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Working and volunteering


Lonely Planet's Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World provides useful information about volunteering.


Work visas If you come to Australia on a tourist visa then you're not allowed to work for pay: you'll need a working holiday visa (417) or work and holiday visa (462) – visit www.immi.gov.au for details.

Finding work Backpacker magazines, newspapers and hostel noticeboards are good places to source local work opportunities. Casual work can often be found during peak season at the major tourist centres: places such as Alice Springs, Cairns and resort towns along the Queensland coast, and the ski fields of Victoria and NSW are all good prospects during holiday season. Other possibilities for casual employment include factory work, labouring, bar work, waiting tables, domestic chores at outback roadhouses, nanny work, working as a station hand and collecting for charities. People with computer, secretarial, nursing and teaching skills can find work temping in the major cities by registering with a relevant agency.

Seasonal Work

Seasonal fruit-picking (harvesting) relies on casual labour − there's always something that needs to be picked, pruned or farmed somewhere in Australia all year round. It's definitely hard work, involving early morning starts, and you're usually paid by how much you pick (per bin, bucket, kilo etc). Expect to earn about $50 to $60 a day to start with; more when your skills and speed improve. Some work, such as pruning or sorting, is paid at around $15 per hour.

Call the National Harvest Telephone Information Service for more information about when and where you're likely to pick up this sort of work.

Seasonal Work Hot spots

NSW The NSW ski fields have seasonal work during the ski season, particularly around Thredbo. There's also harvest work around Narrabri and Moree, and grape picking in the Hunter Valley. Fruit picking happens near Tenterfield, Orange and Young.

NT The majority of working-holiday opportunities in the NT for backpackers are in fruit picking, station handing, labouring and hospitality.

Queensland Queensland has vast tracts of farmland and orchards: there's fruit picking work to be found around Stanthorpe, Childers, Bundaberg and Cairns. Those looking for sturdier (and much better-paying) work should keep an eye on mining opportunities in growth mining towns such as Weipa and Cloncurry.

SA Good seasonal-work opportunities can be found on the Fleurieu Peninsula, Coonawarra region and Barossa Valley (wineries), and along the Murray River around Berri (fruit picking).

Tasmania The apple orchards in the south, especially around Cygnet and Huonville, are your best bet for work in Tassie.

Victoria Harvest work in Mildura and Shepparton.

WA In Perth, plenty of temporary work is available in tourism and hospitality, administration, IT, nursing, child care, factories and labouring. Outside of Perth, travellers can easily get jobs in tourism and hospitality, plus a variety of seasonal work. For grape-picking work, head for the vineyards around Margaret River.


Paying Tax & Tax Refunds

Even with a Tax File Number, nonresidents (including working holiday visa holders) pay a considerably higher rate of tax than most Australian residents. For a start, there's no tax-free threshold − you pay tax on every dollar you earn.

Because you have been paid wages in Australia, you must lodge a tax return with the ATO: see the website for info on how to do this, including getting a Payment Summary (an official summary of your earnings and tax payments) from your employer, timing/dates for lodging your tax return, and how to receive your Notice of Assessment.

Bear in mind that you're not entitled to a refund for the tax you paid − you will only receive a refund if too much tax was withheld from your pay. If you didn't pay enough while you were working then you will have to pay more. You are, however, entitled to any superannuation that you have accumulated.

Tax File Number

If you have a working holiday visa, you should apply for a Tax File Number (TFN). Without it, tax will be deducted at the maximum rate from any wages you receive. Apply for a TFN online via the Australian Taxation Office (www.ato.gov.au); it takes up to four weeks to be issued.

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