If you’re visiting Australia on a working holiday visa, chances are you’re also going to want to find a job while you’re there. I saved up before I moved to Sydney in 2010, but I knew getting a job in Australia would be a good opportunity to fund my travels, move out of hostels and into a shared apartment, and earn some spending money.
I had my savings to fall back on, but earning the local currency definitely made things feel more affordable.
But it can feel super complicated and overwhelming, moving to a city you’ve probably never set foot in on the other side of the world. I had no idea how to open an Australian bank account (or if I even needed to), where to look for jobs, and how many opportunities there’d be. Before I moved to Sydney I’d never even been on a plane before but, then, when have I ever been to known to do things by halves?
So, CVs at the ready: if you’re heading off on a working holiday (and, if you’re under 30, the cut-off age to get the visa, you totally should!) here’s what you need to know about getting a job in Australia.
Getting A Job in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa
1. Apply for a Tax File Number (TFN) when you arrive
It’s not the law to have a Tax File Number, but it does mean you’ll get taxed properly while you’re working in Australia and make applying to get your tax back (we’ll get to that later) much easier later down the line. Everyone who works in Australia, whether you’re a resident or not, should apply for one and you’ll be asked for it by your employer when you start work.
The main annoyance when it comes to getting a TFN is that you can’t apply for one until you’re actually in the country and, chances are, you won’t have a proper address yet. I applied for mine while I was still in a hostel and used the address there – if you do this too, make sure the front desk or manager knows you’re expecting something important in the mail.
Apply for a Tax File Number on the Australian Taxation Office site here.
2. Expect to get paid around 17.50 AUD – 25 AUD per hour
When I moved to Australia in 2010, minimum wage was about $15. It’s now $17.50, so that’s the minimum you should be earning per hour. As in any other country, the amount you get paid depends on what kind of work you’re doing. Bar or cafe work will generally pay minimum wage, while office work is usually more.
I found a job at an events company a few weeks after I got to Sydney, where I worked full time in an office for a few months, and was earning $22/hour. When I worked as a barista in Melbourne, though, I earned the minimum wage. And on the vineyard just outside of Bendigo where I did my 3 months of regional work in 2011 to get a second year visa, it was more like $20/hour.
It might be helpful, before you go, to get a sense of how your spending habits at home compare to other countries. Netflights has a handy calculator here.
3. You need an RSA certificate to work in a bar
Back home in the UK, as long as you can pull a pint, keep your cool when the punters are 4 deep at the bar, and string a sentence together, you can work in a bar. In Australia? Not so much. They’re much more strict about drinking laws and, because of that, you’ll need to complete a Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) course. Each state has its own RSA laws, too, so if you want to work in a bar in more than one state (if you’re travelling around, for example) you’ll need another certificate.
Again, this is something you can only complete when you arrive in Australia so if you want to do bar work (or work in a restaurant with a license to sell alcohol) make sure to enrol on a course before you start applying for jobs.
4. Gumtree’s great, but use your common sense
Gumtree’s a great place to start your job search, but for every genuine backpacker job there are usually 10 more promising you the moon on a stick and more in return for working for their company. There are genuinely some good companies looking to hire backpackers short or long term and pay you a decent wage, but there are also hundreds out there who believe a couple of free beers on a Friday will make up for treating you like crap the rest of the week.
My main piece of advice when it comes to finding jobs on Gumtree? Check where the company is actually based before you apply for a job. Sometimes the advertiser will pretend to be in the CBD (main city centre) so that they appear in popular search results and receive more applications, when really they’re in the suburbs – fine if you’re living in that suburb, but not so great if you don’t want to spend all your money on commuting.
5. Looking for an office job? Try Seek.com.au
Seek is normally the go-to site for professionals, but that’s not to say you can’t use it to find a job in Australia. I found my first ever job in Sydney on Seek. Be aware that many of the jobs advertised will be through recruitment agencies and use this to your advantage by asking them about any other suitable roles.
6. Open an Australian bank account when you arrive
Working in Australia on a working holiday visa could see you living in the country for up to two years, so I’d advise you to set up a bank account when you arrive. If you ask your employer to pay your wages into your UK bank account, you might lose some of your money to exchange rates and be charged more to access your money at cash machines.
There are a few banks to choose from – I went with NAB – and you’ll need to take some documents with you, including your passport. At this point in your travels you might not yet have an address to have your card sent to, so ask the branch if you can come and pick it up rather than having it mailed to you.
7. You get paid superannuation
Superannuation (or Super) is money that your employer sets aside for you in a Superfund every time they pay you, a bit like a pension. Australian residents can’t claim their Super until they reach retirement age, but as a visitor on a working holiday visa you’ll be eligible to claim yours back when you leave the country. Great if you’re continuing on your travels or need a bit of cash behind you for moving home.
My biggest piece of advice here, if you end up working for more than one company while you’re in Australia, is to have your employers pay your Super money into one main Superfund – usually the one set up by your first employer. This makes it much easier to claim it back once you leave.
8. You can claim back some of the tax you paid
If you’ve worked full or part time in Australia and been in the country for more than 6 months, you’re legally obliged to file a tax return at the end of the Australian tax year which runs from 1st July to 30th June. The good news is that the average return for working holiday makers is around $2,000 AUD – more money to spend on your travels! I used taxback.com both years I worked in Australia and found them super helpful. Find more info here.
9. You can only work for the same employer for 6 months
The main purpose of a working holiday visa is to give you the opportunity of an extended holiday whilst topping up your travel funds with short term work. Because of this, you’re not allowed to work for the same company for more than 6 months. Why move to the other side of the world just to work full time in an office for a year?
As I’ve said, my first job in Australia was at an events company in Sydney, but in Melbourne I worked at an appointment-setting company for a few weeks and, after that, as a barista on Collins Street. In between jobs I travelled, soaked up the sights, and exploring the east coast in a campervan, and I’m so glad I didn’t dedicate my entire 2 years in the country to working.
Speaking of staying for 2 years…
10. If you want to stay for another year, you’ll need to complete 3 months (88 days) of regional work
Your first year in Australia will be over before you know it. After all, time flies when you’re having fun. If you want to stay for another year, though, you’ll need to complete 3 months (88 days) of ‘specified’ work in regional Australia and apply for an Australia Second Working Holiday Visa. Many backpackers do this by finding work on farms in the outback, picking fruit, or working in construction, but make sure the company you’re working for is based in one of the specific postcodes that count as ‘regional Australia’.
I spent 3 months working on a vineyard just outside of Bendigo. Yes, it was hard work. Yes, at times I couldn’t think of anything worse than being met by another poisonous spider as I picked grapes in the sweltering heat, but it was honestly so, SO worth it to get another year in Australia. For more information on getting and applying for a second year in Australia click here.
Would you be tempted to visit Australia on a working holiday visa now?
Just so you know: this post is part of a collaboration, but all information and time spent in Australia doing the research is my own.