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    Accommodation for Backpackers and Farm Work/Fruit Picking

    There was an article in today's paper about the shocking condition of accommodation for backpackers and other migrant workers.

    Now don't get me wrong some backpackers can be lazy and love a good whinge and moan, then you have others who are so desperate for money or a 2nd year visa they will resort to anything. So what type of accommodation should you expect?

    In this article we will look at Hostels, Share Houses and Shared Rooms.

    Most of the backpackers will stay in a hostel when doing fruit picking, these hostels often don't know the farmers personally and never liaise with them. The hostel owners are usually contacted by a third party agent who ask them to promote the Farm Work as it will provide them with income from the accommodation. I can't speak for all but I know a couple of these agents receive a kick back from the hostel owners (usually a percentage of the weekly room rate). Most hostel owners don't care about you, they have no idea if you will get Work, how many hours you have to do or what rate of pay. 

    These "contractors/agents/middle men" are often quite shady, they invoice the farmer for the full award rate but then pay the backpacker a piece rate. Along with the money from the hostel owner they have a very cushy number.

    Some of these contractors are said to earn over $1million a month. (http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2017-11-01/exploitation-or-slavery-of-tongans-malaysians-in-horticulture/9102676 )

    Now like everywhere you may find good and bad.

    Some hostel owners may work directly with the farmer, it is in their interest to get you work and keep you there. Look for recommendations and feedback from locals and other backpackers.


    Shared Accommodation

    Now there are two types of shared accommodation. Can you remember that shady agent who is taking a huge chunk out of your pay just for him to sit in a chair and watch or drive you too and fro... well unfortunately the horror stories don't just stop there. Another way these "agents/middle men" make money is by taking out a rental somewhere in the closest town. As most of these places are rural rents are low and it may cost them around $350 a week for a 4 bed house. What they then do is trail all the classified sites and find free furniture, beds, camp beds, stained mattresses, some backpackers are only provided with a blanket. He then says you have to stay in this house or there is no work. He will insist on a bond before you get accepted for the job and usually payment upfront. Some backpackers have been asked to pay up to a $1,000 in advance. This "contractor " has no intention of ever giving you that bond back. Once you arrive at the property you will find lots of other backpackers/seasonal workers living there as well, the most we have heard of is 60 in a 3 bed house, so that's 20 people in one room, in this property there was no beds just a blanket provided. Each of these people were being charged $150 per week rent, their initial outlay was a month up front non refundable. So immediately this "agent" has $36,000 ($600 bond x 60 workers). Remember what I said earlier, you will not see this money again. The accommodation will be so bad that you will want to cut your losses and run. 


    Here you can find the minimum requirements and space for shared accommodation in Victoria http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/word_doc/0012/565689/Standards-Rooming-Houses.doc

    Here is an extract from a backpacker who contacted one of these "contractors " on gumtree.
    We had sent our flight details to the girl on the phone so they knew what time to pick us up and they assured us they’d be there. We arrived in Mildura at 11:25am yet never got picked up until 1:30pm.
    It was the contractor, Don, who picked us up. Before he even drove us to our backpacker accommodation, we had to sign a form saying that the money we pay the contractor was for a “job search” and not for rent. He drove us straight to a cash machine, where we had to withdraw $900 to pay upfront. This was actually for two weeks rent each, plus a bond.
    He then drove us straight to our accommodation which, to our surprise, was a house with about 30 people living there (4 bedrooms). After having a strict talk from the ‘head of house’ (who had been there for four weeks) about the rules of the house and respecting Don (otherwise he would kick us out without question or delay-which he has done many times before), we then got shown to our room….the garage, with 6 bunk beds in it and no heating. At this point I was feeling very uncomfortable, unwelcome and very homesick.
    We got told to go and buy some food for the week and some clothes/shoes suitable for the job. This rinsed us of all of our money. We had nothing left.

    “The Working Week Begins”
    We started work the next day at 7am, it was freezing and after a very cold night, we weren’t feeling ready at all. We turned up to a farm full of rows of dead vines, no fruit. We were vine pulling. We could only afford thin gloves and we spent the whole day until 6pm, pulling old vine branches off the wires. It was extremely hard work, time consuming, getting whipped all over our bodies and across our faces every two minutes from the vines. We had to count how many vine trees we had pulled by the time we got picked up and it got written down. We were then told we got paid about 15c a vine. In a full day we earned max of $30 each a day. “Rent” was $150 each a week. If we worked 7 days a week we’d earn max $210 each, leaving us with $60 a week for living essentials.

    Unfortunately there are a large number of cases like this. It isn't just backpackers who take on fruit/Farm Work but migrants from third world countries who take this as being the norm. In fact they thank Australia for this wonderful chance.

    At Robinvale's Weir Caravan park, Malaysian migrants reveal how they can let themselves be ripped off. Three young Malaysians say how happy they are to be working here, the kindness of Australians, and the chance to earn money and learn English. They describe vegetable picking work in rural Malaysia as harder, for less money.


    Below are some links to other articles on these "contractors"




    If possible you are best contacting the farmer yourself for work and organising your own accommodation. Ask for recommendations from fellow backpackers. 


    Private Shared Accommodation

    Now there are a number of Australians who live in shared accommodation and they come from all walks of life. The majority are usually students or nurses but you could also find yourself sharing with a lawyer or doctor. Most advertise on airbnb, flat mates or gumtree. 

    Obviously you still need to be wary of scams, for example paying a deposit without viewing the property, however, if we remove scammers from the equation you will find shared accommodation good value for money and better living standards than most hostels. 

    Depending on which area you are in you can pay anything from $80 per week to around $250 if you want to be in Sydney close to the city. If you want to 

    If there are two of you then you can usually share a room starting from $50 a week.

    Always confirm whether the accommodation is a "Shared house" or a "Shared room in a house" if it is a shared room, check how many other occupants there are.

    When you look at what you can get for your money compared to staying in a hostel I think a shared house is definitely worth looking in to. However, check if they require a bond, if they are permitted to sublet and if they have a minimum length of time you have to stay. 

    Hostel in Sydney $525 a week



    House Share in Sydney $250 a week, includes utilities and internet.




    So to summarise DO NOT use these dodgy contractors. 

    If you are asked to pay a bond make sure it is registered with the RTA or other state body. Also make sure you get a tenancy agreement, even if you print out your own and take it for the owner to sign. Details and example below.


    Most councils require a boarding house to be registered and a copy of this can be found online an example is http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/ftw/About_us/Online_services/Accommodation_registers.page?

    Do NOT be afraid to report unscrupulous accommodation providers. You can do this through through


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