Regional Work

In order to get your second year visa in Australia, you have to complete 3 months of regional work - that is, specified work (in agriculture, construction or mining) in designated parts of the country.  So, the jobs nobody wants in the places nobody wants to go.  You can either do 88 days of work throughout the year, or 12 consecutive weeks of full-time hours, which seemed the fastest option to me.  So, despite many assurances from friends that you can easily get the visa signed off without doing the actual work, I decided to try my luck and head off to the countryside.

Work comes in all different forms.  Pruning is a common gig - I did a day lopping stray twigs in a sprawling vineyard, and it makes your hands fucking throb, but at least it's an outdoor gig.  Pruning and fruit picking, however, are both very much weather-dependent, so if work gets rained off for the day that means no money either.  There's something to be said for outdoor work though, as it's generally paid by the line (pruning) or the bucket (picking) so you can work at your own pace, listen to your own music, that kind of thing.

I was working at one of the biggest packing sheds in New South Wales, meaning that when there were a lot of oranges to be sorted, we might be working 07:30-18:00 six days a week.  It was winter too, so we woke up in the dark and didn't get out until after sundown, our lunch break being our one hour of daylight to last until Sunday.  But the work was steady, we had significantly fewer days off than people in other jobs, and it's so straightforward it's mind-numbing.  Just listen to the radio and let your mind wander.

As I mentioned, it's not uncommon for people to pay someone off for the visa.  All you need for the application is the ABN (Australian Business Number) of a relevant employer, the right industry in the right postcode, and your application can be approved.  However, I definitely recommend doing the work for real.  For one thing, if you get investigated by immigration (as I did the other day at the airport), you've got answers to their questions, payslips, pictures of you in the place you claim to have been.  But also, it's an excellent way to get out of your comfort zone.  A lot of backpackers primarily do farm work while travelling Australia for various reasons - mostly because it's easy to save money and you can do it with shaky English - but for people like me who've been stuck in the big city all this time, it forces you into an entirely different situation.  I made great friends, became more appreciative of my cushy restaurant job in Sydney, and completely unexpectedly enjoyed myself.  That's kind of the principle of travel, I think - get stuck in, take risks, do things you wouldn't usually do, and you'll grow from the experiences.

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