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Work Abroad Australia, Broome country volunteer
By: KATRINA CARRASCO (justin) 2012.01.04




Travellers Auto Barn offers campervans & stationwagons for rent/sales all around Australia - all our sales vehicles come with guaranteed buyback and we offer a large range of different campervans/stationwagons for hire from 6 Australia wide locations: Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Brisbane, Darwin & Perth.

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It is 5:00 a.m. Friday. In the predawn darkness the thin beam of my flashlight reveals an uneven smear of red dirt and sometimes, as I stumble sleepily, my rust-colored toes and sandals. I am watching for snakes. Why would I work abroad Australia I ask myself since it has too many deadly creatures to allow blithe striding through the night.

The trek to the outdoor toilet takes almost five minutes from my caravan, an inglorious but charming wheelless trailer. When I am close enough to open the toilet door, I see the moths clustered so thickly around the toilet's single yellow light that it resembles an ageing disco ball. Everyone is quick about her business on account of the mosquitoes or, in the case of Laura, because she is afraid of the frogs that live in the cistern. There are about six or seven of them, but our employer assures us they are far from poisonous.

I have worked on this isolated outback farm for a little over three weeks. Every day save Sunday is the same, with early mornings out in the paddocks and the short evenings spent playing cards on the veranda of the big house, sipping tea and enduring the dive-bombing of moths. Three other workers and the farmer's family of five make up the tiny population of the farm, which is about 30 miles inland from Broome, on the northern coast of Western Australia, another great place for Tourism Australia . on Sundays the workers get a day off and a free ride into town, but we spend the majority of the week working the paddocks, or sorting and packing fruit and vegetables. The physical labor is intense, the company is entertaining, and the food is delicious. I am besotted by the lifestyle, but less so by all the insects.

Today we plant sweet potato tubers after our usual breakfast of fresh fruit and cereal. We take turns at finding good, long root cuttings and planting them in a nearby paddock. After she shows us how to cut and plant, Kyra, the farmer's wife, roars off toward the big house on her quad bike, her diaper-clad toddler wedged firmly in her lap. As the sun rises the heat grows fierce. It's winter in the Northwest, and Australian desert winters have short, scorching days and freezing nights. Despite the heat our sore hands and aching muscles make themselves known. Wheeling the barrow loaded with cuttings from one plot to the other is a comfortable break from the stooping that planting and harvesting requires. We work and exchange easy banter about where we are from, where we have been, where we are going.

One of my favorite parts of backpacking life is the international mix of people who share your adventures and often become great friends. Here on the farm my workmates are all other backpackers, hailing from England, Germany and Japan. Though we have only known each other for a few weeks, we have laughed together, helped each other swat the huge outback wasps away from the banana-sorting trough, poked gingerly at the frogs in the toilet, and played cards in the dim glow of dying flashlights. I know some would consider working on a farm in another country a grown-up, adult sort of occupation, but to me it feels more like summer camp.

Midmorning brings smoko, the half-hour long break when we sit in the shade of the trees in front of the big house and have a cup of tea before lunch. The farm is quiet with the children at school and the baby sleeping; only the distant roar of a passing truck occasionally disturbs the silence. With the nearest neighbors almost two kilometers away, the red, ploughed paddocks and dense banana groves stretch away into a surreal expanse of seared blue sky. At times the farm seems endless. I like to stand out behind the caravans, hands on my hips and feet planted in the hot dirt, staring into the horizon and breathing in the smells of soil and dry grass.

In the afternoon we cut down papayas, careful to keep clear of the sap, which can cause an itchy rash if smeared on the skin. The last task of the day is to pick lettuces for the Saturday farmers' market. I suffer a moment of acute embarrassment when I reach under a lettuce to cut it free and find a beetle the size of a baby carrot climbing up my wrist. Kyra can't stop laughing at my city-kid's reaction to a harmless little bug namely, the part where I shriek like I've been stabbed. I survive the insect and the shame, however, and after we tuck the last lettuces away in their Styrofoam crates and load them into the packing house cool room we troop off to line up for the shower. The solar panels o­nly make so much hot water, so we rotate the order of our line each day to give everyone a chance to have at least a few hot washes a week.

Dinner is outside on the veranda as usual, and is served in generous portions that disappear quickly. We make more tea, play cards for a while, and head back to the caravans to stargaze. After dark the only lights are on the veranda and in the caravans, so again our flashlights bobble over the ground as we walk back to our small part of the farm. Some old lawn chairs are lined up behind the caravans, and we each grab our sleeping bag and claim a chair, facing upwards expectantly. In the absence of light pollution the night sky is amazing. Directly above the farm a huge, pearly cloud of light is dotted with stars. We're not sure if it's the Milky Way but we're certain it's beautiful. After I leave the farm in another week to head down the coast, the presence of that starry nebula will be among the most brilliant memories I carry with me.

I found the farmhand position through an advertisement posted outside the Broome supermarket. Hand-scrawled on lined paper and curling from the daily temperature changes, the ad had a phone number and a terse job description. Because of the season, farm jobs in the area were scarce, but the bulletin boards of Broome's hostels and scattering of Internet cafes were brimming with other postings. There were hotel jobs, customer-service positions at Cable Beach, items for sale, places for rent, and rideshares to other places if you can find no way to feed yourself in the town. I knew that there would be much more farm work available in Australia's Southwest if you are interested in Tourism Australia but I liked Western Australia's combination of red dirt and deserted beaches enough to want to stay and explore. My plan was to start in Broome and work my way south, eventually making it to wine country in the Southwest to spend a good part of my earnings o­n quality Aussie Pinot gris. Tourism Australia has an enormous agriculture sector, and much of the industry needs workers year-round. With a minimal amount of planning and some flexibility regarding transportation it is not difficult to work your way around the country. Seasonal work can often be found in vineyards, and Australia's extremely varied climate means you can pick apples in the green hills of Victoria as well as harvest dates in the desert heat of Alice Springs. Remote cattle stations often advertise for farmhands to help with musters, but you can find a station job as a cook or housekeeper if you want to live o­n an outback farm without immersing yourself in cow manure.

Australia is not the only option for those in search of a farm-based or ranch-based working holiday. New Zealand is another largely rural and agricultural country, with sheep ranching and dairy farming operations aplenty. Norway has several summer programs that facilitate farm-working holidays, offering the experience of jobs like hay making, dairy work, and vegetable farming. Though an unlikely farming destination, the U.K. offers summertime work for fruit pickers, and farm work programs exist in Ireland, Spain and Japan. Travelers with at least one year of agricultural or animal husbandry experience can find work on an appropriate farm through an international placement agency. Lastly, for those willing to work for room and board instead of wages, Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is an international organization that matches workers with farmers in such countries as Switzerland, Uganda, Italy and Slovenia.

Farm work is a great option for backpackers because it does not usually require any previous experience and is an easy way to save money. When you are paying a minimal amount for food and lodgings but the nearest pub is hundreds of kilometers away, you tend to save pretty quickly. Other choice backpacker occupations include hostel work, bar or restaurant service jobs, and office jobs through temporary agencies' if you have a nice shirt or two. Job boards in hostels, shopping centers and Internet cafes often have loads of work suited to travelers, and some job agencies will find you work for free. It is always a good idea, though, to make sure any agency you sign up with will not charge you. As for legalities, there are a number of paid services that arrange work visas for Americans before you start your trip. So if you have a smile, a passport and the savings to cover your visa, you have all you need to start your own work-abroad adventure.




FARMWORK YOUR WAY AROUND OZ

Australia has three distinct climates: tropical, desert and temperate—and seasons opposite to our own. With such a diverse environment there are always crops to be harvested somewhere, so you can move from region to region, working and seeing the sights.

SUMMER (Dec-Feb): Pick cherries or apples in Victoria.

AUTUMN (Mar-May): Prune grapes or pick stone fruit in South Australia.

WINTER (Jun-Aug): Harvest citrus fruits or vegetables in Western Australia.

SPRING (Sep-Nov): Pick asparagus or mangos in Queensland.

YEAR-ROUND: Wool (New South Wales, W. Australia and Victoria), dairy (Victoria and S. Australia) and ranching (Queensland, New South Wales and New Territory).


ARRANGING FARMWORK FROM HOME

Planning a job ahead can save you time and money and will make your transition abroad easier. These job sites specialize in listing casual jobs that suit backpackers.

Harvest Trail (www.jobsearch.gov.au/harvesttrail) - Oz's official seasonal-work website is geared toward working holidaymakers and has loads of farm-work tips and information. They also provide phone support from within Australia. Call them at 1800 062 332 for help planning your own Harvest Trail.

The Job Shop (www.thejobshop.com.au) An excellent site focusing on opportunities in Western Australia and New Territory. Listings include harvesting, country pubs and outback station jobs.

DayWork.com.au (www.DayWork.com.au) An agency listing casual, part-time, temporary and job-share opportunities with a section for agricultural work.

Woolsearch (www.woolsearch.com.au) If you want to work with sheep or have previous sheep ranching experience, take a look at this site.
 
WWOOF (www.wwoof.org) The online home of WWOOFing worldwide, this site lists information about farm-work in over 25 different countries around the globe.

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