didn't want any money for fuel or anything and he didn't care where to go. Well. In case you are a young, unexperienced traveller (girl): this is a scam too, you probably have discovered that by now. This friendly "young" man does not want to drive you across the whole island, because he has too much time. Believe me. He does not.
Helping in farmwork: nope. So next try. Apply on every jobboard website. For every job. I don't even care anymore which fruits are supposed to be better (I heard bananas are shit, Berries so lala and apples and nuts are awesome.). I don't care if it's fruit picking or milking or whatever. Because here is another thing that disqualifies me: I don't have a car. And this means I can cross out 80% of the farms from my list. Because you really need a car here. And again: I'm happy to share a ride but surely not with good old BabyG. Wanna hear one more obstacle? The harvest, this season is super bad. It rained too much. Farmers suffer - Backpacker suffer. All the working hostels are booked out (that might be a good thing, when I think of some rumors how bad working hostels are..) and even the ones, who have a job earn way less than usual.
Because hey, that all sounds super bad but I do know people who have made 1000$ a week with fruitpicking. So it IS possible.
But I haven't really figured out, how. Yet.
Yet... this is another reason, why I won't cheat. Because I will goddamnit find out.
Oh yeah, cheating. So how would someone cheat? Basically you can cheat in 2 ways: find a job from someone who owns/runs two things (one of it a farm) and let him pay you through his farm ABN (Australian Business Number), while you work in the other thing. For example: you can inofficially work as a waitress when your boss has a vineyard as well and signs you officially under the vineyard, instead of under the restaurant. Or you could be a nanny on a farm and take care of the kids while your contract says "farm hand". That's the light version. 
The strong version is: you find some money and a farmer and simply buy payslips from him. Of course you can't work in a big city, while your payslip says you're somewhere on a farm, so make sure, you're a ghost during this time (only cash-in-hand jobs, no renting with your name on the lease, avoid even take cash out from your account, still not sure if the gouvernment can check your account). So basically you pretend to be on a farm. You might be lucky and not controlled. But if they controll you, there should be no proof, that you were somewhere else than on your farm.
Colour system and of course
does the internet
not work when you really
need it...
And then we got the hardcore version: You find an ABN from a farm and put that on your applications. You don't need to pay a farmer here but if they controll you, you are done, because you don't have payslips or other proof and you actually faked your application, which can ban you from the country.

So. I wanna do this without cheating.
After someone talked me out of fishing yesterday (he said, he died nearly 5 times and that was no joke) I
decided I am desperate enough now to turn the lionpower on. And I am German, which naturally means, if I want to get organised, I will get organised. My notebook is a colourful thing with 3 different systems per page now (font-colour, icon and background-colour).
My deadline is tomorrow 4pm. I'll for sure have something by then. Because I always have. Somehow.
So I googled every single farm with a telephone in whole Tasmania and I called about 2/5 of them. I have 2 maybes. In my world that means, I will have a job after the next 3/5. Boom.

Two days later... Nope. Nothing. Went to a working hostel. Half people have jobs, half not. From the people with jobs half don't get enough days or money. It sucks. It litterally is the first situation of my life, where I have no idea, what to do. Young, unexperienced girls who can't lift a 20kg backpack get jobs before me, because they have a car. I have no car and no forklift licence and it seems to be the only way to drive to farms and ask directly. Or to be very lucky and know someone who knows someone who... Tried it all.. Socialising and asking everyone, calling 148 farms, staying in a working hostel. It is clear: Tasmania has no work for me. The lovely lady who gave me the hitchhike ride tried to get me a construction job in her business (she's an architect). Didn't work out. For the first time in my life, my proper full CV can not help me. Talents, qualifications, experience, willing to work long and hard hours. Doesn't count. I don't have a car. How simple is that..?
The situation get's worse. I'm on my last 200$, which means I can either pay one more week in the hostel or
Traveljob:
Hair- and (if you find someone
with a beard like this gentleman)
Beardwraps make it possible
to survive and buy food...
fly back to Melbourne. Decision to make... Staying here and hoping but then being stuck or giving up.

And then... The wonder happend: Called this guy, I was calling a few weeks ago, before Tassie. He has a job on the mainland, can start immediately. I decided I want to be honest so I said, I can come over and start but after the flight I won't have enough money to pay rent and not really much money for food so I would have to start working and wait until I get paid to pay his rent.
Leonie lucky unicorn got told it would be fine, because he was looking for a personal assistant and if I'm happy to help out, I could stay for free.
Seems too easy. What if that's a scam..? What if I go there? I won't have money to leave. It's the last chance.

Can you guys guess, what happend?

Honesty works out. It does. At least when you're a lucky child like me who believes, there are still good people in this world. And there are! Of course it did work out in the end, because as I said, it always does. Somehow. So right now, I am working since a week in which I have made about 900$ after tax. I can stay 3 months and work 7 days if I want so. I stayed for free the first week, because I'll help the contractor with the organisation, once it gets busier. He even gave me money to buy food (after my hairwrap money ran out). And I met beautiful travelmates and fellow sufferers.

crew after work
So in the end, my qualifications and experience did help me. His reaction to my answer, what I have done so far, was "What the fucking hell are you doing in Tasmania, looking for labour??!" But still, it was not only that. I took the risk and it could have turned out really bad. But if it would have... I would have hitchhiked to Adelaide or Melbourne and begged my friends for their couch, would have found a casual job and another way to stay in the country than the second year visa. What I'm trying to say is: somehow it always works out and that's my friends, that is the thing you just have to believe - and will learn from travelling.

our newest crew member "Boz"
So I'll keep you posted with more details but so far: It is freaking hard work. I'm packing figs here. Figs. I hate figs. But they have become a big part of my life. When I look at my thumb, it reminds me on a fig and the little scratch I have there is just small enough that I could pack it. I wait for the dreams about figs. They are everywhere. All the time. So that's what I'm doing, covered in blue spots and scratches. Bend over, 10-13 hours a day, people yelling at you, the sun is crazy hot (45 degrees is normal right now but luckily I am in the airconditioned shed when I'm working - poor pickers!! Still hot tho. Even with aircon). Every single muscle in my body screams at me and my daily sunset meditation-stretch is the only thing that keeps my body going. And the people here keep my mind going. As usual. And we all knew that, didn't we...? ;)

majestic tree
backyard with river
Tomorrow I'm gonna move from our little paradise (the contractors house on a little river, between two old and majestic trees - but wait, I still share my bed which is in the living-room-kitchen and we are 7 people in a one bedroom appartment... Let's call it crowded paradise) to the campervan park. Simply because they have a pool there and most of my good-vibes-only-people living there. So pool for the body, acro with the supervisor, who had never tried it but will be awesome in a few weeks, since we get crazy, chilling after work and enjoy the life outside the fig shed, because it is not fun until we make it fun.

Sounds like a plan hm? :)

And if that all doesn't work out... Well then one of you finally has to marry me. Apply in the comments below... ;)

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