My Experience Working in Outback Australia
I don’t think I ever expected farm work to be easy, but I definitely didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was. Let’s just say we had a difficult start to our 88 days; so difficult that our 88 days lasted for six whole months. After weeks of false hope, quitting a waitressing job after four days, hosting an Airbnb whilst our own host went to climb Mount Everest and endlessly scrolling through Gumtree ads, we finally had a bit of a breakthrough towards the middle of April - a job that has by far been one of my favourite and worst stories to tell.
We landed the job by posting our own ad on Gumtree and to be honest, after several terrible offers, this job seemed like the perfect fit. Restaurants and shops regularly refused to acknowledge us due to our visa only allowing us to work for six months in one company at a time, and the thought of fruit picking was too much to bare (for me). So I guess this left us with no choice but to look for other types of farm work instead.
Many of the jobs we were offered included tractor work for Jack and nothing for me, or farm work for Jack and me being the family’s nanny or ‘maid’. I remember sitting on a secluded beach in a Brisbane suburb. We’d just received a phone call from a farm located in a rural town in Queensland. A couple eventually found out ad on Gumtree and asked if we’d be interested in working on their cattle and goat farm in Roma, Queensland. The deal was $400 each a week, with food and accommodation both provided; to us, it seemed ideal.
We soon found out that on the day of our arrival, the 30 thousand acre farm was actually located two hours away from Roma and 50 minutes from another town they later claimed to live in when we met the wife in Roma. To put the size of the land into perspective, it took almost half an hour to even get to the house from the start of the property. Within that journey we had to dodge uneven surfaces and hundreds of kangaroos jumping out of the trees beside us - both of which would cause great damage to our Mitsubishi Lancer. We had very little WiFi, no phone signal and the nearest town was two hours away - we were well and truly living in the middle of nowhere.
To make our situation seem even worse we were never warned of the conditions of the road leading to their home - they even knew what car we had. When we finished working there we found red dust literally everywhere within the car - between the doors and even on the engine.
The work offered included working with goats and the odd bit of fencing, which of course never really happened. Jack was out most days putting up exclusion fencing whilst I was required to do the house chores for the farmers wife Jo. We also had to live with the family in their home, which was all well and good until we discovered their love for lamb chops and steak for breakfast every.single.morning and their obsession drinking a bottle of rum every.single.night. Their lifestyle was something I could’ve never kept up with and even now is struggle not to heave when I think of the breakfasts I had.
In the shed, they had a full size fridge full of bullets, guns in their living room, a fresh sheep hung up in their outdoor freezer they killed the day before our arrival, they had an obsession with drink driving everywhere, their main hobby was hunting pigs, the farm owner was incredibly sexist; safe to say, it was something completely out of the ordinary. After two weeks of settling in, we then travelled to another farm even further away to build up 40 kilometres worth of exclusion fencing. For two weeks straight I sat on my hands and knees while twisting hard wire through metal fence posts in 30 degree weather. It was torture and probably the closest I’ve ever felt to slavery.
The highlight of this work was the farm manager, Dick, or Big Dick as everyone liked to call him. Dick is an Aboriginal man living on the farm with his wife, son and Grandson. Their home was that secluded it took three hours to get to the nearest town with a supermarket, resulting in Dick shooting kangaroos for his dinner every night. Things got a little weirder throughout the course of our stay here. On a Friday night as a ‘treat’, our boss organised a ‘popular’ country singer to come to our accommodation for a performance and a barbecue; obviously, to our surprise, the country singer was actually the farm manager, big Dick. Catching Yellow Belly and a song about a woman he’d met at an ICT course were the only things I actually have a slight memory of.
We didn’t last long. After we had finished the 40 k fence, we were given a two week break to do whatever we wanted, we left and never went back. It was hard and although it was an experience I’ll never forget, I wouldn’t wish this work on anybody.
However if I’m to put the negatives aside, some of our best and worst stories have come out of this experience and it’s an experience I will never forget. At points I genuinely thought I was going to die either by being involved in a car crash due to their drink driving, and one night I honestly thought I was going to be shot dead when I was left alone in the house with the family overnight when Jack had to leave for a job a day earlier than I did. There were nights when we were plotting our escape, nights where I cried myself to sleep and our only major arguments ever occurred here due to stress and living situation.
But working in the Australian Bush is an experience not many people will live. I got to drive a brand new beach buggy everyday, play with puppies, go to work surrounded by hundreds of kangaroos, live within real Australia and sing around a campfire!