Accommodation · Farm work

Regional work in Oz: My Tully Experience

After four months of blood, sweat and tears I finally completed my regional work in Australia. Ok, it wasn’t all that bad. I was fortunate enough to have the bliss of air-con unlike many other fellow backpackers. But it certainly wasn’t easy. Whilst I wasn’t lifting too much or had to battle with the blistering heat, it wasn’t the physical element that made this time so difficult for me. It was the emotional stress that came with seeking work for my second year visa and the eventual (and inevitable) boredom that came with overstaying my welcome. But I’ll focus on the former:

  • Firstly, finding a job – we were told it would take one week before trekking to Tully. So were pretty disappointed and annoyed when that was false information. In actuality it took me three weeks and the ‘working hostel’ I stayed with weren’t responsible for finding it. In fact, the Caravan Park do not proactively look for jobs at all. The anxiety and fear of spending my savings in Tully – a destination not on the bucket list – and not ever getting a job was becoming a worrying reality
  • Secondly keeping the job – It wasn’t uncommon for our jobs to be threatened
  • And lastly – being able to keep a peaceful headspace when you’re peeling bananas for nine hours a day. It’s monotonous work, so if you’re ever going through a hard time or boredom steers you into asking those “what the hell am I doing” questions, then this work really is going to be tough on your mental stability!

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I was fortunate enough to meet some ace co-workers / fellow backpackers who are now good friends that I hope to see in my second year. Not to mention the odd free banana here and there, which is always a Brucey bonus. Happy highs and lulling lows, Tully turned out to be the best and worst part of my trip in Australia.

Anyway, the point of this post is to give anyone looking to do regional work a quick jist of my experience. And so I hope this helps – even if it is Tully-centric.

Where did I do my regional work?

Tully, North Queensland. Recommended by a fellow traveller I met in Melbourne, I was informed that Tully was a town of backpackers all completing their regional work for a second year down under. He was right. Lots of fellow backpackers brings this fairly sleepy town back to life.

You can also try Innisfail, Bundaberg, Atherton etc.

Where did I stay?

Initially we tried to get into Banana Barracks but there wasn’t enough space. We were instead directed to Greenway Caravan Park. Horrified by the bunk house we were initially put in, we migrated to a cabin and eventually grew to love the place and the people staying there.  You can stay in a private caravan for $125.

Banana Barracks is more expensive – but I must stress that they are FAR better at getting people work. I’m not at all confident that the owners of GCP have ties with more than one farm, which is abysmal and misleading.

How did I get work?

During the first week of staying in the Caravan Park I tried something called ‘jumping’. Basically means you get up at 5am, head to the main street where all the buses are and go up to the drivers to see if they need any workers. It’s a soul destroying tactic and in most cases if you’re female, you won’t have much luck this way. But that doesn’t mean to say it won’t happen – so give it a go for a couple of weeks and make sure you’re prepared in case you do get picked (welly boots, old clothes, enough food and water for the day).

After jumping for two weeks on and off and begging Paula at Banana Barracks to help us, we finally got work at Mackays.

What did I do?

I peeled, packed and stacked bananas.

How much can you earn?

Typically wages start at $21. But depending on the farm and the role, you can earn as much as $24.

I’d say 90% of the jobs in Tully are hourly pay, but piece work does exist here. It can be hard to earn good money through the latter (how much fruit you pick / pay per bin) but it’s not impossible. Places like Bundaberg are 50/50 when it comes to hourly rate and piece work – so be aware of that if you’re looking to prioritise saving as well as the visa.

How long do you need to work for?

This is SUCH a grey area and actually caused A LOT of stress for the majority of backpackers in Tully. We were told by Mackays three consecutive months. I did one month more to be on the safe side.

What’s the weather like in Tully?

Tully is a tropical town, so expect tropical climates. In the summer it is humid and hot. The sun is shining though, and so you can’t complain too much because when the rain comes, it might not stop for three solid weeks. This is sometimes welcomed to those doing physical work outside like humping, but depressing when you want to carry out simple tasks like nip to the loo at night and don’t want to get drenched.

What is there to do in Tully when you’re not picking and packing fruit?

Thursday

Redgates offer steak for $8.

Friday

Most workers finish early on a Friday and head to Top Pub (also accommodation here) for ‘Toss the Boss’, which isn’t what you might think it is. Flip a coin – call it – and if you’re right, you’ve earnt yourself a free jug of cider or beer. I had a lot of lucky streaks, which resulted in me being too wasted to carry on into the night, which most people do.

After my afternoon sesh I’d head to Bottom Pub for a $5 steak.

Pre-drinks go on in hostels from any time on Friday ‘til about 10pm when people make their way to Top Pub, followed by Rafters.

Saturday / Sunday

Swimming in the creek in summer is a favourite of mine – or you can check out the pool for a few dollars.

Head to Mission Beach, where there’s a few bars and a beach (obviously).

Murray Falls – see earlier post.

Alligators Nest – see earlier post.

Watch Tully Tigers play at their home ground, followed by rafters.

Go to Cairns for the weekend – although this cost us a fortune.

Dunk Island.

Roast dinner at Redgates.

Would I recommend Tully?

Despite a lot of misinformation, a long wait for work and the pending stomach ulcers from worrying about whether or not I’ll keep my job, I would definitely recommend carrying out your farm work here. When the sun is shining, you’ve got a box of goon on the go, decent tunes playing and an awesome bunch of people, the stress will be totally outweighed by the memories you’ll make with people that may turn out to be friends for life!

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