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Hunt for farm jobs getting harder in WA

June 11, 2013 • Local, News, Western Australia,

Tractor-stock-imageBackpackers in Western Australia are becoming increasingly frustrated with the fierce competition for farm jobs in regional areas.

There were 162,474 working holiday visa-holders in Australia last year and 85 per cent of those wishing to stay were given a second working holiday visa by completing agricultural work.

To prolong their stay in Australia, backpackers on a first working holiday visa are required to do 88 days of “specified work” in a regional area.

“Specified work” includes labour in the agriculture, construction and mining industries.

According to Andrew Coldbeck, backpacker recruitment specialist, there are too many jobseekers flooding the system.

“The reason why unskilled backpackers are struggling to find work is the sheer weight of numbers,” he said.

“People with good machinery operation experience or an agricultural background are finding excellent jobs sowing broad-acre crops, but unskilled workers do not have access to these opportunities.

“Backpackers need to listen to the advice agencies like ours give, such as to be proactive and travel to the key harvest work areas before the season starts and be prepared to wait.”

According to Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) figures, Ireland was the second largest source country for second working holiday visa grants last year, up 33 per cent to 3,735.

Jennifer Kinmonth, from Dublin, spent weeks trying to secure farm work in WA and eventually found a job picking strawberries in Mt Barker, where she worked long hours outside and was paid by the punnet.

“I was limited for time to do the work and would have been happy to move anywhere in Australia for it.

“I tried job websites, Gumtree, farm websites, phone books, backpacker travel agencies, farming agencies and after one month of looking I was given a phone number from a friend,” she said.

“I think the government needs to reassess the visa conditions as I nearly had to go home because I wasn’t able to find farm work.”

John Michael Foley, 25, from Cork, also completed three months regional work on a potato farm near Albany.

“It was tough work but I had no other options,” he said.

It took me ages to find some work as well because every ad I called on Gumtree already had hundreds of views by the time I would get to it,” he said.

“The worst thing about it was probably the flies buzzing around you all day long and the exhaustion at the end of the day from the heat.

“I think that if you pay your taxes you’re contributing to society and shouldn’t be made to do farm work.

“I understand they need to regulate the visas but surely the way they’re currently running it is a bit outdated,” Mr Foley said.

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