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A guide to volunteering in rural Australia

If you’re wondering about how to get your Australia working holiday visa, how to do farm work in Australia, and how volunteering in Australia works, this is the blog post for you! 

Australia, known for sun, sea and surf. It’s no surprise that hundreds of thousands people go backpacking in Australia, the sixth largest country in the world, each year. With stunning areas such as the East Coast of Australia (including Sydney and Byron Bay), Uluru, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and road trips in Tasmania, there are so many things to do in Australia to keep you busy during your time there. So, you might be thinking, with beautiful beaches only a ‘pebble’s throw’ away from the inner cities, why would you consider living rurally and volunteering in Australia?

Currently, Brits abroad still need to work a minimum of 88 days rurally in order to extend their Australia working holiday visa (Subclass 417). This is the most popular choice of visas amongst nomadic 18-30 year olds looking to call Australia home, allowing you to enjoy the balance of exploring and working.

You can apply for your Australia working holiday visa through the Australian Home Affairs website as a British citizen if you’re under 30 (the age limit is 35 for Canadian, French and Irish citizens). You must meet the legal requirements, and for a second or third year extension you will need to have ticked off ‘farm work in Australia’, contributing to tax and superannuation (Aussie pension plan). 

Once you’ve ultimately made the best decision of your life (biased? maybe?), you’ll need to start the admin work. Allow three months for your Australia working holiday visa to be processed, and you can use it within a year of approval. This gives you enough time to save, plan and pack for the adventure of a lifetime.

Just a note… The rules surrounding the Australia working holiday visa however are rumoured to change. So clocking up three months of rural farm work in Australia might soon be a thing of the past… and I hear you, this sounds dreamy. However, there’s plenty of reasons why you should still consider volunteering in Australia in a rural area! Make your experience the most rewarding and diversified globe-trotting excursion possible.

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A guide to volunteering in rural Australia

A guide to volunteering in Australia: why you should volunteer in rural Australia!

My story: volunteering in rural Australia...

I, unlike most European backpackers, went straight into farm work. I touched down in Brisbane, I spent my first night in a hostel, sharing drinks and conversation with fellow travelers. Then, the next day, two worlds collided, and I was on a bus to the middle of nowhere to start my rural journey. 

I was nervous and ready for it to be over before it had even begun. However, little did I know that when I first put my trusty backpack down on the cabin bed that I was about to experience the best three months of my life!

Not the sun in your face, wind in your hair kind but growth and discovery, as not only did I discover somewhere new, I discovered myself, truly understanding the value of travelling.

Farm work, although difficult, was a lot of fun. I had the pleasure of working at a holiday farm in the stunning Lamington National Park. Then, moving onto a carriage driving stable in Tamborine, where I learnt to drive horses! Honestly, how many times can you say that!?

Some days were intense and I can’t say I never dreamt of surfing in Byron Bay or partying in Sydney whilst working, but every day was rewarding. I wouldn’t change it for the world and I doubt you’ll want to either.

See my top tips for farm work in Australia in this post.

Where is Australia is considered 'rural'?

A lot of Australia is considered rural! Rural areas in Australia include..

  • New South Wales, excluding Sydney, Newcastle, Central Coast and Wollongong
  • Norfolk Island 
  • Northern Territory 
  • Queensland, excluding Brisbane and the Gold Coast
  • South Australia 
  • Tasmania
  • Victoria, excluding Melbourne
  • Western Australia, excluding Perth

As long as you’re not living in a major city you can pretty much work anywhere you want when you’re volunteering in Australia to get your working holiday visa. This is the perfect opportunity to step away from the hustle and bustle, immerse yourself in nature and save money whilst you do so!

Types of rural work across Australia...

So the next step is finding the right rural experience for you. If you’re volunteering in Australia or looking to get your working holiday visa in Australia, there are lots of different types of work you can do: 

Small holdings farm – An animal person? How about the ultimate experience caring for livestock and learning invaluable skills? I worked on a small holdings farm, where I was responsible for the welfare of the animals, learning more than I ever thought possible in the space of three months.

Agricultural work – Care about organic farming or growing your own produce? What better way to learn than first hand.

Cattle/dairy farm – Maybe more hard core than a small holding, but with the same levels of responsibility and care, fellow backpackers have recommended cattle farming in New South Wales where it is a bit cooler.

Equestrian establishments – Racing yards, stud farms, carriage driving stables, showjumping yards, the list goes on. If you’re into horses, much like myself, this is a dream come true!

Tree farming – A popular choice amongst backpackers, with almond tree planting being a firm favourite.

Bushfire recovery volunteering – If it is a second year visa you’re after then this counts towards your 88 days. Not only will you be able to stay longer, you’ll be playing a vital role in disaster relief.

Healthcare – Currently focused on the critical COVID-19 work, you’ll have a huge humanitarian impact.

Bar/hospitality work – yes, surprising I know, but it counts, and if you’re thinking working outdoors isn’t for you this is a good alternative. Victoria and Northern Territory are popular destinations, but make sure the placement is in a listed area.

Fishing or pearling – Maybe you’re a water baby and dream of being in the deep ocean? If so, this could be just the thing for you.

Mining and construction – If you’re looking for manual work away from farming there are plenty of mining and construction opportunities.

Fruit picking/packing – I saved this one for last, as although a go to for many backpackers, it wouldn’t be my first choice. Some people share fantastic stories of meeting lifelong friends and earning good money, but there are also plenty of bad experiences, so do your research beforehand! Tomato picking in Griffith and Banana Farm in Innisfail have been recommended to me, but never shy away from asking other travellers and hostel staff.

How to find rural work in Australia...

The important thing when volunteering in Australia or doing farm work in Australia is to find something you’ll enjoy and to embrace every moment. So, why not start your search: – Number one search engine for all jobs in Australia!

Gumtree – You’ll need to sieve through to get to the good stuff, but I managed to confirm race yard work for a top trainer whilst lying on a beach in Thailand.

Hostel adverts – Hostels are well prepped for people looking for all types of opportunities. If jobs aren’t on a display board, ask at the reception as they’ll usually be much the same as you and travelling themselves.

Word of mouth – You’ll meet plenty of wonderful people on your trip, who have stories to tell and experiences to share, so get talking!

WWOOFing – What’s this, you may ask? A firm favourite of mine, WWOOFing is an organisation set up to support organic and rural farms with workers. The abbreviation literally stands for ‘willing workers on organic farms’.

I fully recommend finding your opportunity through WWOOFing. You’ll pay approximately £40 for a membership fee, which protects you as a volunteer and will give you access to a whole range of opportunities. Hosts can find you through your profile and you can search and contact placements you find interesting. There is everything from cattle farms, to placements on vineyards, the possibilities are endless…

My first WWOOFing experience saw me wake up to the most beautiful sunrises over the National Park hills, starting the working day by feeding the cheeky foals who were always after a kiss, tending to the other animals and spending the rest of the day horse riding, milking or herding. No two days were ever the same and I fell totally 100% in love with this life.

Once you’ve scouted out your perfect placement for volunteering in Australia make sure you’ve set yourself up with an Australian bank, the two most popular being ANZ and NAB. You can set this up online before you even step foot on Aussie soil

A guide to volunteering in rural Australia

Why should you consider volunteering rurally in Australia?

So now you’re equipped in your search, the question is why volunteer in Australia?

Whether you want to do something like bushfire recovery volunteering, which is not only very important but will count towards your second year visa, or volunteer as a way of experiencing the ‘true’ Australia, living off the beaten track, there are farm work opportunities in Australia that will suit everyone.

Volunteer placements will offer you free bed and meals in exchange for approximately half a day’s work each day. So whilst you’re giving back you’ll also be saving money helping to extend your travel finances, but honestly, you can’t put a price on this. 

The farming industry relies heavily on internationals coming over to work and travel, therefore creating ample opportunity for you.

I’ve spoken about the value of immersing yourself in true Aussie farm life. But, if I haven’t sold it to you already…

Here are my ten top reasons to live, work and volunteer rurally in Australia:

  1. Experience somewhere different that you might not have discovered otherwise
  2. Learn new skills first hand
  3. Become one of the locals and see what it is really like to live in Australia
  4. Strangers become lifelong friends
  5. You’ll be giving back to farms and essential businesses
  6. The work is rewarding
  7. Make money and save money
  8. Enjoy living off the beaten track
  9. Discover more than just a new job, discover your true self
  10. A new place to call home
A guide to volunteering in rural Australia

Top tips for volunteering in Australia...

Saving money as you travel Australia...

I am sure, much like me, you’ll be looking for the ultimate experience, beaches, friendships, freedom and maybe a holiday romance…

I didn’t want to spend my time grafting, but I soon realised this was the experience I needed. Volunteering in Australia hd to be part of my trip! Travelling looks idyllic on the surface but it doesn’t come without its struggles and one of these is often finance. 

So, before you make the decision to move abroad you’ll need to save. Australia isn’t cheap, often equating to London prices, so you’ll need to be savvy and open to working or volunteering. What Australia is great for though is having ample backpacker opportunities in every state.

See more tips for saving money for travelling here. 

Do make sure you budget before you leave and whatever you’re expecting it to cost, double it! Although don’t let this put you off, as there will be many chances to make and save some dollar, keeping your travelling dream alive.

So, if you find you’re on your last penny, you’ve seen some amazing places and you’re not ready for home, don’t panic, extend your stay by working and volunteering in Australia, in some of the most stunning places! 

A guide to volunteering in rural Australia

Enjoying East Coast Australia...

Remember: work hard, play hard, after all you’re travelling… This is your experience, so make the most of it! If you’re volunteering in Australia I can pretty much guarantee that wherever you are, they will be incredibly grateful for you and will often take the time to show you around. Your hosts and the locals are fountains of knowledge, so utilise this. 

I worked and travelled on the East Coast of Australia, probably the most trodden travel route. I travelled down from Cairns, Queensland, where you can dive in clear waters hitting the key spots along the way and onto the creative city of Melbourne beginning the most scenic coastal drive down the Great Ocean Road.

During my volunteer placements, I visited the mountains of Tambourine, went on holiday in Byron Bay, whale watching on the Gold Coast and took a trip to see rescue Koalas outside Brisbane.

Therefore, if you’re planning a trip to the East Coast, here are some must see spots:

  • Great Barrier Reef – Stay in the vibrant Cairns and enjoy swimming and diving in the glistening waters
  • Coogee Beach, Rose Bay and ManlySydney’s less visited but most beautiful beaches
  • Blue Mountains – A breathtaking hilly landscape
  • Byron Bay – A laid back nomadic lifestyle
  • Lamington National Park – Hidden gem just outside of Brisbane
  • Fraser Island – An island full of adventure and home to the dingo
  • Australia Zoo – Visit the much loved Steve Irwin’s wildlife conservation conservation
  • Great Ocean Road – The most beautiful road trip to travel by campervan, sleep on the seafront and make sure you stop off at the breathtaking Twelve Apostles 

Check out the ULTIMATE East Coast Australia bucket list here. 

See my alternative East Coast bucket list here. 

At the end of the day, working rurally and travelling will fill your heart, teach you more lessons than any school could, make you appreciate the ups and downs of life, the love and losses or nature and teach you the true reason for travel. 

You’ll be grateful you embraced every opportunity and stepped out of your comfort zone. So  jump at this chance, grab life with both hands and appreciate every minute. If you’re thinking about volunteering in Australia, getting your Australia working holiday visa, or doing your farm work in Australia, do it now! 

Do you have any other tips for volunteering in Australia?

What are your tips for getting your working holiday visa in Australia? Anything you’d add?

Love as always and happy adventuring…

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A guide to volunteering in rural AustraliaA guide to volunteering in rural Australia




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