How to find work in Australia

When I tell people that I spent 18 months in Australia and I drove around the entire country in a campervan they automatically assume that I must be loaded. Australia is an expensive country for us Brits so, while I wish I was loaded, I had to work really hard to be able to do that.

Before travelling to Australia I spent three months in Asia so I arrived with very little money. I had about £1,500 and anyone who has been to Australia will know that this won’t last you very long at all.

I ended up having a few different jobs in Australia and thanks to the exchange rate I actually left with a healthy bank balance. I even saved enough to spend a further three months in Asia on the way home and then I arrived home with enough to set myself up and buy a car etc too.

I want to tell you about the jobs I had in Australia to show that anyone can work out there. I hear lots of travellers saying that it’s hard to find work and it’s impossible to get your second year working holiday visa (you can get a second year by working somewhere rural for three months). It is difficult but it isn’t impossible. The jobs I had weren’t skilled at all but I did have to work hard for them. Wages in Australia are brilliant so even my basic waitressing jobs paid around $23 an hour with tips on top.

Campervan in Australia

Our wheels (and home!) for 18 months in Australia

I also want to show that you don’t need to save tens of thousands of pounds to travel. Of course, you need some money saved in case of emergencies and in case it takes you a few weeks to find work but working and travelling at the same time is a great way to see the world.

While I was in Australia we would work for about 3 months and then travel for 2-3 months before settling somewhere else and working again for a few months. I was with my boyfriend so travelling in a couple or a pair can cut costs.

My jobs in Australia

Job #1 – Waitress for events and parties, Sydney

The week I arrived in Sydney I did the Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) course which enables you to serve alcohol in Australia. If you haven’t done this course you can’t serve any alcohol at all so you won’t be able to work in bars and restaurants. Its super simple, you’re basically just told not to serve people who seem drunk. Remember that you need a different RSA in each state.

Once I had my RSA I signed up with Troy’s Hospitality, a company that organizes business events and parties. Working for an agency means that virtually anyone is given a first chance and you’re then offered more work based on your performance.  I’d worked as a waitress since I was 14 so with seven years experience I was quickly booked up. I worked everything from 21st birthday parties to sports events to corporate events. It wasn’t the most exciting job but it gave me an insight into the rich, famous and wealthy lives in Sydney so I had a lot of fun.

Job #2 – Magazine subscriptions

OK, this one sounds a bit weird but for six weeks I worked in an office doing magazine subscription renewals. It was just before Christmas so all I was doing was renewing the orders from people who bought magazine subscriptions as Christmas presents. It was basic data entry but the entire team were backpackers so we had a lot of fun and it was very well paid at about $26 an hour.

This job also fed my magazine addiction!


Work for a few months and then spend a  few months hanging out on beaches like this. Not a bad way to travel. Photo taken in Exmouth, Western Australia.

Job #2 – Waitress in a café, Melbourne

After a few months in Sydney we spent three weeks relaxing and travelling before settling in St Kilda on the outskirts of Melbourne. It was harder to find work in Melbourne and there just didn’t seem to be much available.

I ended up working the morning shift in coffee shop that overlooked St Kilda beach. I began work at 6am and finished after lunch so had the rest of the day to chill out on the beach. Again, this was well paid and the tips were high too. I also got my breakfast and lunch every day so that saved me some pennies.

Job #3 – Waitress in a restaurant, Melbourne

I was always finished with job #2 by 2pm so 2-3 evenings a week I also worked in a restaurant for another 6 hour dinner shift. This was tough doing the two jobs in one day but each shift brought in an extra $150 that I couldn’t turn down.

Job #4 – Working on a scuba diving and fishing island, Mackerel Island

This is where the jobs get interesting as I spent five months working on an island that people visited for scuba diving and fishing. My jobs could include anything from waiting tables, serving behind the bar, cleaning, driving people across the island in the 4x4s, helping people unload their boats when they arrived at the island, going on fishing trips or serving in the shop.

It was so hot on the island so we only worked in the mornings and evenings which gave us the entire day to scuba dive, swim, take walks and generally hang out and experience island life.

Just 8 people worked on the island so we became a close group and had a lot of fun together.

One of the main benefits of working on the island was the food and accommodation was included so we saved virtually every cent we earned over five months. We had to buy our own beers but more often than not the guests would buy them for us so my boyfriend and I left with close to $20,000.

The reason we got this job was because they were looking for a couple. The island was very isolated so couples work best and it means they save on accommodation too. They wanted a female with hospitality experience and a male with a trade (my boyfriend is a plumber). The island was very much separated by ‘boy jobs’ and ‘girl jobs’ which suited me perfectly as I got to work in an air-conditioned shop while the boys fed fish guts to the sharks.

Mackerel Island

Sunset on Mackerel Island

The Travel Hack Mackerel Islands

Life of Mackerel Island

Job #5

The fifth and final job was the hardest but the best paid. The previous year my boyfriend had worked as a delivery driver delivering Christmas hampers. They asked him to go back the following year as a warehouse manager during the Christmas hamper delivery period. I went along with him for the interview and they asked me to be the receptionist/assistant manager/admin person.

I was in charge of making sure the drivers knew where to take the hampers and sorted out any damages or complaints.

If there weren’t any problems I had very little to do so this is when I started blogging properly!

The reason this job was so hard was because we worked 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week for 8 weeks. We were paid really well and had very little time to spend our hard earned money so we saved up another hefty chunk.

How to find jobs in Australia

[icon_x] Don’t bother applying for jobs before you arrive. No one will offer you an interview so you’ll be disheartened and get worried.

[icon_x] Don’t apply for anything but it’s worth searching to see what’s out there.

[icon_check] Once you arrive, apply for as many jobs as possible online. You’ll find that most jobs are advertised through agencies who will call you in for an interview and they’ll see if they have anything else that is suitable for you.

[icon_check] If you’re looking for bar/café/restaurant work then you should go in in person. Print off 50 CVs and take them into all the bars in person. Ask to speak to the manager and introduce yourself and you’ll get a much better response than if you just phone or email. Go in when they’re quiet (opening time is always good) so they have time to speak to you.

[icon_check] Check hostel boards for jobs. Many businesses looking for casual workers will advertise in hostels where they know they have hundreds of people looking for work.

[icon_check] Stay in hostels to hear word of mouth recommendations.

[icon_check] Check Gumtree – we found out jobs on the island through Gumtree so don’t discount it as a spammy website.

The Travel Hack in Australia

Tips for working in Australia

You need to have a working holiday visa or a student visa to work in Australia

  • When you arrive, set up a bank account and apply for your tax code. You need an address for both of these but you can use a hostel if you need to.
  • Don’t be a typical backpacker by turning up to work hungover and generally being unreliable. Backpackers come and go really quickly so it can only take a couple of months to be promoted to a managerial position when you’re working somewhere with other backpackers.
  • To get your second year working holiday visa you need to work somewhere rural and not in hospitality. This doesn’t mean you need to work on a farm picking fruit, I got my second year through working on the island.
  • Claim your tax back before you leave (I used Peter Pan’s travel agency) and you’ll have a lovely chunk of money in time for when you get home.
  • Have fun! It isn’t all doom and gloom when you’re working in Australia. I had some of the best times ever while I was working and it’s a great way to make new friends and meet the locals.

If you have any questions about working in Australia, just let me know in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.

And if you’ve worked in Australia, tell us about your jobs!

My friend and fellow travel blogger, Beverley from Pack Your Passport, has made a really useful video about working holidays visas in Australia. Definitely give it a watch if you’re planning to work in Australia.


Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a professional blogger and has travelled around the world in search of stylish adventure travel.Monica has recently had her second baby and is determined to prove that travelling with a baby is possible!

SHOWHIDE Comments (38)
  1. Great and very helpful post! I love what kind of jobs people actually find in Australia. I once worked as a car washer. It’s funny how you try the most different things. That’s what I really liked about my time in Oz. The tips in the end are very useful for people planning to go there!

    1. So true. I know so many people who would never consider certain jobs when at home but it’s different when you’re travelling. You’re happy to give anything a go and to have some fun.

  2. Very helpful & enlightening post! Thank you very much! I’m not planning to go to Australia right away, but I’ll pin this and keep it in mind, should I ever need it. 🙂

  3. Two points you made I disagree with:
    “* Don’t bother applying for jobs before you arrive. No one will offer you an interview so you’ll be disheartened and get worried.
    * Don’t apply for anything but it’s worth searching to see what’s out there.”

    If you’re applying for cafe work online, that’s fair enough but if you want to work in a more specialised job (Eg. a trade, using a specific skill set, etc.) approach companies BEFORE you get to Australia, but don’t start no more than 2-months out.
    For example, both of my parents businesses are always looking for staff to train and, should they want to, keep on after their interim period. This is a mechanical job and they are happy to hear from people before they arrive in the country (or even better – phone them!) but would prefer a face-to-face meet with them upon arrival.

    Also, what I advise friends – if you’re having trouble finding work in the city move into the country and get your country work done (should you want to extend your visa past a year). Too many times friends have done that, fallen in love with the country and then instead of coming back to party in the big city with me they stay in that gorgeous, scenic country town.

    Know it’s not exactly about job hunting but ANOTHER thing, consider applying for jobs in the outer suburbs, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne where it’s harder to get jobs and the public transport connections are still great!

    1. Thanks so much for that Nicole. It’s great to hear from a local about this too.

      This was just my personal experience but I found that no one wanted to speak to me before I’d actually arrived, even when I gave them the specific date I arrived on. A lot of friends had the same problem but maybe it was because we were applying for less skilled work.

      Definitely agree with moving out to the country or outer suburbs too although I think you need to be careful not to get caught in the normal 9-5 work trap which happens a lot easier in the suburbs. I worked in Newcastle for a while and my life out there was basically the same as it is over here, just hotter!

  4. Very impressed with your post. Some really good advice for travelers from overseas wishing to work their way around Oz. Its nice to see such positive and encouraging information getting out to others. Sounds like you have a great personality to go with your hard work. Well done!

  5. Great post, very helpfull and nice to read!

    I’ll be leaving in April next year to work and travel in Australia for 6 months! After that I’ll be going to many other places, staying away for 2 years. Ahhh so excited!!

    I will start in Melbourne for a couple of months and after that I’d like to travel and work. I do have a question. I heard that if you work 6 months or longer that you will receive your tax back. Where can I find the exact rules for this? Because I don’t want to stay to long in Australia.

    Maybee I’ll stay 3 months in Melbourne and after that travel and work. But what if it will take me a week or so before I find a new job. Will I have to stay 6 months and 1 week in Australia? Or don’t they look this carefully?

    Hope to find some answers. Looking forward to your reaction, thank you!


    1. Hi Kim. You can claim ALL of your tax back in Australia and (I think) it doesn’t matter how long you work for or where you work. You don’t need to work in one place for 6 months. I went to a backpacker’s agency called Peter Pan’s and they did mine for me. I’m sure there was a fee but it made everything much easier for me and they claimed my tax back again a year later and sent it to me in the UK.

      And I would give yourself much more than a week to find work. You might find work immediately but it could take you a month and Australia is a very expensive country to be without work for a month.

  6. This makes me even more motivated to move to Australia on a working holiday visa! Thank you so much for this post and all of these helpful tips! I will definitely be referring back to this post when the time comes to make the big move ????

  7. Hi monica, My boyfriend and I are planning to travel around australia for a year in a campervan as well! You’re blog has been really helpful! We were just wondering about the job and money situation, we have heard that it is quite difficult to get a regular job like the ones you and your boyfriend had, is this really the case? I don’t have any experience with bar/waitressing work, would it still be relatively easy to find bar/waitressing work without this experience? You said in this post that you don’t need tens of thousands of pounds to travel around Australia, however you did work a lot during your time travelling. We were only planning on doing our three months rural work, how much money would you suggest we should take with us, we are also wanting to go to New Zealand and planning on spending a few months travelling around south east asia? thanks 🙂

  8. hello,
    I am doing my masters in Melbourne which is a two year program, and would like to work part time while there. Can you explain the tax back concept? Why do you get tax back? Just for not being a citizen? Will I still get a tax refund if I am there as a student?


    1. Hi Shaye, I’m sorry but I’m not sure how it works if you’re a student. I was on a working holiday visa rather than a student visa. On a WHV you get it back because you’re not a resident and you claim it back when you leave. Your employer can normally help and will know more about it.

  9. Hi

    Me and my boyfriend are looking to travel to Australia for 6 months if possible then look at travelling to asia for 3 months then Thailand then back to Australia for a year.

    Is it possible to do this and how much would we need? Can we stay in private rooms or a camper van we dont really want to share in the dorms.

    Any advice will be great 🙂 thank you

  10. I’ll be going to Australia next year and I’m really worried about finding a job. Hopefully everything will go well, but I’m having sleepless nights haha!

  11. Very good post, very informative! I’ve been living in Sydney without a job for a few months, and it was difficult. But I managed to make money on the side to survive:)

  12. Hi!
    I am finding your blogs so helpful!
    Me and my boyfriend are 23 and thinking of going to Aus for a year on working visas. Its all a bit daunting and i am worried about one of us getting a job and the other not. Or getting totally different shifts! How dd you overcome this? Is there any easy way of finding work as a couple?

  13. Hi Monica,

    Your blog spurred me to move to Australia and now I love Sydney! I am planning to begin my regional work in two months and loved the sound of Mackerel Islands I know you did your trip around 4 years ago but I wondered how you managed to pass it as regional work as the conditions are you are not allowed to work in hospitality?

    I hope to hear from you.

    Courtney xxx

    1. Hi Courtney,
      We didn’t say we did hospitality work, I think we marked it as something else – maybe agricultural work? We knew a few other backpackers had worked there previously and got theirs passed so we just gave it a go. We applied and within a few hours it was passed! We may have needed our boss to sign it off so you’ll need an understanding boss.
      It wasn’t a total lie as some of our jobs were more agricultural than hospitality focused – particularly for my partner.

  14. Hello!

    I’m planning on going to Australia next year for a year. I want to travel in a camper van but wondered how easy it was to find camp sites down the east cost? Are there loads or do you have to work hard to find them?

    Hope to hear from you!

    Lucy xx

    1. Oh no there are loads of them. You’ll see signs on the road for the next campsite or you could find them online and prebook. If you just do a Google search ‘Campsites in xxxx’ then you’ll get loads of suggestions for each destination you’re visiting. We didn’t prebook any of our campsites btw. I hope that helps!

  15. Hello Monica!

    We are flying to Australia tomorrow, and as we searched the internet for information we saw your blog. We were very inspired by what you wrote, and we were wondering if you could share with us the name of the place you worked at in Mackerel Island? It sounds incredible, and since we are a couple, and have experience both in hospitality and in working with our hands – we think we can be a great match (and of course – we would love to live on an island!).

    If it’s possible, please let us know here or in this email – [email protected]

    Only the best and continue to travel,

    Oded and Hanna

  16. Hello I just want to ask regarding visa. I will travel to Perth on January 2018 and having tourist visa. Is it possible to get bridging visa after Im arrived and is it easy to find work using tourist visa

    1. I’m not sure about the bridging visa. I think it probably depends where you’re from so you’re best off looking on the government website.
      As for finding work on a tourist visa, it really depends what skills and experience you have. I think if you’re skilled, experienced and a nice person then you won’t have any problem at all finding work.

  17. Hi, this blog was so helpful as We’re considering buying a campervan and travelling/working around Australia too.
    When you were working, we’re you staying in a campervan or in property? I wondered of you needed an actual address for pay/tax reasons. Or was it acceptable to put a campsite as your address?

    1. No, we didn’t live in the van while we were actually working. It would have been possible if we worked somewhere fairly remote but in the cities it can be expensive to keep the van parked somewhere you can actually sleep in it. And yes, you’ll need an address for tax and when you first register. I was lucky because my cousin lived in Sydney so we used his address but lots of people use hostel addresses too. So you could stay at a hostel for a week while you get everything set up. I hope that helps!

  18. Hi my son is in Sydney and rapidly running out of money. He’s waiting for his tax file. Is it possible to get any work while he’s waiting for this? Where could he find those kind of jobs? Regards Diane

    1. He can’t legally work without a tax file number. But that’s not to say there aren’t cash in hand jobs available. I knew a lot of lads who worked as labourers for cash. It’s best to ask around hostels as these jobs usually come from word of mouth recommendations. Best of luck to him!

  19. Hey! Did you have your camper van the whole time in Aus? Whilst you were working etc… Or did you work and then get the camper van to travel after? 🙂

    1. We had it for most of the time. We worked on an island for 6 months and we stored it on the mainland while we worked. We worked for a bit and travelled for a bit and then worked a bit more….

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