Tips to Finding Paid Work in the Land Down Under

Most people will tell you that making $1000 a week as a backpacker is impossible —But I’m here to tell you otherwise.

According to FairWork.Gov.Au the minimum wage in Australia is $656.90 per week, or $17.29 per hour for a Level 1 worker. Which means that anyone with any kind of experience is making over $20/hr – This includes fast food workers, servers, construction workers, hairdressers, travel agents, account managers and did I say fast food workers? Employers are also required to pay more money to employees who work on Saturdays… but we’ll leave that for another article.

Now that I’ve told you why backpackers are making good money in Australia, (because it’s the law) – let’s get to how they are doing it.

Below are 10 backpackers that I had the pleasure of crossing paths with in Australia. This is a small glimpse into their personal experiences on the Australian Working Holiday Visa.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 2.52.16 AM1. Name: Danny
Nationality: American
Age: 31
Visa: Subclass 462
Industry: Hospitality
Job: Bartender
Australian certification needed: Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA)
How did you find work: Applied through Benchmarque, a recruitment agency, for a position at Marquee Nightclub at The Star. This particular agency recruits for several venues/restaurants at the Casino/Resort.
Prior experience: Bartender in the states
Hourly Pay: Between $27-$30/hr depending on the day and the time of day, plus tips.
Hours a week: Besides Marquee, I also worked at an Italian restaurant at The Star bartering private events. Each week I probably worked around 40 hours (not including my work for accommodation job.)
Weekly Pay: Around $12-1400/wk.
Rent: I worked for accommodation at World Square Hostel in Sydney two nights a week. This entailed me to man the front desk from 11pm – 7am in exchange for free rent.
How long did it take you to find work: Finding work was pretty easy, and most people I talked to felt the same way.
Did you do farm work for a 2nd year?: American’s don’t qualify for that visa.
Any regrets: I LOVED my job at the nightclub and I´m pretty sure the money there was towards the higher end as far as jobs in hospitality. In addition to the wage, tips each night would be around $100. Good shit. Even though I worked ALL THE TIME in Australia, I still had a blast, and would tell anyone thinking about going to definitely do it. You´ll have nothing to lose.
Last thoughts: If you want to go to save money, it’s definitely possible. And if you want to go to work to cover the costs of a great [censored] time, you can do that too.

AprilName: April
Nationality: Irish
Age: 25
Visa: Subclass 417.
Industry: Finance/Accounting
Job: Accounts Payable/Receivable clerk.
Australian certification needed: Any relevant international academic qualification (Bachelor’s Degree/Membership of professional Accounting body)
Prior experience: Yes
Hourly rate: I started on $25.00/hr for a standard 37.5 hr week. When I first arrived in Australia I was lucky enough to have had enough savings
behind me to be able to travel around for about five months before looking for paid employment in Sydney.
How did you find work: I emailed some recruitment agencies* (links below) in the city and arranged appointments to meet with them and then played the waiting game. It wasn’t too long before I was offered some roles. (Hays, Robert Half, People2People, Robert Walters)
Weekly pay: $900 a week.
Hardest part about finding work: Being considered for roles that are not traditionally “backpacker roles” I found it to be hard as they generally look for Australian residents for these kind of jobs. People they know are not going to pick up and leave at a moment’s notice like a typical traveler. However, there are still plenty of temp positions available in this industry.
Rent: $150 a week living in a Hostel in the city centre for a couple of months. I then moved into a very nice shared house in a much sought after city centre location for a hefty $425 a week. Ahhhhhhh!! I shared a room with my boyfriend so it came out to be $212 a week each. We found our place  on  Gumtree.

Any regrets: I have no regrets. Coming to Australia was the best decision I have ever made. I met the love of my life, made some unforgettable memories, became a permanent resident of Australia and a fully qualified Chartered Accountant. I have had some great jobs and the money I have earned whilst living in Australia has allowed me, and continues to allow me, to travel all over the world. Loving life in the land down under.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 2.35.02 PM3. Name:

Nationality: Canadian

Age: 18
Visa: Subclass 417
Industry: Gap year student working in Hospitality
Job: Prep cook, dog walker, orange picker, farm helper
Australian certification needed: None
Prior experience: About a year experience cooking at a diner in Canada.
How did you find work?: I used Gumtree to find all of my jobs.
Hourly Pay: I worked at a restaurant part-time and was a dog walker while I was living on Bondi Beach. It was the perfect mix of being able to afford life and enjoy myself:
Restaurant – $18.30/hr – 15-20/hrs a week – $300 – 400/wk
Dog Walking – I walked the dog everyday at lunch for $100 a week

Did you do farm work for a 2nd year visa? I worked on a farm so I could try to obtain my 2nd year visa to Australia which required me to do three months of farm work. I had two farm jobs around Adelaide which I found on

Orange picking – Orange picking paid $25 per bin. (I was only physically able to fill two bins per day.)
Stud work – Hours varied depending on what needed to be done. It was a work for accommodation job. So free rent but not paid. Plus it counted toward my three months of farm work.

Hardest part about finding work: There were a ton of other backpackers looking for work in the same area.
How long did it take you to find work?: At least a week or two looking for each job.
Rent: I started at Wake Up! hostel in Sydney but moved around a lot so my rent varied but it was around $200 a week.
Anything you want to add about working in Australia?: I wasn’t in Australia primarily to make money so the part-time prep cook job was very ideal for making enough money to cover food and rent. And I ended up loving the position so that was a plus!
One thing about your time in Australia: I got into a slump where I almost went home early because I couldn’t find a job and was spending all of my savings on rent. I’m so glad I stuck it out because after I found work I ended up not wanting to leave. It’s the best experience I’ve ever had.

After my working visa ended I started my first semester of college at home in Canada. I’m now in my third year of school and am applying to Vet school after so I’m really happy that I traveled when I did!

Adam Johnson4. Name: Adam

Nationality: English
Age: 23
Visa: Subclass 417
Industry: Labourer/Picker
Job: Warehouse Worker
Certification needed: None
Prior experience: None
Hourly pay: $22 plus overtime rates.
Hours a week: Usually 45 hour per week. I also worked over-time towards Christmas when the warehouse got busy, sometimes I was working 60 hour weeks.
Weekly pay: Around $1000 a week plus over-time
Rent: About $150 per week as a long termer at World Square/Srattons Hostel.
How did you find work: Gumtree
How long did it take you to find work: I found work during my first 10 days but I didn’t actually start working until my 3rd week.
Did you do farm work for a 2nd year visa?: N/A
Anything you want to add: Working in Australia was such an amazing experience and one I highly recommend to everybody.
One thing about your time in Australia: I made some amazing friends and have heaps of amazing memories – I would go back tomorrow if I could.
Regrets: My only regret was not completing my two year visa due to work back home in the UK. I really wish I would have done it a few years earlier when I could have.

Sinead5. Name: Sinead
Nationality: Manx (from the Isle of Man)
*Isle of Man is a small island between Ireland and England.
Age: 24
Visa: Subclass 417
Industry: Beauty
Job: Beauty therapist
Australian certification needed: No, my qualifications are globally recognized.
I have an ITEC and CIBTAC diploma in beauty therapy and body therapy. Experience: 6 years experience
Hourly pay: 18+/hr. More on weekends
Hours a week: 35 – 45 hours a week
Weekly pay: One job I had paid over $1000 a week. Another job I had was just about $800 a week after taxes.
Rent: $135 a week in the 18 bed dorm room at World Square Hostel in Sydney
How did you find work?: Gumtree
How long did it take you to find work?: It only took me two weeks and I didn’t even start looking right away
Did you do farm work for a 2nd year?: I started doing farm work but the farm I was working on ran out of work and I was running out of money while I was looking for new work so I moved back to the city and never finished my three months.
Anything you want to add?: Living in the 18 bed dorm was fun. Sometimes it was hard if you needed your own space but everyone was like family there!!
Regrets?: I don’t have any regrets about Oz. Maybe just wish I had time to travel more around the country but defo no regrets because the experience is amazing and the people are even better.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 2.33.22 PM6. Name: Cheryl
Nationality: Canadian
Age: 22
Visa: Subclass 417
Industry: Travel and Tourism
Job: Travel Consultant
Australian certification needed: No
Prior experience: 8 months experience from Canada. I also have a travel and tourism diploma
How did you find work: Recruitment agency called AAA Appointments. I also used TMS Talent.
Hourly pay: $24/hr (I now make $26/hr)
Hours a week: 40
Weekly pay: $750
Hardest part about finding work: Getting set up with an agency. Once I did it was pretty easy. They do all the work for you.
How long did it take you to find work: A couple of weeks once I was set up with the agency.
Rent: Started out living in an 18 bed dorm room at World Square Hostel and then found a house with a backyard on Manly beach for $300/wk

Did you do farm work for a 2nd year?: Yes. I worked on a banana farm in Cardwell. Got paid $20/hr for my farm work.

Anything you want to add about working in Australia: I love my job so much. Australia treats their employees so well and I get a lot of extra perks.

Patchy7. Name: Adam a.k.a Patchy
Nationality: Welsh
Age: 27
Visa: Subclass 417
Industry: Labor
Job: Bricklayer. I had 15 Jobs in 2 years

Australian certification needed: White Card (license for construction)
Cost for license: $100
Prior experience:
Hourly rate: $25 – $35/hr

Farm work for a 2nd year?: Yes! Bricklaying counted as farm work. I lived in Mackay which is an hour south of the Whit Sundays and was paid $35/hr. Once wet season came I took a furniture removal job for $25/hr cash in hand.

Then I had a temporary job as a car vallet on the Gold Coast – 22/hr

After my tax rebate of $4000 I decided to move to Sydney. There I had 10 jobs, mainly in construction:

My jobs ranged from laboring and bricklaying to demolition and carpet fitting – $25 – $35/hr.

Where did you live? I lived in Geckos Rest Backpackers in a 4 bed dorm room for $165/wk when I was in Mckay. And I lived in long term accommodation at World Square hostel for $150/wk when I was in Sydney.

Thoughts on work in Australia: Work in Sydney is astronomical. It’s easy to get a job and it’s where dreams are made and you’ll make friends for a lifetime! It does cost to get there but the experience is PRICELESS! MAKE IT HAPPEN. If I can do it – YOU CAN!

Anything you want to add: Traveling has been a major ambition since before I can remember. In March of 2012 I decided it was going to happen. I made serious cutbacks after booking my visa, saving almost 80% of my wages for five months. Then, on the 25th of August, 2012 it was D-Day. I still remember stepping onto that plane and it taking off – It was the scariest feeling. I kept thinking, “Am I doing the right thing?” Then I looked out of that plane window on a sunny morning overlooking Sydney Harbour and it took all my fears away – It was the best feeling in the world!

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 5.29.36 AM8. Name: Beth
Nationality: British
Age: 20
Industry: Retail/Buying
Prior Experience: None
Job: Buyers Admin Assistant
Australian certification needed: No
How did you find work: Applied to temp agencies. I found these were the best for office work.
Hourly Pay: $25/hr
Hours a week: 30-40
Around what you made a week?: $1000
Hardest part about finding work: Figuring out all the best job sites
Rent: $150 a week in an 18 bed dorm at World Square Hostel.
How long did it take you to find work?: Officially about 5 months, but I wasn’t really looking at the start. I was financially comfortable and was able to take my time and enjoy the beaches.
Anything you want to add about working in Australia?: What started off as a temp job for a bit of fun and extra cash has tuned into my career. I moved companies after 6 months because of visa restrictions and my current job offered me a promotion back in the UK office. I love my job and I wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t come traveling.

Farm work for a 2nd year?: Yes. It was a small farm that I found on central Queensland. I worked as a farm hand and absolutely loved it. It was unpaid but the family I worked for paid for all my food, gave me a bedroom and I basically became part of the family.
I helped fix tractors, got the land ready for planting and helped with other bits and bobs like fixing fences, killing snakes and you know the usual farmy things lol.
We also had a bush fire when I was there so I helped tackle that until the firemen got there.

Any regrets?: Only that I couldn’t stay longer. I have loved every second of it and I wouldn’t change my past two years at all. I have met amazing people and had the most incredible time.

Shirley10. Name: Shirly
Nationality: American
Age: 26
Visa: Subclass 423
Job: Started as a waitress. Now a restaurant Supervisor
Australian certification needed: Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA)
Prior experience: Yes
Hourly rate: $21/hr plus tips. $26/hr on Saturdays and $30/hr on Sundays
Hours a week: 40ish
How did you find work?: Sent out my resume on Gumtree and went to every interview I was offered.
Weekly pay: $1200- $1500
Hardest part about finding work?: Persistence… be persistent! Also, navigating around an entirely foreign city can take some work.
Rent: $250 a week for a room I shared with one girl in Bondi.
Anything you want to add about working in Australia?: You hear all these horror stories about people coming out here and not being able to find work etc. What I learned about the individuals who weren’t finding work were that they weren’t being persistent about actually finding work. It’s not just sending out a few resume here and there – it’s being out all day looking and introducing yourself to absolutely everyone. Just be confident.
One thing about about your time in Australia?: It’s the best place to experience as a person in your 20’s. It offers everything you want and more. Similar to Kate, I came with $1000 in my bank account and two years later I still live here. It’s for a reason.
Any regrets?: Absolutely none.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 1.25.15 PM11. Name: Kate
Nationality: American
Age: 26
Visa: Subclass 423
Industry: Hospitality
Job: Waitress
Australian certification needed: Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA)
Prior experience: Yes
Hourly rate: I started at $17.25/hr. When I first got to Sydney I didn’t have a lot of money so I took the first job that hired me. I got a raise to $22/hr pretty quick. I also made $100 – $200 in tips a week. Tipping is not expected but it is common for good service. We split the tips at my restaurant.
Hours a week: 25 – 35ish
How did you find work?: Walked around Darling Harbour and handed out my resume in person.
Weekly pay: $700 – $1000 a week.
Hardest part about finding work?: Actually getting the guts to walk into a place I knew nothing about and hoping they gave me a chance. All the companies are so used to hiring employes on Working Holiday Visa’s that it was honestly no sweat at all. They are very used to it. Just be confident.
Rent: $150 a week at first but then I became the Event Promoter at my hostel in exchange for free rent. The job entailed me to keep the hostel’s event board up to date, plan movie night every Sunday and escort backpackers into town every Tuesday and Wednesday night.

I also lived in a house in Bondi Beach for a month. I shared a room with 6 people and paid $150 a week.
Did you do farm work for a 2nd year visa?: No. Unfortunately Americans don’t quality for that visa.
Anything you want to add about working in Australia?: It was almost too good to be true. Any job you work in your home country, you can work here. Before I came to Australia I worked in public relations in New York and while I was in Sydney I actually worked at a PR firm 2-3 days a week for a daily rate. Never thought that would happen! I was very busy in Sydney but I was fully enjoying the journey and making and saving money while I was at it. I’m really proud of myself for taking advantage of as many opportunities as I could.
Any regrets?: I wish I would have worked the full 12 months of my visa and saved as much money as possible. Then went on a three month tourist visa to travel the country. Instead, I worked for 6 months and was so excited about how much I had saved that I couldn’t wait to backpack the coast. It was still an amazing time and I ended up having $4000 left over which I used when I started my working visa in New Zealand. Also, I met an amazing guy in Australia – It’s a regret because of the way it ended… We won’t get into that though.

Read similar posts:
How I Afford to Travel – And You May Not Like What I’m Going to Say

Australian Work and Holiday Visa: The Do It Yourself Guide


4 thoughts on “Tips to Finding Paid Work in the Land Down Under

  1. Pingback: Australian Work and Holiday Visa: The Do It Yourself Guide | Kate from the States

  2. Pingback: How I Afford to Travel… And You May Not Like What I’m Going To Say | Kate from the States

  3. Pingback: Bird on the Bay | Travel Destinations | Australia | How to Move Down Unda

  4. Pingback: Bird on the Bay | Travel Life | Australia | Moving to Australia | How to Move Down Unda

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