This post is 6 years overdue, thats right, SIX YEARS!!!
Even though I have all of this information on my Facebook account I've been asked repeatedly time and time again to create a "proper" blog post about Working in Australia.
For those of you who don't know, I have been recruiting Working Holiday Makers for jobs across Western Australia since 2007 and its been my own business since 2010, where I have been running it solely through my Facebook account.
If your wondering how I came into this industry, I injured my knee quite severely in 2006 whilst shooting in far north WA. After a year off I realised (and from the pressure of my surgeon) I couldn't work as a photographer and so fell into this "desk job".
Now I juggle recruiting, social media and photography all into one.
I'm a bit of an urban myth in the backpacker circles, you either know about me or you don't. I have past, present and future Australian WHM on my friends list on Facebook, my name gets passed around and I'm constantly being sought out for both recruiting purposes and Tourism bodies and businesses wanting to gain access to my backpacker network.
I'm a small "boutique" operator and I wouldn't have it any other way!
So here it is, what you need to know about working in Australia
The no bullshit, comprehensive advice coming from a professional in the industry!
Working your way around whilst travelling is the best way to see and experience a country plus save for your next adventure. Within your year (or two) of working in and around Australia you could find yourself completely out of your comfort zone and doing many different things you never thought you would ever do in your life. This is part of the travelling experience and you feel like you actually had a holiday rather than simply doing the exact same thing as you would back home. Working on a farm could get you outside and in to the famous Australian outback and hospitality could find you either in a country pub meeting the locals or on a magnificent resort in an exotic location.
Whatever you choose to do or wherever you choose to work, it will definitely be like no other experience.
Things you need and need to know!
- A mobile phone
When applying for jobs you will need to be contactable. The best service provider with the most amount of coverage in Australia is Telstra NextG, Optus, Vodafone and 3 are great if you’re staying in the cities and their metropolitan areas, but if you’re planning on travelling to and through rural locations (particularly if you’re planning to do farm work) you won’t get any service once you leave the metropolitan areas. Australia is a massive country with loads of desolate space between towns and cities Telstra NextG will also cover you in most of these areas, which you need to consider for safety reasons. I've seen first hand many travellers get stuck because they cannot call for help. Optus is also a good cheaper option as it will get reception in most of the major towns.
- A bank account
You must have an Australian bank account for your wages to be paid into. You do not need any money to open an account however you will need 100 points of ID (passport + drivers licence or ID card/credit card.) and an address to send your debit card out to. If you have only been in the country for 6 weeks or less your passport will be enough identification. An everyday account is the best option for travellers as they have the least amount of fees & charges. CBA (Commonwealth Bank Australia) have the most ATM’s and branches across Australia as they are partnered with Bankwest. The next best options are Westpac, NAB or ANZ. Currently in Australia you will be charged around $2 if you use an ATM which is not affiliated with your bank. An ATM will always show you on the screen what that ATM transaction will cost you and you can choose to continue or cancel, the generic ATM’s (non bank ATM’s) will always charge the most. So next time you’re in the pub watch out for that ATM…it may cost you more than you bargained for!
- A Tax File Number
If you are working in Australia, you will need a Tax File Number (TFN). This can be done online at www.ato.gov.au. On the ATO homepage under "Individuals" click on to “get a tax file number" Click on “permanent migrant or temporary visitor” then click “apply for a tax file number” then just follow the prompts clicking “next” as you go. It will take up to 10 working days for your TFN to be posted out to you.
With every employer you will be required to fill out a pink a Tax File Declaration. Your employer will supply you with one of these forms, otherwise they can be found at any newsagency. If you are waiting for your TFN to come through when you are employed simply tick the first box in Section A
ABN: (Australian Business Number) an ABN is a number issued by the ATO and every business in Australia must have one for tax purposes. With travellers it is used for contractors mainly in the building industry. If you are asked if you have an ABN you are able to apply for one with the ATO, but be aware you will not have tax taken out of your pay and will have to pay a lump sum tax when you do your return. Also be aware you may have to write invoices, may not get paid straight away and have to wait weeks and in some cases months for payment of your services. You will also not get paid any superannuation.
All employees must have tax paid for them by employer. The end of June each year marks the end of financial year. In July you will receive a group certificate from all your employers detailing the total amount you have earned for the period of time you worked for them and the total amount of tax you have paid. It is up to you to leave forwarding addresses with you employers so you can receive your group certificates. You can either do your tax online or choose to hire an accountant to do it for you. The relationship you have with the tax department is between you and the office. If you are unsure of any tax issues, the people to contact are the Australian Tax Office. There is a misconception that working holiday makers get all their tax back. You only get the amount you have overpaid in tax, not all of it. Tax refunds depend on many different factors, this includes, length of employment and amount of tax paid. The way the ATO calculates the tax is averaged over the full financial year (July-June). For example if you have only worked half of the year and paid 29% tax (the WHM tax bracket) you will get most of it back. If you have worked the full year and continually paid tax at residents rate of 15% you will hardly get anything back.As of July 2012 the tax free threshold is $18K. For more comprehensive information on tax read my Facebook note about tax.
Tax Deductions: If you need to purchase anything for work purposes keep your receipts and you can claim it as a tax deduction when you do your tax return. Items such as work boots, courses (RSA, RSG, Blue Card) and any other items you need to purchase for work can be claimed. If you are working on a farm you can also claim a work hat and sunscreen as you are working outside and need sun protection. You can also claim $300 worth of non-receipted items.
Superannuation is a retirement fund and all employees must have superannuation paid into a fund for them by their employer if they earn over $450 per month. The amount paid is 9% of your gross pay. It is paid on top of your salary and not taken out of your wages. All employees can choose their superannuation fund. The best way to open a fund is through your bank when you open your bank account. Both CBA & Westpac have a deal where you can open a super account when you open your everyday account. If you’re not sure, your first employer will nominate one for you. Keep a record of the fund’s name and account number. Every time you are employed by a new employer you will be asked for your Superannuation details. Simply hand over the details and your new employers will keep adding to your account, most employers pay superannuation quarterly, so don’t stress if you don’t see it on your account straight away.
At the end of your time in Australia when your visa has expired (and once you have left the country permanently) you are entitled to get your superannuation back minus tax. Again you can go to www.ato.gov.au to download the forms. Once in the ATO website go to the drop down menu on the left What do you want to do?” click “check your superannuation” once in the super menu click “Temporary Residents” another drop down menu will appear click on Temporary residents - Departing Australia in this window there is a menu box on the right hand side. Click on “application” once in this page choose which ever payment and application suits you best.
- Workers Compensation
Workers Compensation is insurance taken out by employers to cover any injuries an employee incurs whilst on the job. The insurance covers all medical bills and in some cases time off whilst getting medical treatment. Be careful taking “cash” jobs because if you have an accident you will not be covered and will have to pay for all your medical bills. Also be aware if you have an ABN and are working as a contractor as you may or may not be covered with Workers Comp, it varies from place to place, so best to check beforehand. Nearly every employer has Workers Compensation insurance. Also be aware that each state has different laws regarding Workers Comp. The WA site for workers Comp is http://www.workcover.wa.gov.au
Medicare is the Australian public health fund. The Australian government has signed reciprocal health care agreement with certain countries. This agreement entitles people from the signed countries to use the system whilst in Australia. This means that if you are sick or injured you are able to visit the Australian public hospitals for free and have subsidised treatments with doctors outside the public hospitals. The doctors will either swipe your Medicare card and you pay the gap or you pay the full amount and get the difference reimbursed at any Medicare office. There will be some doctors who “bulk bill” this means that when they swipe your card there is no gap to pay.
People from UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland, Norway are entitled to Medicare benefits throughout their entire time in Australia. People from Malta and Italy are covered for 6 months from the date of arrival into Australia.
To enroll into Medicare simply pop down to any Medicare office across Australia, there you will need to show your passport and your home countries national health care scheme card as identification. Once your application is approved your Medicare card will then be posted out to you.
Medicare P: 132 011 M: Medicare GPO box 9822 in any Australian capital city. E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Top tips for working around Australia
- WORK IN NON TOURIST AREAS: Working in the high tourist areas can be very competitive between travellers and not to mention expensive. The accommodation rates as well as cost of living are much higher than their not so well known regional counterparts. You’re better off working in a smaller relatively unknown outback town, not only will you really get to know the locals and not be surrounded by “tourists” but you’ll also save $$ by not spending heaps on socialising and accommodation. The inner regional areas of Australia are great places to work as you will also get paid more. General rule is the further out you head the more $$ you'll make. So enjoy, relax and have fun in the tourist areas, that’s what they’re there for!!
- BE NICE: there is nothing worse for an employer (or a potential employer and job agency) than dealing with a traveller who is demanding, arrogant, spoilt and selfish. Australians and especially rural Australians are very laid back easy going people and do not tolerate such behaviour. Remember they are assisting you with your future adventures by employing you and putting $$ in your bank account. Also give notice when you leave and let your employers know if there’s a problem. Don’t do a “runner”
- WORK HARD: Laziness will get you nowhere!! Great workers are hard to find and Australians love rewarding people. Good ethics and hard work does get noticed. The travellers that are enthusiastic work the hardest and have the best work ethics always get pay rises, more hours and generally treated the best. Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up, you may never know where it can take you. You will also get glowing references on your resume which will be much easier finding work in Australia in the future.
- WORK THE MINIMUM (unless you really REALLY hate the job and/or the employer): Employers look for stability, even farmers. If you have had many jobs where you’ve only worked a few days or a couple of weeks it really does not look good. Also state the reason why you only worked for a short period of time. ie: it was the contract length or there was no more fruit to pick! With the current employment situation in Australia you might also never know when you’ll be working next. It is getting harder and harder for travellers to find work. Working for min 6wks will also bump up your bank account and you may not have to work for the following couple of months.
- COMMUNICATE: If you have any problems at all speak to your employer. Employers much prefer honesty and appreciate if you speak to them if a problem arises. By not speaking up it will build up inside you and create tension. Also don’t run out on a job. Give notice, be it a day or a few hours. Even if the job is really REALLY terrible, its good karma to do the right thing and be the better person.
- HAVE FUN: Enjoy working in Australia as much as you can...even the most crummy jobs will bring laughter and funny stories in years to come!!
Lastly, always remember you are representing your country. Sadly because of your predecessors many employers and working hostels are wary of certain nationalities and their reputation has pretty much ruined it for other backpackers who haven't even hit Australian shores. So be the best you possibly can be, if not for yourself, but for your fellow countrymen!