Finding a job isn’t always easy. Especially if you are in a foreign country, 19 years old and just finished high school. I was confronted with this situation however and a few days helping out in a warehouse in Brisbane wasn’t enough for getting together a sufficient amount of money that allowed me to travel for several weeks.
I was lucky with my first “proper” job in Australia in Cairns, Queensland: They had a kind of backpacker job office in a hostel and told everyone to come there in the late afternoon – jobs for everyone. Sure, I was sceptical, but I had to give it a chance since leaving my CV at random restaurants and hostels just didn’t seem to work, I never even got a invitation for a job interview in one of the 50-ish businesses that I personally asked for job offers in Brisbane and Cairns.
That said, I was more than happy with what I got that afternoon: A fruit-picking position near Bowen, a few hundred miles down the coastline. What kind of fruit? Tomatoes. Well, I thought, maybe it’s gonna be tough but I happily took that offer since I was starting to run out of money.
The next day I took the Greyhound bus south to a small township called Proserpine, where they had an Irish-style hostel for all the workers. There’s not much to do in this place and we were all more than happy just to have a big supermarket nearby the hostel. The night before I started working I talked to a Canadian guy that I met several weeks before in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, he told me: “The first day is terrible. The second day is the worst. From day three you just start to get used to it.” I slept very well that night.
My Canadian friend was right: Working on a tomatoe farm in Australia is a tough way to make a living. And to save up money for traveling. We got up at 5am every morning, took the van at 6am and drove like an hour to get to the fields and started picking at around 7-7.30 am.
How was the work?
Hard. Actually the hardest job I’ve done so far. All workers were divided into groups with 10-12 people, one truck and one truck driver. Every worker then took a big bucket and started picking the tomatoes in his row – one row for one worker. Obviously it’s really tough to crawl all the time and put more and more tomatoes in your more and more heavy bucket while sometimes being yelled at from the driver (“Are you colourblind or what!”) by picking too many green tomatoes. However, they should not have been purely red neither as they would have been molding on the way to the supermarket. As soon as one member of the team had a full bucket, he or she yelled “BUCKET!” and all workers stood up and reach it over to another so that the driver could empty them in the huge blue boxes. We got payed by quantity and at the end of the day, the Korean team usually was the best one (and most of the time also the one with the most green picks).
How long did we work?
That depended on the tomatoes: If many fields were harvestable, we worked 9 or 10 hours. Obviously they hired us because many fields were harvestable, so we never worked less than say 7 or 8 hours.
How much did we get paid?
We didn’t get paid by hour, but by quantity. Means the more we picked, the more we got paid: 80 Australian Bucks (for the whole team) for one of these blue boxes. On an average day we filled like 14 boxes or so. But it really depended a lot on the team and the fertility of the field. One thing I can tell you though: It’s been a nasty job. However, the one that ones to travel has to suffer and: I learned to appreciate simple things – buying tomatoes in the supermarket!
I probably picked some of them by myself! ;)
How about your first job abroad? Have you done any fruit picking as well?
Check out the posts about my other two jobs in Australia:
- Working as a housekeeper at Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
- Working in a warehouse in Brisbane, Queensland