The coronavirus has changed our lives and brought a lot of uncertainty. If you are a backpacker, you may have had to change your plans and you may be looking for farm work during the COVID-19 crisis. Whether it is to ensure financial security or to renew your visa, you probably have many questions. In this article, we will give you all our advice on finding a job on a farm and we will explain the alternatives if you are unable to do so. Keep reading!
Update on the situation for travellers on a WHV in Australia
Can I stay in Australia as a backpacker?
Yes, backpackers can stay in Australia provided they have enough financial resources to support themselves during the COVID-19 crisis. The government, however, encourages backpackers to return home given the uncertain economic circumstances in which the country currently finds itself.
In his speech on April 3, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “How nice it is to have visitors to Australia in good times, in times like this if you are a visitor to this country, it is time, as it has been the case for some time now – and I know many visitors have done so – to return home and make sure that you can receive the help that is available… in your home country. ”
On the other hand, Morrison encourages backpackers working in health care, ages care and agriculture to stay and help the country.
Change of visa conditions
On April 4, 2020, the limit of 6 months of work with the same employer was lifted for backpackers working in the key sectors of health, aged and disability care and agriculture. The backpackers concerned can, therefore, work for the same employer as long as necessary.
The government has also pledged to extend the visa for those willing to help the country get through the virus. The Minister of Agriculture, Mr Littleproud, said: “What we are saying to these visa holders is that if you are ready to stay in this country and help us cross this coronavirus, we will extend your visa. ” This measure applies to backpackers working in the fields of agriculture, health, care of the elderly and disabled, and childcare.
Stay informed via the foreign affairs website: https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/
Is there still work for me?
Agriculture is an important part of the country’s economy. It produces enough to feed 75 million people on an annual basis. The country exports more than 2/3 of its production, which leads to substantial gains. The Australian government has shown itself to be cooperative and supportive of the agriculture sector in these uncertain times.
On the other hand, the National Federation of Australian Farmers is reassuring. They explain, “The amount of food we grow has not changed, and will not change – even if the coronavirus crisis worsens.”
Darryl Lowe, export manager for a group of 14 citrus farms in Queensland, said recently: “This week, between 400 and 500 seasonal workers from the Pacific were scheduled to come and work on our farms. But with the closure of the borders, this is no longer possible. In addition, the number of backpackers is also down sharply. Usually, we get ten to fifteen applications a day, right now we only get one per day. ”
While backpackers usually represent a significant part of the labour force employed by Australian farmers, it is likely that many Australians who have lost their jobs are turning to jobs in agriculture. It is indeed one of the most stable sectors at the moment. In addition, backpackers who plan to work later may decide to get ahead to ensure financial security.
Working on farms, specific measures to adopt
On Friday, April 3, the Prime Minister announced that backpackers who travel to a farm to work will be required to isolate themselves for 14 days before starting work. The purpose of this measure is to limit the spread of the virus in rural areas, which are currently relatively spared.
If you have not already done so, start and register your self-isolation as soon as possible. This may give you a head start or even exempt you in case your employer requests confinement. For more information, check out the government website.
Closure of States
Some states in Australia have closed their borders, each with their own modalities. This means that it is no longer allowed to cross their borders except with a valid reason such as work. Only rare exceptions exist. As a backpacker, the only reason you can invoke is finding a job that requires you to move. However, you will need to be able to prove that you are crossing the border to start a new job.
For current information, visit this website.
If you are moving from one area to another, you are required to isolate for 14 days before you start to work on the farm due to COVID-19. Note, however, that the borders between states are closed and that you can only change states with a valid reason (such as a promise to hire). Your employer can also impose confinement on you regardless of your situation. The aim is to limit the spread of the virus in rural areas, which until now have been safer due to their isolation.
Harvest Job says it is prohibited to have more than two people in the same car, even to go to work.
Regarding the organization of work on the farm, it is the farmer’s responsibility to take the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
No matter where you stay, don’t panic, you can stay there as long as you feel safe there. However, you should be able to isolate yourself if you develop symptoms of the coronavirus or if asked to do so. Hostels and hotels must provide you with this option. For more information about hotels and hostels, see this fact sheet.
If you live on the road, the Aircamp website maintains a list of camps open across Australia.
If you have no way to find accommodation, join the Facebook group Adopt a Backpacker Australia. You will find many advertisements for free accommodation generously offered by the locals. Also, feel free to post an ad there if you can accommodate a backpacker colleague in those difficult times.
Where and how to find work on a farm?
The methods are no different from the normal situation. However, the government requires that you avoid applying in person to farmers. However, it is a very common practice in fruit picking and farm work. It’s up to everyone to judge what is best to do.
It is therefore essentially a question of applying from a distance: online applications and phone calls. The first thing to do is to create a Resume suitable for the job you are applying for with a word about you. This will allow you to be ready to apply as soon as you see an ad. And you will know what to say when you are contacted for a job. Keep in mind that you can be contacted when you least expect it.
“TOUGH TIMES NEVER LAST, BUT TOUGH PEOPLE DO.” — ROBERT H. SCHULLER
One of the first things you can do to find job offers is to join as many Facebook groups dedicated to farm jobs as possible. For example, Farm Work Australia Backpackers 2019 or Farm work Australia. Choose the largest and most active groups. Word of mouth (on the internet) still works very well and backpackers tend to help each other.
Also, consider contacting the National Harvest Labour Information Service. This service connects farmers looking for labour with people looking for a job. You can contact 1800 062 332 from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call at the opening for more chances of job offers.
Also, check out Gumtree for all kinds of job postings. But beware of scams, do not pay anything before going to the scene!
Job boards also work, but you will find fewer jobs there. Nothing prevents you from trying your luck on these sites:
Another option is recruitment agencies for the agricultural sector just like for any other field. Make yourself known to these agencies to boost your search.
Finally, and this is probably your best lead, there are many resources available to you to find and get in touch with farms. Most farms do not post job vacancies, simply because they naturally receive enough applicants. Contact them and offer your help. You will face many refusals, but you will significantly increase your chances of finding a job. Feel free to use our fruit picking map giving you free access to over 400 farm contacts in Australia.
The Fruit Picking Map
Are you looking for a job in Fruit Picking? Get free access to more than 400 farm contacts via our interactive map.
What if I can’t find work on a farm?
You may want to find farm work to renew your visa or simply for financial reasons.
In the first case, know that you can extend your visa for free. And this until it is “secure and feasible for you to return to your country of residence”, as long as you work in one of the key sectors of agriculture, health, aged care and disability care, or childcare. It is actually a different visa, called the Australian Government endorsed events (subclass 408). See our dedicated article for more information.
If you want to ensure some financial security, do not forget that other sectors continue to recruit during the crisis. You will find a lot of manual jobs that often do not require specific skills. You can, therefore, can work in cleaning, construction (if you have a White Card), delivery, etc. Also consider the HelpX and Wwoofing options, which will allow you to stay and be fed with locals in exchange for services.
Stay informed about the situation via: covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au