There is a whiteboard in the Impact office, on which we write phrases and topics which aren’t allowed due to cliché, general offensiveness, and just plain banality. What tops this list, however, is a phrase which journalists use as often as a doorknob – ‘The Cre*it Cr*nch’. We’re all aware that upon leaving uni the tough graduate job market will hit us like a nasty rash, so why not drop everything and go to work in Australia for a year?
Recently I had the opportunity to meet with some UK nationals on working holiday visas in Australia. One of them came from Enfield, perhaps one of the most deprived boroughs in London. After just five minutes of conversation, it was clear that the life he was leading in Australia, even for a year, was a world away from the near deprivation at his UK home. The benefits of working in Oz only became clearer as my trip progressed – it was as though the Australian job market had remained isolated from other economic difficulties. If you’re missing your local Woolworths, head down under and work in a Woolworths supermarket, the largest retailer in Oz. Alternatively you can enlist the help of an agency to help you settle and find work in most of the major Australian cities. Travellers Contact Point (0061 02 9221 8744; travellers.com.au) can arrange a meet and greet when you arrive, amongst other services such as access to a major employment database, accommodation in Sydney and assistance in opening a bank account – well worth it if you or your parents are having a considerable litter of kittens prior to the excursion.
Perhaps one of the greatest draws of Oz is its compatibility with English culture. You’d be hard pressed to find somewhere where you can ‘fit in’ so quickly without any language barriers. You could even say that the larger cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra are essentially UK-type cities in summer with the thermostat whacked right up. What defined Australia for me, though, is its laidback attitude to nearly everything.
Imagine working for a few hours in Sydney, and spending the rest of the day surfing on Bondi or finishing up work on a Friday and wasting the weekend along the Great Ocean Road checking out some Aboriginal art at the Brambuk Cultural Centre (brambuk.com.au) and kayaking out to a Seal colony at Apollo Bay (I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you have a dodgy back, though.) See the seals from the relative comfort of a Kayak with Surf and Kayak (apollobaysurfkayak.com.au); prices start from about £29. Something which you should definitely make time for, if you ever find yourself in the Blue Mountains region, is an abseil down these faintly blue mountains, apparently coloured by mie scattering, where UV radiation is scattered by particles in the atmosphere – you can drop down the side of them on a 60m-high abseil. Take advantage of the shockingly winsome views by dangling off the side of a mountain with High and Wild (0061 247 782 6224; high-n-wild.com.au), based in Katoomba.
Travelling in comfort in Australia can be relatively inexpensive – YHA Australia (yha.com.au) have many hostels throughout the country and can cater for the budget-conscious with shared dorms starting at £18 per night. For those wishing to flashpack, comfortable ensuite rooms, such as the ones found at the Sydney Central YHA, start from £55 per night – considerably cheaper than alternative ensuite accommodation in Sydney. Those on a working holiday visa are likely to find YHA Australia hostels to be a ‘treat’, a common theme among the working holiday-makers was that finding private rented accommodation works out to be more economical than even the most grotty hostel.
To be eligible to work in Australia on this specific visa you may have to undertake a form of manual labor for a short period, such as picking fruit or working on a farm. Although initially this sounds unpleasant, the money is good and many on this visa look upon this time as essentially ‘a massive laugh’, making sound friendships which can remain for the whole of your stay.
Of my ten days in Australia, it only took three to convince me that working in Oz was probably one of the best moves I could make if everything went tits-up in the UK, but even if the next year turns out well an offensive tan combined with the ultimate heights of smugness may just be enough stimulation to book that flight.
James was sponsored by Tourism Australia and YHA Australia this Easter as part of a student media press trip.