Work Work Work Work Work… in Australia

I just couldn’t write a ‘work’ title without quoting Rihanna. So, working in Australia as a backpacker… Before we arrived in Oz I was trying to find information on what its like to work here; what the pay is like, how to find jobs etc; and I found it really difficult to find detailed information from real backpackers. Hence this blog post…

Visas, Bank Accounts & Tax File Number

Visa –

The logical place to start with when talking about working in Australia, is to discuss what you will need to be able to get a job here. So firstly, you will need a working visa; now I don’t work for the department of immigration so I can’t tell you about all the different types; what I can tell you about is my visa. I have a working holiday visa (subclass 417) which cost me around $470 and it permits me to stay in Oz for 12 months from the date that I enter the country. I applied for the visa online in England; as I have no criminal convictions, it was granted almost immediately and sent to me via email. Be careful when applying for your visa as there are a number of websites that pop up on google; you need to go on the official Australia Department of Immigration website, nothing else. The visa is then automatically linked to my passport, so technically you do not need to bring a paper copy of this with you, however, I would advise that you do print off a copy of the visa grant letter and bring it with you, just in case of any complications. Another thing I was concerned about is the condition of the visa that states you will need to have at least $5000 in your bank account to enter the country. This is Australian law, but we weren’t asked for any bank statements upon entering the country and I’m still to hear or read about someone who has been refused entry on this condition. So back to the visa itself, my visa allows me to work for Australian employers for up to 1 year, but not for the same employer for more than 6 months. Employers don’t usually ask to see any visa documentation, but it is good to have your visa details handy just in case you need to refer to them for any reason. This visa also allows me to leave and re-enter the country as many times as I like in the 1 year that it is valid for.


Bank Account –

We sorted our bank account through STA travel before we left England by purchasing a ‘working holiday starter pack’; this meant that STA arranged everything for us with Commonwealth Bank and all we had to do was take in our passports and sign a couple of things. I’d recommend the starter package if you’re new to traveling, as everything can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. However, if you feel like you can handle it, it’s really not difficult to open a bank account as Australia is pretty relaxed on checks etc, you don’t need 100 different forms of ID like you do in England, just a passport should be enough to open a bank account here. You should receive an email from your bank containing your Swift code/BIC, IBAN, BSB and account number. Your BSB is like an English sort code, you will need this and your account number to give to employers. If you’re not sure what numbers you need to transfer money from home just ask the bank and they will go through it with you. Unlike England, you can only draw out money from a cashpoint which belongs to your bank, unless it’s one which charges you, then they usually allow all banks. You will need to deposit some money into your Australian account to activate it, I’d recommend transferring a large amount from England to Oz at once as banks charge to send money abroad; for example, I bank with Santander at home and they charge around 30 pounds for an overseas transfer. The two most popular banks in Oz seem to be Commonwealth and St George’s. As I said, I’m with Commonwealth and their online banking is really good, you can also deposit cash into certain ATM’s which will clear in your account almost immediately. This is useful if your oversea’s transfer is taking longer than you thought; you can withdraw money from your English account and put it straight in your Australian so you can start using your debit card and not be charged like you would with your English card. On the subject of debit cards; like we have ‘contactless’ at home, Australians have ‘paypass’ it works in the exact same way, except that there is no limit to the amount you can use ‘paypass’ for in a day. Just a little tip – you can choose your internet banking password and card pin – I changed mine to the same as my English account just to avoid any confusion. Finally, something which I wasn’t aware of, when you pay for things in shops or withdraw money, you will be asked to select and account; ‘credit’, ‘savings’ or ‘cheque’. If you go to withdraw money when you arrive and it is declined, don’t panic! Its most likely that you have selected the wrong account so just try a different one and it should work. Generally, when using English cards you need to select ‘credit’ and when using Australian you need to select ‘savings’.


Tax File Number

Finally there is the matter of your Tax File Number, more commonly referred to as TFN; this is basically the Australian version of your National Insurance Number. Again, STA sorted this for us and it was emailed to us about 3 weeks after we arrived in Oz. If you want to keep costs to a minimum and do it yourself, its pretty easy to get, you just apply online yourself on the government website and they will email or post you the TFN. If you want to start work and your TFN hasn’t arrived you can, you just have to make sure you fill out your tax forms correctly, stating that you are awaiting a TFN; if you’re really confused by the forms most employers will be able to explain them to you; they can’t tell you what to write but can explain what each question means if you’re not sure.


Finding a Job

If you’re looking for  work in Australia which isn’t Regional Work then the Cities are a good place to start, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane are pretty popular for office and construction work. Unlike England, most Australian employers are quite used to employing people on a temporary basis and will state on the job advert ‘Australian residents only’ or ‘no backpackers’ if otherwise. Try not to panic when looking for a job as if you’re making the effort to apply for jobs and have a half decent CV, someone will employ you. Just a quick CV tip – Australian employers prefer a much more simplified CV, not much more than a page; just a short bio, dates of employment, what the job entailed and your skills. Its also good to get an Australian SIM card so that employers can contact you easily, as they are much less likely to give you a chance if you have an English phone number on your CV. The easiest ways to find a job in Australia are to apply for anything and everything, sign up to recruitment agencies and download some job search apps. Some popular recruitment agencies and jobsites which I’ve used are SEEK, Indeed, Backpacker Job Board, LabourHire, Hays and Gumtree. Just try to avoid anything that mentions ‘charity fundraising’ as they advertise these jobs to you as ‘you could earn up to $1500 a week!’. Obviously in reality most people don’t earn that much and the job is usually mainly commission based without an hourly rate. However, if you’re willing to risk it, looking to have a good time and travel; some fundraising companies offer road trips with an hourly rate which can be a good way to meet people, travel and earn money at the same time. After we’d been actively looking for jobs for about 3 weeks in Sydney, we were all able to find decent work to fund our travels for the next few months, all paying $21-$25 an hour.

Pay $$$$

Another point which most blogs were quite vague on when I was researching, is how much Australian employers pay. I’ll simply tell you what I’ve experienced while living and working in Sydney. Here are a list of common backpacker jobs and their average wage:

  • Office/Admin – $25-$30 p/h
  • Call Centre – $25-$30 p/h (plus commission in some jobs)
  • AuPair/Childcare – $20-$30 p/h (depending on if your accommodation is included)
  • Construction – $25 p/h(unskilled)
  • Construction – $30-$35 p/h (skilled)
  • Theme Park – $21 p/h
  • Bar Work –  $22-$30 p/h
  • Waitress –  $22-$30 p/h
  • Kitchen Hand – $18-$25 p/h
  • Courier – $16-$25 p/h (depending on & plus extra per delivery)
  • Fruit Picking – $22-$25 p/h (try to avoid farms that pay by the bucket)



–  which are compulsory for certain jobs



Something else which I wasn’t aware of before arriving in Oz is that certain jobs require you to have taken a course and own a card to prove it. To be more specific; to work in a bar or anywhere that serves alcohol you will need an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) Card. The course usually costs around $100 and is completed in a day, but don’t panic – it’s almost impossible to fail, you are pretty much given the answers by the instructor. The RSA law varies from state to state, so I’ll try to put this simply; if you obtain an RSA card in Victoria it is valid in all states but NSW and if you obtain an RSA in NSW it is valid everywhere but Victoria.  The card takes roughly 3 weeks to arrive but as long as you have passed the course you can begin applying for bar work.



Similarly, there is the RCG (Responsible Conduct of Gambling), this costs around $85 and is similar to the RSA, with some companies offering a RSA & RCG bundle deal. For both the RSA and RCG you need to turn up to a training course for the day, they cannot be done online.

White Card

Before you can work in construction you will need to obtain a white card; unlike the RSA and RCG this course can be done online. It can take a few hours and costs around $50, again the card will take approx 3 weeks to arrive but you can still begin work as long as the course has been completed. The white card will allow you to work in construction and is simply a course on basic health and safety on a building site. Again, don’t panic, the answers are already there, you just need to find the relevant paragraph and scroll back down to the question to give the correct answer.


There are number of other cards and courses you may need for different jobs in Australia, I’ve just listed the most common ones above. If you have a specific job in mind before arriving in Oz, I would just do a bit of research into what maybe required to be able to work in that industry. Try not to be overwhelmed when reading about the different cards and courses; as most of the time it sounds much more complicated than it actually is. In reality an employer will state the requirements on the job advert, you then go online to book a course, you then complete the course and apply for the job; a few weeks later your card will arrive in the post.


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