Backpackers- looking for work in Australia

When you meet another backpacker in your hostel, after the initial getting to know each other’s names and where you are from/travelling to, the conversation usually turns to whether you are working, or if you are planning on doing so.

My top 10 tips for finding work in OZ: 

I definitely plan on working whilst in Australia, as it will enable me to stay as long as possible and to have more memorable experiences whilst I am here. I knew that finding work wouldn’t be easy, after all, you don’t just walk into a job at home, why would you be able to in another country? I am lucky, in as much as English is my first language and also the language spoken in Oz. At least I don’t have any form of a language barrier holding me back. What I am finding most difficult is the fact that employers in Australia seem to care less about qualifications and certificates, and are more focused on experience. The areas that are easiest for backpackers to find work, whilst on their working holiday are: Hospitality, Barista (café) work, Construction & Labour, and Manual work in either Fruit Picking or Farming.

Unfortunately (despite my lengthy resume) I don’t have experience in any of these areas, which is making things a little more difficult on the finding a job front.

The good news (yes there is some!), is that if you have a specific skill or trade from back home, you may be lucky and find a job within your area of expertise, usually with good wages.

I know of nurses from the UK who have managed to get shifts with an agency here for good money, although this is only applicable to those with a degree (the diploma no longer allows you to work as a registered nurse in Australia) sadly. I also met a German lady who is a watch maker (definitely a specific skill) who managed to find work easily in Perth.

For this post I thought I would focus on the main work industries mentioned above (Hospitality etc.) and give you some information on what experience you may need, and things you can do to improve your chances of earning those all important Australian dollars.

Wait Person

To be a waitress/waiter here, they want you to usually have experience and some adverts I have seen whilst job hunting would ideally like you to be able to carry 3 plates. A lot of Hospitality/waitressing jobs are looking for an “All Rounder”, which means you may need to be able to cook, clean, waitress and work the bar. The All Rounder position does appear to be requested more frequently in areas that are more remote and where you would be working in roadhouses, country pubs or hotels. It may help if you have a nationally accredited Food Hygiene certificate, which can be completed online for around $49 (prices vary). It certainly looks good on your Resume when applying for Hospitality jobs. There are lots of waitperson positions available and not everywhere will demand that you have worked in this industry before. The best thing you can do is dress up smartly and take your Resume around local restaurants and cafes during the quieter times of service. Ask to speak to the manager, be confident, polite and turn on the charm and within a couple of days someone will ask you to go in for a trial-just be aware that legally they have to pay you for a trial over 2hrs.

Bar Work

To work in a bar in Australia you will need to do your RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certificate. This will only be valid in some states- so check which states the certificate you course you take will be valid in, especially if you want to travel around Australia and work in bars along the way. You can complete your RSA online (allow about 3 hours depending on internet connection) either at home before you come, or whilst you are here. The price isn’t too bad, I think I paid about $30 for mine and there are cheaper ones available. Make sure you have the correct internet browser before you begin, or you will be wanting to hit your head on the table, not long after starting! Please be warned that if you are in Victoria or Tasmania you will need to do a one day face-to-face course, you won’t be able to do your RSA online.

It is long and tedious but if you want work in a Bar, Pub or even some Restaurants and Café’s you will need it. Most bars also want experience (if you have cocktail making experience etc. put it on your resume), although one of the Irish ladies at my hostel secured a bar job with no prior experience. When asked at interview, she said she had none and was told that it didn’t matter too much as the taps were different anyway. I don’t know how often this happens here though, she may have just gotten lucky!

My advice would be to do your RSA before you come and to try and get a couple of shifts (if you have no previous experience) in a pub/bar waitressing and pouring drinks at home before you leave. You can offer to work a couple of quiet shifts (so you aren’t in the way) for free, for a few days to gain some of the experience needed and maybe even a reference. It may help to secure that job in Oz!



Oh, Barista work….my personal favourite! I can’t even hear or read the work Barista without silently crying inside anymore. Now, Australians love a good cup of coffee, so much so, that many a Starbucks has been sent packing in Oz because it just wasn’t up to their high standard! I get it… I mean a nice, freshly brewed cup of coffee to have before work is a special thing but is it so special that you need 2 years experience!? Apparently so! This is what nearly all of the Barista job adverts I have seen are asking for. If you have this experience then that’s grand, if you can also do latte art (what is that even about!?) then you are definitely on to a winner!

All however is not lost. The big cities do have Coffee Schools where you can attend a basic Barista skills course to gain knowledge on coffee and how to brew the perfect cup. They also have latte art courses to go alongside this, the only downfall is that they aren’t cheap. The courses I looked at in Perth were around $150 for the basic Barista skills and another $99 for the latte art training. There are also independent adverts on Gumtree put up by local Baristas/coffee shop owners who are willing to spend time with you 1:1 training you on their machines….for a fee of course!

I can’t guarantee that by doing the courses you will get that elusive Barista job that you may have your eye on, but it may give you a fighting chance! After all, I figure everyone’s got to start somewhere!

On a whim yesterday I decided to speak to the owner of one of the local coffee shops, to see his opinion on whether it’s worth spending out on a course and whether it would raise the likelihood of a café employing you. In his view, it is only a one day course and yes, you get a certificate at the end of it, but real life experience is far more valuable to him as a business owner.

If you have the spare cash then you might as well give it a go, it looks good on a resume and proves that you are interested in learning more. If you have waitressing experience and the café wants you to be able to make coffee too, then it might be worth doing, however, if you’re running low on funds I wouldn’t rely on a course to get you the job. It may be worth holding on to your pennies and looking for something less competitive.

Construction and Labour

Construction and Labour jobs appear to be very much in demand in Perth and are extremely popular amongst some of the backpackers in my hostel. The reason for this is quite simple; plenty of work available and good wages. To work in Construction and Labour you will need your own PPE (personal protective equipment) including gloves, hard hat, suitable clothing, fluorescent jacket/waistcoat and steel toe cap boots. You will also need what is called a White card, which you can do online much like the RSA. The white card goes through health and safety, rules and regulations and basic knowledge for working in construction.

The majority of the construction workers I’ve met have been male but one of my roomates, a lady from Chile also worked in this industry. A Graphic designer by trade she had applied through an agency and despite no prior experience, got the job! It is physically demanding, hot and heavy work, with early starts, but appears to be a good way to earn money.

Farm work and Fruit Picking

The vast majority of travellers want to extend their working holiday visa and stay 2 years instead of just 1. This can be done by doing 88 days of specified work in an approved industry, within a regional area in Australia (only certain postcodes are valid). The type of specified work currently approved by the Australian government (at the time of writing) is as follows:

Approved industries for specified work include:

  • Plant and animal cultivation
  • Fishing and pearling
  • Tree farming and felling
  • Mining
  • Construction

Please note that this only applies to certain nationalities. For more information on this click here

Farm work and fruit picking has long been a favourite among backpackers to get their regional work signed off. It is possible to get farm work that will not only make you eligible for a 2nd year visa, but will pay you a low/mid-range wage but you may get free meals and accommodation included too. This work is often highly competitive (for obvious reasons) and many travellers are resorting to volunteer work through Woofing or HelpX , where farmers will sign off your regional work, but you are not paid (you will usually be given meals and accommodation for your help).

I did however read an article yesterday saying that the Australian Department of Immigration will be bringing in changes over the next few months-2 years to stop volunteer work counting for the visa extension. Only paid farm work and fruit picking will be eligible. Click here for the full article.

Their argument for this is that there have been many situations where backpackers have been exploited and living in squalor because they want that second year so badly and have no choice but to stay, if they want the extension. With my cynical hat on I also expect that this is to stop farmers signing people off for a cash payment, or because they are doing the traveller a favour, when the work has not been done as stated. At present they check up on the payments made into backpacker’s accounts and look at payslips as proof of the work having been completed. The problem with volunteer work is that there is no proof as such, as there are no payments going in. If they do away with volunteer work, then they can stop the farmers signing people off when they haven’t been there/done the work.

Farm work and fruit picking means you will be out in the roasting sun, or rain, lifting heavy loads and having to work long hours. You must be physically fit to take this sort of work on. You may be paid by the hour but often it will be based on how much work you have done, eg. kg of bananas picked etc.

For paid farm work you are more likely to land the job if you have some farming, agricultural, construction or mechanical experience. If you can drive a tractor and/or operate an air seeder, put up fencing and work/mend machinery I am certain you will manage to find work. You will need a driving licence and be physically fit and able bodied.

This is just a small snippet of the work available in Australia, I really have focused on the stereotypical backpacker jobs in this post. At the time of writing this article I am still very much on the job hunt! However with less than a week of properly looking and applying I’ve managed to attend one interview, and been invited for another.

I have also managed to secure a job in the lovely Hostel I’m staying in, as a night supervisor. I will need to work from 5pm, two nights a week and for doing this I will get free accommodation, which will save me $210 a week! For more information on working for accommodation please click here.

I will write further posts and updates on the job front, as I know that it is something that everyone with a WHV will struggle with at some point, and if I can help a fellow backpacker out along the way, then that’s great.


Hannah xx



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About The Author


Creative unicorn ninja; Travel vlogger/blogger. Green tea enthusiast and lover of dance and art. Currently be found back in England planning the next adventure! Southeast Asia Odyssey coming very soon!

Where I can be found: UK

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