October 30, 2023

Backpackers’ Testimonials in Australia: Farm Experiences

If you already know us, you’ve probably found our article explaining what farm days entail. It’s a widely used term among
backpackers in Australia, but it might not make much sense when you’ve just arrived in the land of Kangaroos! If you’re still unsure about what it involves, I invite you to read our article on the subject. It’s a treasure trove of practical information to understand how to count your days, where to do them, what counts, and what doesn’t.

In the meantime, I’m sure you’re imagining all sorts of things about these jobs. Is it tough? What does it involve? What will I be doing? Do I need to have good English? So, we asked backpackers still in Australia to share their experiences so you can get an even clearer idea of what you might be doing and the feelings of backpackers who have already done these jobs!


So, I won’t say more, and I’ll let you immerse yourself in their experiences with their own words! Have a great journey through their experiences:


Julian, 25 years old, and Romane, 24 years old, farm experience.

“Hello! We are Julian and Romane, a backpacker couple aged 25 and 24, respectively. After completing a master’s in marine biology, we decided to head to Australia. I want to emphasize that we had lived abroad for 2 years, and English was not a problem. The arrival was very complicated for us, with a lot of stress, especially financially, given the cost of living. We arrived in a highly populated area, wanting to follow ‘the seasons in the Routard.’ Finding stable, well-regarded, and well-paid work was very complicated. For 2 weeks, we spent our mornings on Facebook job groups for farms. After posting a photo of ourselves and a description, a miraculous message arrived.

A wheat and sheep farm, 3 hours and 30 minutes from Perth, inland. A house for us, a company car with fuel, $35 per hour with long weeks. The job involved driving tractors for 2 months to sow wheat. I told the guy on the phone that I had no experience; he just said, ‘Ok no worries.’ So, we arrived in Beacon, a ‘town’ of 100 inhabitants (all wheat and/or sheep farmers). The first shocking thing when we got out of the car was the flies. It was impossible to stay outside; hundreds of flies attack your nose, eyes, etc. So, we wondered where we had ended up, in the middle of nowhere. The house was super cool, although there was no other habitation within 20 km, and our bosses gave us a great welcome.

My girlfriend worked on a farm nearby, doing cleaning, helping with the farm or cooking (yes, it’s extremely macho, and they have more trouble entrusting a tractor to a girl). So, I started with tractor maintenance (assembling and disassembling parts, changing tires, lifting ultra-heavy weights). To be honest, I felt useless sometimes; I didn’t know how to do most things, so I just called my boss to explain, and I watched him do it. Besides, he didn’t communicate much, managing the farm alone; he was used to working alone. For a month, while waiting for the first rains, I did maintenance, and I came home exhausted in the evening. We ate and went to sleep.

However, being very social, we needed to go out, have drinks, etc. There was the only bar in town; we spent one evening there per week. Then, the rain came, and I started driving tractors 35 meters long and 15 meters wide, which can be worth $1 million. To be honest, it’s extremely easy; there’s an autopilot to stay on track. Otherwise, make sure not to fall asleep to make U-turns at the end of the field, check fuel and cereal levels, and, above all, don’t hit obstacles on the way (trees, stones, etc.). In 2 or 3 days, I got the hang of it and managed to get by (although I broke a few things, but mistakes happen!).

Some days, we had to take care of the sheep; I immediately loved and then hated it. Being in contact with animals, what a pleasure, but in truth, it’s very tough mentally. Firstly, my boss wasn’t mean, but working with the sheep, he wasn’t really gentle with them. I saw him accidentally run over a sheep with his motorcycle (without remorse), kick some, etc. Secondly, it’s not that easy. One mistake, and the whole flock runs away; you have to start over. Lastly, during the castration of newborns (which we had to do by hand ourselves, yes, yes!), some lambs were sick or something. We had to euthanize some that wouldn’t have survived.
And it’s simply done with a knife to the throat. So yes, you have to be mentally prepared, but I just thought that when you eat meat, you need to know where it comes from. In summary, we had planned to work for 2 months; in the end, we worked for 5 months, and they didn’t want to let us go. There was always work and money to be made. We didn’t spend much, except for
groceries and alcohol (still!), and 2 weekends in Perth that were necessary for our mental health (partying, seeing people whospeak French feels good).

We each saved more than $20,000. However, the experience is unique, and we met true Australians who genuinely had a big heart. Compared to other more popular places in Australia where we went (near the coasts), there, the conversations were sincere and interesting. However, you must be ready to be disgusting all the time, see very few people, and sometimes be bored. I strongly recommend it for people who feel the need to return to basics. If I can give a little advice for finding farm work: look where others don’t. Go against the season (when in winter they all go north, go south), go to lost, remote places, and there you will easily get honest and well-paid work (at least I hope for you).”


Marion AUBERVAL – Mining Experience

“I started working in mines a year ago with the main goal of saving money! I knew it wouldn’t necessarily be easy, and it might take some time to get into it, but it was worth trying—the hardest part is taking the first step. Having no prior experience in mines and no tickets, I aimed for the ‘utility’ job. Starting with utility is the easiest way to get into mines, gain experience, and later qualify for more ‘significant’ and better-paying positions. Utility includes several jobs done on the camp and not directly on the Minesites. There are various ‘departments,’ such as housekeeping, catering, tavern, Minesite cleaning, or grounds.

After some internet research and checking Facebook groups to find companies hiring utilities, I applied everywhere. I sent emails, made calls, and some companies redirected me to their websites to apply. I believe that to find a job in mines, you should not hesitate to apply a lot and follow up with them. I received many negative responses because they ‘were not looking for anyone at the moment,’ but I still called them a few days later because you never know; their situation may have changed.

After about 10 days, I received a positive response from ESS Compass Group. I had to undergo a kind of test/interview on their site, and a few days later, I was hired as a ‘casual worker’ (= I can work ‘when I want, no fixed roster! More flexibility but less certainty of finding work all the time). They first sent me for a medical test + drug test to ensure I was ‘fit for work,’ and then I went for a paid ‘training’ for 3 days in the city where they taught us basic safety rules and provided more information about each department. A few days later, I boarded the plane for my first ‘swing.’

This process can take time; it took three weeks from the day I applied to the day I flew out, but some people wait much longer. Companies receive many applications, so don’t hesitate to follow up frequently and call them between each ‘step’ to know where it’s at.

I did my first swing in the ‘tavern,’ a small store/cafe on the camp. The job involved making coffees in the morning, serving alcohol in the evening, and restocking the store and some cleaning during the day. In essence, it’s like working in a mini-store and serving customers—a mix of cashier/barista/bartender/housekeeper. The advantage of the tavern is that it’s indoors, so we are in air conditioning, not outside under heat that can reach 40 degrees Celsius + in summer.

12 hours a day is long, but you get used to it once you’ve set the pace; you just need a few swings to adapt. The same goes for the temperature; it can be tough at first, but the body eventually adjusts. Personally, I was on a 2/1 roster, so 2 weeks in the mines, one week off minimum (I could take more time off as a casual), and I was paid around $35 per hour gross, 11 hours a day, and 14 days in a row. Obviously, salary and roster depend on each company.

Then, on the camp, I had a pool, a gym, basketball/football/cricket fields, and an ‘entertainment’ room with billiards/table tennis/darts/library, and all of this is free! And the bar is open in the evening if you want to socialize. It depends on the camp and the company, obviously, but generally, there are things on the camp for entertainment! Even though some camps are much less well-equipped than others. I strongly advise doing something entertaining after work; otherwise, you’ll fall into a routine of work/eat/sleep, and it can make time feel long, giving the impression that you haven’t taken any time for yourself, and as soon as the workday ends, another one begins.

In terms of food, there is a cafeteria open in the morning and evening for breakfast/dinner. Generally, there is a choice between several hot and cold dishes; the quality and variety of choices depend on the companies, but personally, the food on my camp wasn’t too bad. Just very repetitive, and it becomes tiresome. Then there is a ‘crib’ room, crib = lunch, and everyone can prepare sandwiches, salads, wraps, or others, which we put in Tupperwares and bring to work for lunch. Generally, there are also ready-made sandwiches/salads and things to heat in the microwave, like noodles/pies!

FIFO life (Fly-In, Fly-Out) is quite special; it’s not for everyone, but personally, I loved it! It can be a bit long to be ‘far from everything,’ literally in the middle of the desert for 1/2/3 weeks, but then having a whole week off (or even more) allows you to truly rest or even go on a road trip between swings.

For me, the biggest advantage is that you don’t spend anything in the mines—no rent if you don’t have an apartment, no need to grocery shop, and no temptations (except for things to buy in the store) that can make you spend money—so it’s relatively easy to save!

The major downside is that it’s complicated to have a social life outside of work because you are never in town! And it’s a lifestyle that becomes quite tiring in the long run; generally, I took a break of 2/3 weeks every 4 months.

So, if you want to embark on the mining adventure, keep in mind that it won’t be easy every day, but it’s doable, and it’s a good way to save money! However, many people are looking to get in, especially right now, so you need to have a bit of luck!”“

Apolline, Farming Experiences

“I completed half of my 88 days on farms at a flower farm in Busselton. I found this farm through a contact in Australia. There were two groups: one involved in picking flowers, and the other worked inside a shed on machines to ‘present and sort’ the flowers. I was part of the group working with the machines. The working hours were 7 am – 3 pm with two 30-minute breaks during the day—one for lunch and one for a ‘smoke time,’ which was paid. We earned $27.30 per hour, and generally, everyone worked 35 hours per week. Sometimes we could come in for an additional 5 hours on Saturdays or Sundays, but they were paid at the same hourly rate, or we could stay an extra one to two hours at the end of the day. It’s important to note that we were not provided accommodation.

My job involved retrieving various flowers picked by my colleagues earlier (usually proteas flowers), sorting them into different pots filled with very cold water, and then taking a pot with a single type of flower (in a bundle) to pass them one by one through a machine that sorted the size of the flowers from 40 cm to 1 m at times. We had to remove weeds from the stem and cut the end with pruning shears. Once they went through the machine, we started a new sorting process with faded flowers and beautiful ones, which were put into another machine to be tied into bouquets. From there, someone took care of packing them into boxes for the delivery to Japan for sale.

My impression: this work is very long and boring.
The tasks repeat constantly. Our hands get cold because they are always immersed in bins of cold water for the flowers (even with gloves), and I did this during the winter season. We experience heel and hip pain because we are always standing and stoic. Our shoulders ache from pulling leaves and carrying large bundles of flowers (which are quite heavy). Nevertheless, it remains a relatively simple job under good conditions for a farm job. Typically, two people work on one machine, but we cannot talk due to the distance and the noise of the machines, so there is no progress in learning English. There was usually music in the shed, or everyone had their headphones: I have never listened to so many podcasts in my life!

In summary, the days were long and boring, but I later worked on other farms or jobs, and I can say that physically it is still a relatively easy job under good conditions, and I was able to make some connections. I would also add that working in the shed is interesting for weather conditions (whether it rains or is very hot, we are still sheltered).”


Apolline, Farming Experiences: pruning

I completed the remaining of my 88 days at a vineyard near Yallingup in WA, doing what is called “pruning.” I found this job through my roommate in Australia, who, at her workplace, had heard about an opportunity. The working hours were from 7 am to 4 pm. Sometimes I could stay longer in the evening if I wanted, which happened quite often. I typically finished around 5 or 6 pm. I had a 30-minute lunch break. I earned approximately $26 per hour and usually worked 40 hours per week, sometimes 50 or 55 hours depending on the weather. I was not provided accommodation, and I worked ALONE all day, which was extremely long.

The job involved taking care of long rows of vines. It required cutting dead branches while being careful of future buds. With pruning shears (sometimes electric because vine branches are extremely tough), I cut the excessively long branches, untangled the good and bad branches, and sometimes even used a saw! The most challenging part was choosing which branches to keep because out of about twenty, only four were the main ones. After all this preliminary work, which lasted about 15 minutes, I had to turn the remaining branches onto the wire of the row and then use a special gun (with wire) to attach the rotating branches to the wire so that they would grow later and produce grapes for future wine!

My impression: the work is quite challenging to understand at first. You need to understand how the vines work, the flow direction of the sap through the main branches, etc. You work according to the weather. If it’s really bad weather, rain, wind, thunderstorm, you don’t work, and this has consequences on your pay and the counting of your farm days… it’s quite uncertain, especially when you do it during the winter season like me. Weather conditions can be extremely difficult (whether it’s sunny or not). Plus, your entire body hurts. You trample through the fields all day, bend down, put your hands between the hard branch and the wire that sometimes cuts you. Even with gloves, you end up with blisters on your hands, especially between the index and thumb. It’s a very physical job, and you wear a belt all day with your equipment: electric pruner, manual pruner, guns, wire spool, etc.

The conditions are not fun; you are alone in a field. You don’t talk to anyone, so there’s no social interaction; you don’t improve in English, and minutes feel like hours. You are in the middle of nowhere. You don’t have a microwave, so you eat cold lunches every day, sitting in your car or in the middle of the field. If necessary, you use the bush for your needs or hold it in, and you better have water. You are completely autonomous. Sometimes the boss comes to see how things are going or checks your work, but it’s very rare; generally, he trusts you. The work is long, tedious, and boring after several hours.

The advantage is being in nature in a beautiful setting, seeing rabbits, kangaroos, all kinds of insects, dragonflies, butterflies, many spiders (small ones too, not recommended for arachnophobes, as the vines are full of webs), and sometimes even snakes. You are independent and self-sufficient; you can listen to music or podcasts; you don’t receive orders, and you can choose the half-hour of your break whenever you want. In summary, the weather and physical conditions are difficult. You must hang in there and motivate yourself because you have no colleagues with you. If you like peace and nature, you will be amazed by the beauty of the landscapes and the singing of the birds but be aware that time will still feel very long. It’s a good experience and educational to know how the vine winemaking process works from the vine to bottling.

But it’s an experience I recommend trying, not doing for your 88 days, even less for almost two months because your body and mind take a hit! It’s not well-paid when you consider the conditions you are in, and you must pay for your food, accommodation, and fuel afterward. It was clearly a “last resort” solution. I didn’t complain; I accepted it and hung on, but sometimes I wondered, “What am I doing here?” It was a challenging experience where I had a lot of time for self-reflection. Fortunately, we know the motivations behind it and that it’s only temporary (considering it was the beginning of my Working Holiday Visa).”