Australia’s vast agricultural sector offers numerous opportunities for backpackers and travelers to work in fruit picking, a popular way to earn money and extend visas under specific working holiday programs. Indeed since the beginning of the Working Holiday Visa in Australia, Fruit Picking has naturally become a favourite job for backpackers, as it’s the best way to work and travel around the country. However, this sector is not without its pitfalls, with various scams preying on unsuspecting job seekers. Understanding these scams and following practical advice can ensure a rewarding and scam-free fruit picking experience.
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Why is Fruit Picking so popular in Australia?
Fruit Picking is a great idea for those who want to discover something new, and earn money while traveling. These are the main reasons why backpackers choose picking:
Possibility to renew your Working Holiday Visa
Many backpackers want a job in fruit picking in order to complete 88 days of farm work, and apply for a second Working Holiday Visa or a third year!
Indeed, it is possible to renew your visa for a second year when you work 88 days in an eligible job and in a rural area. And you can renew it again when you work 179n days while on your second year visa!
NB: Following the Free Trade Agreement, UK passport holders will be able to be granted up to three Working Holiday visas without having to meet any specified work requirements from 1 July 2024.
For some of us, fruit picking is an opportunity to work in a different setting. If you went to university or worked in your hometown, finding yourself in the middle of the Australian bush picking fruits, is a totally different experience. You create amazing memories. If the working conditions are good, you can actually enjoy working under a tree, listening to the sound of nature, spotting kangaroos or koalas … (no, we won’t talk about the snakes and spiders at this stage)
No need for a good level of English
It’s one of the few industries in Australia in which a high level of English is not required. You just need to be able to understand a few instructions and that’s it! “Which row are you going to do today”, “What kind of fruit do you need to pick”, “be careful when you put the fruit into the box” and that’s about it …
Australians don’t want to do this type of work
In Australia, you will find that the majority of pickers are foreigners. Young locals have the reputation of being lazy and not interested in agriculture and the country lifestyle in general. It’s actually a bit like that in most countries, few young people want to work on farms.
Is it easy to find a job in fruit picking?
You will have to make a bit of an effort to find a fruit picking job. Indeed, you have to go to the right region at the right time and look for a job in the right way. We obviously explain all this in Australia – The Backpackers Guide and on our website.
So be well informed about the harvest seasons to target the regions that need the most workers. You can also use our map with hundreds of farm contacts to contact them directly and avoid driving hundreds of miles for nothing.
We also note that in recent years, some farms have somewhat refined their selection criteria. Having a first experience in fruit picking is often an asset. Some even look for skilled workers.
Common Scams to Watch Out For
Upfront Payment Scams
Some fraudulent job postings ask for payment upfront for job placement, accommodation, or training. Legitimate employers will never ask for money to secure a job. If you are asked to pay anything in advance, RUN!
Testimonial – Three girls scammed on Gumtree
A typical case of scam had happened to a group of three girls while answering a job offer on Gumtree. The advertiser asked to pay a deposit of $130 for their accommodation, offering them a job picking tomatoes. They were confident and paid the bond before going to the address given to them (Dalby – Queensland). The 3 friends actually discovered that it was a fake address!
“We obviously didn’t expect that. Australians are good people, we are very sad. It’s not easy to find a job in Queensland and we gave money thinking we had a place to live and a job”
More and more websites on fruit picking are flourishing on the web. Be careful because sometimes you have to pay a registration fee! We don’t believe this actually works. Farmers don’t use the internet much and they often hire people at the last minute (depending on the weather). By the time they’d contacted an agency for them to post an ad online, backpackers had responded and moved, farmers would have lost 2 weeks. In the meantime, they probably have a dozen backpackers knocking on their doors!
Working “Waiting” Hostels
Some hostels located in agricultural areas try to make a profit by acting as contractors. Basically, you stay at a hostel, and they find you a job on a farm in the area. But even if they are good, they can’t guarantee you a job. Sometimes you are just sitting there for days. And some make you believe they’ll find you work even though they won’t! This phenomenon is particularly present in Queensland (e.g. Bundaberg) or in Victoria (e.g. Mildura), areas particularly popular among backpackers. Every year, a lot of complaints are filed by foreign workers because their employers underpaid them or their working conditions were below standard. Out of all these complaints, about one-third come from agricultural regions in Queensland!
False Visa Extension Promises
Certain visa scams involve misleading workers about the possibility of extending their working holiday visas through fruit picking jobs that do not qualify for visa extension criteria.
Sexual abuse cases
Girls be vigilant! In recent times cases of sexual abuse have multiplied! Indeed some farmers ask for sexual favours in exchange for the validation of the 88 days. So be very careful and do not go on a farm alone.
How to Avoid Scams and Find Legitimate Work
Research and Verify Employers
Before accepting a job offer, research the farm or contractor to ensure they are reputable. Look for reviews from previous workers and check if the employer is registered with the Australian government or relevant industry bodies.
Use Trusted Job Platforms
Find fruit picking jobs through reputable websites, job boards, and government or industry-endorsed programs. The Australian government’s Harvest Trail website is a reliable source for finding legitimate agricultural work.
Understand Your Rights
Familiarize yourself with Australian labor laws and the rights of working holiday visa holders. Knowing the minimum wage, working conditions, and visa requirements can help you identify and avoid exploitative job offers.
Network with Other Travelers
Connecting with other backpackers and travelers through social media groups, forums, or hostels can provide valuable insights and recommendations for finding legitimate fruit picking jobs.
Be Cautious with Personal Information
Do not provide personal or financial information, such as bank details or copies of your passport, to potential employers until you have verified their legitimacy and are officially hired.
If you encounter a scam, report it to the Australian authorities to help prevent other job seekers from falling victim. The Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are key contacts for reporting exploitation and scams.
Tips for your fruit picking job
- Prepare yourself a bit! Learn about the different seasons and regions.
- Be very careful about ads on the internet! Always ask around if anyone knows this employer, or do some research on the internet.
- Avoid some websites or apps. There are some sites/apps that offer paid registration to have access from job offers. Unfortunately these practices are above all commercial, because they often take up offers published on other (free) websites and by the time it is put online, the offers are already filled. We will not say that everything is “fake”, but that overall it is not very effective.
- Avoid regions that are too popular. The best way to avoid scams and competition is to get away from the well-known backpacker towns. Especially the regions close to the east coast are often crowded with backpackers.
- Think of jobs that are less popular. Pruning for example (removing parts of trees/ vines) is a job that’s often well paid. On the one hand, it’s not an easy job because it hurts your hands initially and it is done in winter. On the other hand, there is much less competition!
- Don’t lose hope! We know that not finding a job for several days can be discouraging. But you will, eventually! Don’t give up!
Have you got any advice for backpackers or experiences you want to share?