The ultimate guide to regional work

In order to get your second working holiday visa in Australia you must complete 88 days of regional work, which can be anything from farming, fruit picking, fishing, pearling and mining. So how do you get through the whole thing without giving up and going home? Rachael is here to give you her survival tips from her own 88 days of farm work.

Okay, so your back will ache, your hands will be raw, you’ll never be able to look a banana (or whatever fruit/veg you’re picking) in the face again, and will no doubt start assuming that work boots paired with sweatpants is a winning look, but after all of that (plus lifelong friends, unrivaled poker skills, an insane suntan, spectacularly ripped calf muscles and money in the bank…) you’ll qualify for a second working holiday visa. Which basically means an extra year in Australia, and who doesn’t want that. This is your ‘I’m a celebrity/survival island’ moment. Embrace it.

I did the 88 days of farm work, which you could actually class as 90, thanks to a couple of tomato picking days in Bundaberg! The majority of my time was spent at a family-run macadamia farm in Dorroughby, 30 minutes from Byron Bay. Yes, farm work is hard, there’s no doubt about that – it’s not meant to be easy, but it’s definitely worth it. When I look back at my time on the farm, I don’t shudder (although I occasionally do when I see a bag of macadamia nuts or cherry tomatoes in the supermarket) but I think about it with a sense of accomplishment and happiness. It was a totally different experience, one that I probably won’t ever get again.

Just gathering some nuts #macadamia #farmwork #australia

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So here are my tips on getting through your time on a farm/boat/mine and coming out the other side.

Expect the worst

This isn’t necessarily because it’s absolutely awful, but it’s just so that when it’s not awful you’ll be pleasantly surprised instead of on a downer when it’s worse than you expected!

Find out your role in the group

If you’re living in a place with just a few people and not in a working hostel, it works out pretty well if you can figure out how you fit in to the group so you make sure you do your bit. I like cooking, so I grabbed on to the chef role with both hands and didn’t let go – because I absolutely hate doing dishes and other cleaning duties.

Get squatting beforehand

If you’re anything like me you’ll go off to do farm work with no idea of just how unfit you are (I mean, I had an inkling…) until you are required to squat on a daily basis to pick fruit/veg/nuts. The day after my first day of cherry tomato picking was horrendous; the tomatoes were only ripe on the bottom half of the vine so we literally squatted for the entire 9 hours – safe to say the following day it took me about 15 minutes to get down from the top bunk. So if you don’t want to feel like that, get squatting ASAP.

Make friends

This makes me sound like your mother when she sends you off to school and tells you that you need to be chatty and make friends, but yeah, you do. Not only are you going to be spending a lot of time there, you will need people to turn to when you’re having a particularly bad day.

Buy sunscreen

You will burn. It’s Australia. Wear sunscreen.

Don’t get freaked out by insects

It’s really easy to just tell yourself to not squeal when you see a huge spider, right? Nah, it’s not, and if you don’t like insects I have no strategy for you – because I hate them too, and I will scream like a mad woman if I’m even slightly near a spider. Be on your guard.

Get involved with the drinking games

I mean this isn’t to say if you don’t drink you’ll not be able to survive, but sometimes the games help you to wind down after a hard day’s work.

Get some movies on a laptop

Sometimes it’s quite nice to have a movie night and all gather round to watch some films. It’s not quite as easy when there’s ten of you, a couple of sofas and the laptop is the size of a peanut – but it’s better than nothing.

Make a countdown

Don’t sort it at the last minute

I had seven days left of my first visa after my farm work finished…talk about last minute. I was actually really lucky to find somewhere, because I only had two places get back to me when I actually got in touch with about ten. So leave plenty of time.

Get used to being dirty & give up on the idea of looking good

88TH DAY!! My happy nutpicking face #farmlife #regional #australia #macadamia #farm #nutpicking

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Even when you shower you won’t be clean; you will be perpetually scruffy, and it will become the norm. Just embrace it, this is the only time people won’t judge you because they too, are dirty. Accept the fact you will look like your worst self, wear mismatched clothes because they’re comfortable, spend your day looking like you just rolled out of bed, and in my case, look like you’ve spent a year in a dark room with no mirrors.

Enjoy getting back to basics

When I look back at my time on the farm I remember living a totally simple life: cut off from the outside world, endlessly playing card games, laughing and chatting with my friends, sitting around campfires drinking and toasting marshmallows, and having a great time.

Go with some money

Is it mental that I miss farm life in Dorroughby 2480???

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There’s a 90{8105bc8a7da0e4ee2985a05e217cd0e1bef95b551bf8bafd62a449e444182173} chance you won’t get work straight away, or sometimes you’ll only get a couple of days a week, and you’ll still have to pay rent – so just make sure you go with a bit of money behind you. If not for anything other than goon!

Have fun

Make your work fun. My old boss would be absolutely fuming to hear that me and the other workers would occasionally skive if we felt like we were being worked too hard. We would take our cards out with us and sit on our buckets (that we had to fill with macadamias usually) and play some card games. Or sometimes to incentivise ourselves, we would tell ourselves after we’d picked two sacks each we could play our bucket games – which were seeing who could throw the nut into the furthest bucket, and other surprisingly fun games. Also bring a pack of playing cards and download some phone games – you’ll become an absolute pro at everything.

Explore nearby places on your day off

Whian whian falls #daytrip #waterfalls #farmlife #nsw #australia

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It’s tempting to just spend your days off lying in and slothing about, but remember you’re still in Australia and it’s all part of the travelling experience! We were 30 minutes from Byron and we were (occasionally) allowed to use the backpacker car to go there, but usually we were only allowed as far as a small town called Lismore – which if you’ve been, isn’t the most exciting. But we did trek out to nearby national parks, waterfalls, and other cute places.

Be prepared to go to the toilet in the great outdoors

At some time or another you will have to pee or poop outside – if you’re on a farm away from the home, or in vineyards, there will be no toilet. Enjoy (and take a shovel).

Find the humour in all you can

Looks like I'm having more fun than I really am … #farmlife #macadamia #nuts #workinghard #6weeksdone #dying

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This is my go-to strategy, at all times. If you’re not a person who can find the humour in everything, find the person in your group who can. Laughing can get you through the hardest of situations.

Drive the machinery

8 days to go! #farmlife #australia #regional #tractor

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This isn’t really a survival tip – it’s just here because I found it cool to drive a tractor. So take it or leave it.

So there you have it – my top tips for getting through the interesting period of your life that will be regional work. If I didn’t put you off – and I hope I didn’t, because doing regional work was great and got me another year in amazing Australia – then have a look at our page for further info on working holiday visas.