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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.

See also the following websites:

GoVolunteer (www.govolunteer.com.au) Thousands of volunteering opportunities around the country.

Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) Travel to Australia and take up a fixed-term volunteering position when you arrive.

Volunteering Australia (www.volunteeringaustralia.org) State-by-state listings of volunteering opportunities around Australia.

Australian Volunteers International (www.australianvolunteers.com) Places skilled volunteers into indigenous communities in northern and central Australia (mostly long-term placements). Occasional short-term unskilled opportunities too, helping out at community-run roadhouses.

Conservation Volunteers Australia (www.conservationvolunteers.com.au) Nonprofit organisation involved in tree planting, walking-track construction, and flora and fauna surveys.

Earthwatch Institute Australia (www.earthwatch.org) Volunteer expeditions that focus on conservation and wildlife.

i to i Volunteering (www.i-to-i.com) Conservation-based volunteer holidays in Australia.

STA (www.statravel.com.au) Volunteer holiday opportunities in Australia − click on 'Planning' on their website then the volunteering link.

Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF: www.wwoof.com.au) WWOOFing is where you do a few hours work each day on a farm in return for bed and board. Most hosts are concerned to some extent with alternative lifestyles, and have a minimum stay of two nights. Join online for $70. You’ll get a membership number and a booklet listing participating enterprises ($5 overseas postage).


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 (417) or Work and Holiday (462) visa – 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.

See also the following websites, good for opportunities in metropoliotan areas:

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 (1800 062 332) for more information about when and where you're likely to pick up this sort of work.

Note that due to the complexities of visa situations, many local visitor information centres and backpacker hostels are stepping away from assisting travellers in finding work. To avoid disappointment, never put a deposit down to reserve a fruit-picking job, and never pay for fruit-picking accommodation in advance.

Other resources include:

Harvest Trail (www.jobsearch.gov.au/harvesttrail) Harvest job specialists.

QITE (www.qite.com) Nonprofit Queensland employment agency operating around Cairns, Innisfail and the Atherton Tablelands.

Viterra (www.viterra.com.au) Seasonal grain harvest jobs in Victoria and South Australia (October to January).

Workabout Australia (www.workaboutaustralia.com.au) Gives a state-by-state breakdown of seasonal work opportunities.

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 mining towns such as Weipa and Cloncurry.

SA Good seasonal-work opportunities can be found on the Fleurieu Peninsula, in the 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're working in Australia, 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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