Considering Australia: The Working Holiday VISA
By Sean O’Toole
There’s something of a harsh reality behind the idea of obtaining a working holiday VISA for spending a year (or maybe two) in Australia. It’s never easy settling in to a new system, new city, new place or way of life, regardless of where it is or what the purpose of it is. You’ll need to establish a base, find sources of income, make friends, budget and plan for potentially the adventure of a lifetime.
Be aware that there is no such thing as free or even cheap wi-fi in overpriced backpacker accommodation. There are service charges and deposits required for every little thing you might need. Australia is an extremely expensive place in every regard. Food, entertainment, cigarettes and alcohol are at this stage even slightly more pricey than you will find in Ireland but there are small budgetary considerations you can be aware of to reduce your cost without much hardship, such as buying tobacco from Asian markets and ensuring that your accommodation has a well equipped kitchen. If adventure activities such as Scuba diving on the Barrier Reef is on your list of goals, i would also recommend to consider getting your certificate in Thailand or Malaysia beforehand. The dive spots are possibly a better quality and a lot better value for money at a quarter of the cost that Australian dive centres will charge.
Traveling in Australia, you might begin to find that money isn’t going as far as you’d expect it to. The backpacker industry is designed to profit off of backpackers and working holiday makers and offer it’s benefits at a high price: perhaps a clever way of keeping the backpacker economy breathing.
Be wary of landlords and letting agents and be organised in terms of rental accommodation. If you have paid a bond to a landlord or agent, be sure that your documentation is in order and you leave yourself with ample time to deal with any delays in processing paperwork because temporary residents are easy to scam due to the itinerant nature of a working holiday and also due to them not being familiar with systems such as signing off and transferring bonds. Needless to say, there are usually fees involved.
Looking for work isn’t as promising as you might imagine from what you are led to believe before you apply and pay for your 12 month VISA. There is a severe lack of opportunities for temporary workers in regular industries. Hiring staff that are limited to just a 6 month working contract is not really a viable option for most employers. The temporary VISA holder applying for short term work contracts is faced with a number of unexpected challenges due to the fact that there appears to be something of a backpackers backlash throughout Australia. There appears to be no legislation to protect the backpacker from an unusual form of job discrimination for one. Amongst a broad generation scope of Australians there is a sense of underlying xenophobia that arises in sometimes insipid ways.
You must be prepared to expect in many places along the job searching route, to call about a job advertisement and being told straight off the bat “no backpackers” as soon as they catch an accent. It’s not a complete dead end, however. If you can take your lucky breaks and be organised and gracious enough to commit to employers who are willing to take a chance on you for the short amount of time permitted on your VISA, you might find other opportunities arise from relationships and friendships you might develop in the workplace.
Australia apparently hasn’t been hit by the recession that the rest of the world seems to be suffering from. This could in fact be in part due to the labour safeguards that are put in place that limit migrant workers to compete with each other for fruit picking and agricultural work in more rural areas. These safeguards also ensure that most other types of work go to Australian citizens and permanent residents. Australian High school students are also likely to find getting weekend work easily, which can help to keep certain areas of local economies stable.
Vocational training opportunities in Australia can be quite misleading also. The Working holiday VISA stipulates that the holder is entitled to study in Australia for up to four months, however, most training accreditations are open only to permanent residents. A RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) license can be obtained for anything between $50-120 for a two or three day course. This license is essential for anyone looking for work in bar service and for most types of restaurant service.
Aside from a multitude of natural wonders that Australia has to offer, such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest in the North of Queensland, Ayers Rock, the white sand beaches in Esperance, it is undeniable that Australia is an ideal gateway to Southeast Asia and beyond. Flights to Kuala Lumpur can be obtained for $200 or less at times and from there, you can avail of low cost flights to virtually any other destination in Asia.
There is one thing about Australia, namely Melbourne, that did surprise me: an extremely healthy showing of arts and culture that isn’t very well projected internationally. Brisbane also possesses a unique and thriving hive of creativity and atmosphere. Both cities have a lot to offer in terms of diverse entertainment and culture. There are any number of festivals celebrating various forms of art and cultural identity on an ever rotating basis. Melbourne is home to the excellent Australian Centre For The Moving Image, a digital and graphic media headquarters that documents the history of the moving pictures and showcases art of a similar nature. Brisbane hosts a lively fringe theatre scene and some world renowned dance companies and artistic training grounds. Aboriginal and indigenous Australian culture is well acknowledged but not necessarily highlighted as an essential part of the Australia experience due to a difficult long running history between the natives and the colonial settlers.
Australia should hold great appeal to people considering spending time working as they travel. Although it can be argued that better protective rights of the working holiday maker in Australia could be an issue that needs addressing. A Broader scope and understanding of anti discriminatory regulations should also be part of a very human agenda, namely in this case, for migratory people investing in a year Down Under.