There have long been discussions on how to improve the criteria of specified work that needs to be completed in order to get a second (and third) working holiday visa in Australia, and now there’s finally some good news for all future working holidaymakers that need/want to work on a farm in Australia.
You might know this specified work aspect under another name, maybe your 88 days, farm work, rural work, fruit picking or your 3 months.
In 2020, the government launched an inquiry into the working holiday visa and how it can be improved. With borders closed, I had some time on my hands and this felt like a perfect opportunity to be able to have my say on something I’m knowledgeable and passionate about, working holiday makers having the best possible time in Australia.
As part of my role as Vice President at Adventure Tourism Victoria, I, along with others, put together a submission highlighting things that can be improved within the visa. This process also involved representing the submission by speaking in parliament.
The ultimate goal? To have a positive effect on future working holiday makers.
One of the main things we focused on was improving the way wages are paid on farms.
Nearly one year on, we’re pleased to say that we’ve seen an incredible result, something so positive that it resulted in Australia’s Worker’s Union National Secretary Daniel Walton described the ruling as ‘one of the most significant industrial decisions of modern times’.
While hourly pay is still found across the industries involved in specified work a lot of this work, especially when picking fruit, has been paid on something called a piece rate. A piece rate, basically explained, is where you’re paid for how much work you do. IE, you’re paid per the amount of pieces you produce/pick/pack.
This could be the amount of cherries you pick, trees you plant or vines you prune. This can increase productivity and also prove to be financially rewarding. It absolutely can be a positive when employers enforce it correctly.
I worked on a farm in Australia back in 2011
To give you an example, when Darryl (the other co-founder of Welcome to Travel) and I personally completed our specified work, our employer was excellent. When we were in younger, less populated trees, we were paid an hourly rate because there simply wasn’t many fruit to pick so a piece rate would have left us underpaid.
When we moved into the older trees, packed full of avocados, we were moved on to a piece rate and that’s when we earned more. We were extremely motivated and earned more money, our piece rate experience here was positive.
However some employers have spoiled that system for others by using it as a way to underpay, and take advantage of workers. They paid low piece rates and/or had too high expectations. EG Instead of paying Darryl and I hourly in the younger trees, they would have continued to pay us a piece rate. This would have left us demotivated, underpaid and frustrated with the system that created this.
This is why this week’s announcement is extremely positive and a huge win for travellers coming to Australia, who want / need to work on a farm.
On Friday November 5th 2021 “the Australian Fair Work Commission ruled that farm workers picking fruit on a piece rate must be guaranteed a minimum hourly rate of $25.41.
While the Commission’s draft determination does not outlaw piecework, it guarantees a minimum hourly rate regardless of productivity.”
This new wage of $25.41ph is the minimum wage for a casual worker in Australia. To put that in perspective in your home currency, that is:
- $23.43 (CAD)
- 161.31 SEK
- 120.75 DKK
Remember, this is the minimum wage you will earn, whilst you work on a farm in Australia!
In recent months, there have been several other changes to the visa. We’ve listed them below:
- From 22 June 2021, work undertaken in the tourism and hospitality sectors in northern, remote or very remote Australia can also be counted as specified work towards eligibility for a second or third WHM visa. This option will be available for WHM applications lodged from March 2022.
- From 1 July 2021 to 31 December 2022, holders and former holders of a COVID-19 affected WHM visa will be able to make a nil VAC WHM application online.
- WHMs who are offshore and who were unable to come to Australia or had to leave early because of COVID-19 will be able to apply for a replacement visa with nil VAC.For more information about nil VAC WHM applications, see Offshore nil Visa Application Charge (VAC) WHM applications.
There is also the recently announced UK and Australia Free Trade agreement. While several terms were agreed earlier in the year, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the deal will probably come into force from 1 July 2022.
If that’s the case, that’s when the working holiday visa age limit will rise from 30 to 35, giving Britons a total of three years to live and work in Australia. The exact details of how that will work are yet to be confirmed and once we know, you will too.
That's all fine and well but when can you travel?
In regards to Australia and it’s border openings…well there’s a question we don’t have an answer to, however there’s some positive news, with Scott Morrison this week commenting
“By the end of the year I fully anticipate that we’ll be able to achieve seeing international visitors, including backpackers, who are double-vaccinated being able to come back to Australia.”
This is big news and we are so excited to welcome travellers here again.
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With all of the positive news, it is time you started thinking about travelling to Australia.