I am finally back, connected to the world again both socially and virtually! Two months later and my farm work is now done! No more total isolation!
I decided quite early on that I was going to try and “make it” long term in Australia. For me, this meant giving up the big adventures and partying to saving money and trying to get a job. None of which has happened yet. So while missing out on the good times anyway I decided to at least secure my next visa. And as you know, this landed me my first ever farm jobs. And now four months later I have finally executed the full 88 days of farm work in rural areas of Oz. Now I’m just hoping and crossing my fingers it was worth it!
It is now obvious to me why the Australian government makes backpackers contribute to the country’s productivity and dangles the visa carrot in front of you, because I find it hard to believe that anyone would choose this kind of job if not. It’s a job you should do, but not one you would want to do. You move in with a family and become both a temporary member and a round the clock assistant a.k.a. slave. You gain insight to a different way of living as you have to leave your own behind. And being the super independent person I am, this kind of job a lot more challenging now than what it would have been when I was eighteen. But mostly, I just missed having friends around.
My last two months have been spent on a farm outside of Coonamble in New South Wales. While the farm mainly grows Barley and Chick Peas, I was working for a woman breeding thoroughbred horses and training them for cross country competitions and sale. Coming from a difficult work situation at the last farm, I was almost laughing at the irony when it turns out my new boss yells just as much. But this time I was better prepared. And by seeing how the whole family would yell at each other, I found it way easier to not take it personal. Whenever she went on a rant I just let it wash over me and decided to focus on the next task at hand. Which was easy because at least she was very structured and had a list of tasks I could follow. And with more people around the situation became tolerable enough for me to stay for two months. I would probably have stayed for another couple of weeks if it weren’t for me being thrown of a horse and hurting my back.
My trusted colleague, my humble abode and one of many platting sessions at the horse shows.
Working on a farm is clearly hard work, 10 hours a day is a normal workload and unlike us “city people” being used t counting hours, on a farm it’s always about the work. You don’t rest until everything that needs to be done is completed. My work day was more normal starting around 8 am and finishing around 5-6 pm. My work was also on the lighter side, cleaning the stables and yards, cleaning equipment, riding horses, working with younger horses and generally assisting my boss through the day. I didn’t mind the work but I did mind the backpacker salary.
With the backpacker job comes the backpacker salary and it’s not even the legal minimum. The way its made legal is through exaggerated accommodation and food expenses. Your pay check will show you’re paid the legal minimum, but then we write off accommodation and food for way more than its actually worth and just like that, I get a job and the employer gets cheap labour. Now I say we because I agree to this when I take the job. One can only hope for a decent accommodation and decent food on top of that and can allow oneself to be a bit lazier than usual. In my three jobs I earned 350 dollars and 200 dollars a week. And you supposedly do not spend anything this far out on the countryside but earning two hundred dollars a week, my flight back to the city cost me one and a half week’s wages.
But as tacky as it sounds, you also get paid in experience. Maybe not the kind of experience you want but the kind you should have or need if you want to understand and experience the whole of Australia. The outback culture is very different to life on the urban coast and after spending some time with people living most of their lives outside of the urban hubs, I’ve gotten if not a full understanding at least an insight and newfound respect for the struggles of a farmer and the inconveniences of an outback life. Here are some examples:
No cells service is very common. And you don’t realise how dependent you are until you arrive on a farm and your operator provides you with no signal at all. Need to make a call? Tough shit! It’s not happening. Luckily there is such a thing as signal boosters you can buy for your house. But that doesn’t help if you loose your phone when you’re out riding, Find Your Iphone won’t find your Iphone out in the middle of nowhere.
The nearest town is an hour away. Most farms out here are big, tens of kilometres wide and probably even longer. So If you are the third farm out of town, you’re probably 30 km away. And if you’re the 10th farm away… well it sucks. So when you go shopping, you better be sure to remember everything. But that also meant that I couldn’t really just pop downtown for a coffee or a beer and so I didn’t really make any friends outside of the farm. Luckily another girl working on the farm was around once in a while.
The biggest struggle however is the one no one can help. The weather. The farm completely relies on rain for the crops to grow. No crops mean no money, and most of the farms money is invested in machines and property, and supported by loans from the bank. And if there is rain coming, they have t hurry to get the sowing done, fully exploiting the opportunity even if that means sitting on the tractor day and night. Are you sick, tough luck, take a pill and get over it! I have never met modern people having to literally work that hard for their money.
Being able to work with horses I got a better job than many, especially the fruit pickers! And being in the outback I also got to experience some of the famous Australian wild life like a big Brown snake coming at me hissing at full speed. I was luckily on my trusted quad bike and could make for a quick get away.
So as I have invested the time and effort into staying long term in Oz and I’m not financially better off, please dear Universe, let it all be worth it. Give me a job by the coast in an inspiring Architecture office!
Warrumbungle National Park, one of the many things I wouldn’t have gotten to see if it weren’t for the farm work