Oh wow, where do I begin?! It’s been so long since I last managed to find the ‘Pages’ tab located at the bottom of my laptop screen and actually begin to type. The last three weeks or so have been an absolute whirlwind – to put things into perspective, I’m currently sat writing this from our new humble abode situated slap bang in the middle of the Australian Bush in Queensland surrounded by dry grass, clear blue skies and hundreds of cattle and goats – oh, and thousands of Kangaroos to boot. So I guess you’re thinking I’m still here… Honestly, I have no idea when I began writing this post. I’m guessing it’ll be late April time as I seemed pretty happy and settled with the few words I wrote above (note I wrote “humble abode”). In order to summarise everything, it’s now July 1st and I’m sat writing this from another new room, this time on a dairy farm in South Australia, around two and a half hours away from the state capital – Adelaide. So I guess I have an awful lot of catching up to do and so many more stories to tell.
I suppose I should start with why we’re in this situation in the first place! In order for backpackers to get their second year Working Holiday Visa in Australia, they have to take part in three months or 88 days of rural work – if only it was that simple. To begin with, it took us over a month to actual find work in the first place. Jack and I (in particular Jack) had a lot of farming experience behind him back in England with tractor driving, milking… most things, and with my minimal experience of working on the same dairy farm, we knew we didn’t want to work as fruit pickers or packers.
We found work on a goat and cattle farm in a location called Dunkeld after putting an advertisement on Gumtree- where I originally began writing this post over a month ago. The family seemed lovely and with it only being “7 hours away” from Brisbane, it was perfect. We were told the farm was located in a town called Mitchell, an hour and a half away from the main town Roma, so for somewhere that seemed so far away from civilisation, we were pretty happy with what we had. Anyhoo, the day of travelling across to Western Queensland came and we agreed to meet the lady of the farm in Roma and follow her to the property – great. An hour and a half after meeting we arrived in Mitchell – we were there…
After taking a left turn into the road we thought would lead us up the road directly to the gates and shortly after we were encouraged to buy more petrol – we arrived, another 55 minutes later… to the beginning of their property, a 30+ k dirt road which would eventually take us to their farm. The town Mitchell they were supposedly located in was over an hour away from their home, and the main town Roma they were supposedly an hour and a half away from was actually two and a half hours away.
This wasn’t the only problem. We accepted this job because it was a job for the both of us. Due to Jack’s experience we were offered many jobs for just Jack or for Jack to work on the farm and for me to be a nanny or to cook – accepting a job like these wasn’t happening. After the first day or two in Dunkeld, it turned out my job working with goats and out on the farm actually meant I was staying in the house washing pots, hoovering, making beds, putting washing out and helping cook the food… something we never agreed to.
Thirdly, after a couple of weeks, we were sent to a location even further away in the bush to put up 37k worth of exclusion fencing for another farmer. The work was tough, we were working every single day for three weeks, on 500 dollars a week for 11 hours work a day. And to top all of this experience off, these guys weren’t even registered to hire backpackers in the first place and in order for our visa to be approved, we had to be earning at least the minimum wage… something we were well under.
After completing the contract work, we were given two weeks off to “do some travelling if we wanted to” – we didn’t, we wanted the money and our days. As you can probably guess right now, we left. We put another ad on Gumtree and we were soon contacted by a lady named Bettina who lives on a dairy farm in Warrnambool, just off The Great Ocean Road. The job seemed perfect and Bettina seemed lovely, so the 2,033k drive didn’t bother us too much. We set off on the Monday (11th June) and arrived three days later… to our shit hole of a cottage. It was 7pm, we’d been travelling for over 20 hours and at that point, we needed sleep.
Our room was filthy, it was disgusting. The ceilings were covered in cob webs and spiders, the floors were covered in mud, dead cockroaches, and insects. The sink was covered in mould, the walls plastered with dirt, the bin was overflowing, the empty beer bottles on the side were covered in muck, our carpet was filthy and our bed sheets were covered in mould and dead cockroaches and it was freezing cold. As I sat in the corner crying for several hours, Jack spent 6-7 hours cleaning up. The owners didn’t seem too fussed when we told them. I wanted to leave as soon as I walked in but I knew how much Jack wanted to give things a go. We went out the next morning and bought cleaning products, bed sheets, a duvet and pillows and *tried* to stay positive.
My job was milking. I spent my first shift working with the farm owner, John, Bettina’s husband. I’ve never milked before, which he knew, but I gave it a good go. The next day I was working with another girl who had just started 10 days prior to me, and I was with her every single time. John gave up on me, didn’t train me again after my very first shift and left a new girl who was still learning things for herself. Three days later I was told I wasn’t “good enough” and he “couldn’t see me being where he wants me to be” in the short time we’re here. He then went on to tell me that I should consider looking for walk in Warrnambool whilst Jack stays working on the farm – so I quit, and Jack quickly followed. We spent money on petrol, clothes, accommodation and cleaning their backpacker accommodation for me to be told I wasn’t good enough with no training provided after just three or four days – we didn’t even get paid for the hours we already did because we ‘resigned without notice’ and I was also told to never accept work on a dairy farm again!
Tintinara, South Australia
So this brings us to where we are now in South Australia. After leaving Warrnambool, I was ready to call it quits, I wanted to go home. We had no money, we spent our previous wages on getting to Warrnambool and we still had no days signed off for our Second Year Visa. Anyway, to my horror, Jack put another ad on Gumtree, and we were quickly contacted by these guys. We’ve been here over a week, and so far so good. In fact, we absolutely love it here. But before I go into any detail, we’ll end it on a positive note and come back to this experience later on.
So yeah, I suppose I could say that things have been incredibly frustrating and difficult recently and to be honest, I have no idea how we’re still even in Australia. I’ve spent many days pining for my parents, and crying over the smallest things, but everything has hopefully now turned for the better. I don’t think many backpackers have found farm work a walk in the park, and it’s a shame people see so little of us over here in the farming world, but I guess good things aren’t supposed to come easy, and when it comes to finishing the rest of our travels here further down the line, it’ll feel worth it!