Mangoes in Queensland, blueberries in New South Wales, Kununurra’s bananas… In Australia, something always needs to be harvested somewhere. Fruit picking is just right for backpackers or people travelling under the Working Holiday Programme (WHP): anyone can do the job! It's actually not just all about fruit: fruit picking more largely includes all seasonal harvest work. Becoming a fruit picker gives the opportunity to discover different parts of Australia, fund the trip and maybe prepare to extend it!
Fruit picking has become a must for many young people travelling to Australia with a Working Holiday Visa (WHV). Though the work often can be quite strenuous, it usually takes place in a friendly atmosphere.
The simplicity of the job seeking process is partly what makes fruit picking so attractive. Showing up at a farm is sometimes all it takes to get a few days or even several weeks of work. Being in the right place at the right time is the tricky part: you should offer your services once a crop is ready to be harvested and before all the needed fruit pickers have been hired.
You might not be able to go job hunting by simply introducing yourself to farmers as you travel or you might want to plan in advance. Calling the National Harvest Labour Information Service (NHLIS) will allow you to find out what the current job opportunities are. This free phone service connects fruit pickers and farmers. The Harvest Trail website, an Australian government initiative, also publishes the jobs which are available in each of the Australian states.
Before you get your hands dirty, know what to expect!
Hard work – Everybody can take up a fruit picking job. However, spending hours picking mangoes under a blazing sun happens to be quite tiring and you probably will be aching all over during the first few days of work. Remember to think about your health by taking out WHV insurance.
Steady work paces – Work sometimes begins very early in the morning and finished towards mid-afternoon. Once fruit is ready to be picked, the harvesting must be done as quickly as possible. Some fruit pickers will work six or seven days a week during several weeks.
Hourly rates or pay per bin – For an inexperienced fruit picker, being paid an hourly rate usually is more worthwhile. Average salary range is between AUD14 and AUD16. Nevertheless, many employers will pay you a specific amount per bin. This means the more fruit you pick, the higher your salary.
Finding accommodation on your own – There are many accommodation possibilities. You sometimes will be able to stay on the farm but this is basically up to your employer. Fruit pickers may choose to camp, stay in a working hostel or sleep in the van they have been using to travel around Australia.
In Australia, you can be a fruit picker all year round! To travel around the country while earning money, why don’t you make your itinerary stick to the different harvest seasons?
In some parts of Australia, there is something to harvest all year long.
Bananas: Coffs Harbour
Vegetables, flowers: Sydney Basin
Bananas: Atherton, Innisfail, Mareeba, Tully
Citrus: Gaynday, Mareeba
Vegetables: Deloraine, Devonport, Smithton, Scottsdale, Ulverstone
Vegetables: Baimsdale, Cobram
Citrus and vegetables: Gingin, Swan Valley
If you want to make sure you find jobs along the way, choose to visit a specific area at a time when requirements for harvest labour are at their highest. What could a yearlong journey through Australia following a harvest trail be like? Here is an example:
January and February: discover New South Wales and harvest melons at Hay.
March and May: take a look at Queensland and stop in Gin Gin to pick citrus.
June and July: spend some time in South Australia and pick grapes in Renmark.
August: make a stop in Western Australia and pick pumpkins in Kununurra.
September: harvest vegetables in Baimsdale during your stay in Victoria.
October: explore Tasmania and pick hops in Scottsdale.
November and December: visit the Northern Territory and harvest grapes in Ti Tree.
There are endless itinerary possibilities: build your own harvest trail!
Ending a Working Holiday in Australia sometimes turns into a painful experience because you just don’t want to leave… Having completed three months of specified work makes you eligible for a second WHV. Fruit picking jobs are on the list of specified work which allows you to extend the Oz adventure for 12 extra months.
To apply for a second Working Holiday Visa, you need to:
have done fruit picking for at least three months (88 days) in one block or in separate blocks,
have worked in an eligible postcode of Regional Australia,
provide evidence of specified work (payslips, employer references…),
apply before your first Working Holiday Visa expires if your are in Australia.
To extend your Australian experience, try fruit picking!
Australia’s detailed harvest charts are in the downloadable Harvest Guide.
Which parts of Australia are classified as part of Regional Australia? Check out the Australian Government website.
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