The atmosphere is grim. It feels like I work at a cattle station, only the people are the cattle. After working on the farm for 8 weeks the farmer ‘likes’ me a bit more than the others, so I have some privileges. I am ashamed to see how the other people are treated and how they are shouted at. All the frustrations from the farmer’s own faults or just from stress are directed at the employees.
I was supposed to get a big increase in wages when the cherry season started. Instead of getting a flat weekly wage I am now paid per hour. For weeks they motivated me with the idea that things were going to get better and I would make good money. In reality I get 1 dollar per hour more now, which still leaves me underpaid. The fact that people who live on the farm get $3,50 less than the others working here pisses me off. According to the farmer this was because we had certain advantages, like working longer hours, having more responsibility and living on the property. But by no means were we paying rent. In my world I was paying $3,50 for every hour I worked.
The American guy has left the farm after 1,5 week without saying anything. One day he was just gone. He was sick of being treated like a slave, even though he had a good money arrangement. Next, the two Taiwanese girls left. They were replaced by two French girls, but even they didn’t last very long. I can’t blame them. If you just do it for the money it isn’t worth it. Even on a day off they were blamed for not being in the house when they were needed. They were dragged out of the house early in the morning without an announcement. And nobody got paid fairly.
Funnily the absence of the other backpackers made work easier for me. I ended up doing quality checks on the cherries for a while, but when all the others were leaving I had to change that to the shed door sales. This was way more fun. I got to talk to people and when there were no customers I could help out wherever I thought help was needed. Even the farmer let me do what I thought was right most of the time now.
After a while the wages went up too. I got $15 per hour at that stage, but the people who weren’t living on the farm got $18 per hour. The farmer even called me in his office and said he wanted me to stay. A compliment in disguise. Wow! It still isn’t great, but I need my 88 days.
If you want to stay in Australia for a second year working holiday, you’ll have to do your 88 days of regional work. In the 88 days diaries I tell the story of my three months of farm work on a cherry orchard. I worked out in the fields as a farm hand before working in the packing shed during the cherry season. Read about what I think, experience and explore, from eccentric farmers to new skills.