10 Things You Need To Know About Working in Australia

Bondi Beach, Australia

So you’ve decided to start your adventure in Australia:  amazing!  Australia has an abundance of opportunities when it comes to travel, adventure, finding friends, finding yourself and earning some money!

If you’re visiting Australia on a Working Holiday Visa this gives you a great advantage in that, as well as travelling around this fabulous country, you’ll be able to do a bit of paid work as well to either fund future travels or give you a bit more spending money in Oz.

So what do you need to know about working in Australia?


1. You need a Tax File Number

Whether you’re an Australian resident or just a visitor you need a Tax File Number, or TFN, but you can’t apply for it until you’re actually in Australia.  By law you don’t have to have one, but it means that you’ll get taxed properly (ie. not too much!) and when it comes to applying for your taxback you’ll find it much easier.

The most annoying thing about applying for a TFN is that, even if you apply online, you still need to provide an address to have the document sent to; if you’re getting yours sent to your hostel, try letting the manager or front desk know that you’re expecting something important so it doesn’t get mislaid.

Or you can kickstart your working holiday visa (including TFN and bank account setup) with our Australia Working Holiday Visa Packages!


2. It helps to have an Australian Bank Account

If you’re going to be in Australia for an extended period of time (and with a working holiday visa this could be up to 2 years) it helps to open an Australian bank account.  This way you’ll be able to get paid from an Australian employer without losing any of your wages to transfers and exchange rates and you’ll always have free access to your hard earned dollars.

Again, this is something that you can only do once you’re in the country so once you’re settled hop into the city and choose your bank!  You’ll probably need to take some documents with you like your passport so check with the branch what you’ll need beforehand,  but the great thing is that most banks will happily have your card sent to a specified branch instead of an address so you can just go and pick it up!


3. Beware the Gumtree curse!

Gumtree’s a great way to start your job hunt but for every good, genuine, ‘not-selling-my-soul-for-a-sale’ job, there are usually 10 other jobs promising you the world and more in return for working for their company.  There genuinely are some great companies out there looking to hire backpackers short or long term, pay them a decent wage and reward them with treats or commisions but it becomes really difficult to find them between the less-genuine companies who, in return for a couple of free drinks at the nearest hostel on a Friday night, will treat you like crap for the rest of the week.  Also, check where the company is actually based before you hit ‘apply’ – sometimes the advertiser will pretend to be based in the CBD just to appear in the most search results.  Smeeky sneeky!

My advice?  Steer clear of any Gumtree advert titled “New Funky Company Seeks Loud, Outrageous, Confident, Crazy Party Animals/Sales Guns’ or similar…


4. Expect to get paid between $15 – $24 AUD

There are many deciding factors when it comes to what your employer chooses to pay you (job classification and your age are just two) but if you’re over 20 years old you shouldn’t get less than $15/hour.  When I first arrived in Australia in June 2010 I was earning $22/hour which in comparison to what I was earning back home in the UK, was loads!  But generally things are a bit more expensive in Oz too so it’s all relative!


5. Seek.com.au is a good website for jobs

As we’ve already established you have to be a bit wary with Gumtree, but with Seek you can let you guard down a bit; yes it’s usually the go-to job website for professionals but that’s not to say that you can’t find jobs for backpackers on there too.  I found my first ever job in Australia on Seek!  Be aware that a lot of the  jobs you apply for will be through an agency and use this to your advantage by asking your point of contact if they’ve anything else suitable for you when they get in touch.


6. If you want to serve alcohol you have to learn about it first

Back home in the UK, as long as you can pull a pint, work a till and string a sentence together you can work in a bar but in Australia for some reason they’re way more strict about it so you

Lowenbrau Beer
What do you mean you only asked for a pint?!

need to do an RSA (or equivilent) and get a certificate before you can legally serve alcohol; a typical RSA course costs about $70 and it only takes a day.

The worst bit?  Each state in Australia has a different set of rules when it comes to serving alcohol so you can expect to have to resit your current RSA online before finding work in another bar when you move cities.


7. You get paid superannuation

Superannuation (or Super) is money that your employer sets aside for you (in a Superfund) every time they pay you and it’s usually about 9%.  The great news is that, even though Australian residents can’t access their superfunds until they’re at retirement age, visitors on working holiday visas can claim back the money in their superfund when they leave the country for good.  Think of it as a savings account for when you leave and Oz and go home or continue your travels!

My advice? You might work for a few different companies while you’re in Oz – to make it easier to claim back when you leave, have all of your Super money paid into one Superfund.


8. You can claim back some of the tax you’ve paid

Unfortunately everyone has to pay tax but you can claim some of it back at the end of every financial year. In the UK, you might be lucky to receive a tax rebate from the Government without really having to do much but here in Australia, you have to file the tax claim yourself.  The tax year ends in June each year so you can claim back your tax then or as soon as you leave Australia. And with an average refund of $2,500AUD it’s well worth it!

You can quickly and easy claim your Australian tax back direct with us using this link.


9. Personality and willingness to learn trumps experience

This is a pretty sweeping statement but from my experiences in Australia personally, I’ve found that as long as you can show that you’re keen, friendly and willing to learn employers will give you a chance.  Some people come from the school of thought that backpackers are terrible employees and can’t be relied on but, as fas as my experiences go, Australian companies know that you want to earn money, work hard and get the job done so you can keep travelling.  Obviously experience helps but I wouldn’t let it stop me applying for job where I didn’t any in that field.


10. There are lots of opportunities!

Whether you want to work behind a bar, behind a desk or even behind a tractor, there are loads of job opportunities for backpackers in Australia.  Some hostels will even let you stay rent free for working for them!  You can find jobs on websites but make sure you check out adverts on hostel noticeboard and ask people you know are already employed if there are any openings at their company.

Australia’s a great place to work (and play!) and I hope these tips have given you a bit of an insight into what you can expect if you’re planning on working here.


Heading to Australia soon?

Check out our Melbourne Working holiday Visa Packages and kickstart your time down under!


Also Download The Ultimate Guide to Working & Travelling in Australia by award winning blogger Backpacker Banter here!


December 15, 2011
A lot of people ask me how I went about moving money from my UK bank account to my Australian bank account without having to wait weeks on end for it to transfer. The easiest way for me was to set up a PayPal account linked to my UK bank account and then another PayPal account linked to my Australian bank account. I used my current paypal/ bank account (In my case it was the UK one) to 'send money' to myself (the new Australian account). I actually found PayPal to have the best exchange rate at the time too which saved me a few $$. I could have just withdrawn all of the money and paid it in but I didn't fancy carrying £10,000+ with me. It works the other way around too so when you're leaving you can transfer all of your hard earned dollar back home!
April 11, 2012
This is a great guide to working in Australia. I was studying the first time I lived in Sydney, but I will be looking for employment when I move back. Thanks!
May 14, 2012
RSA is a very important item to hold and if you are going for Bar jobs you'll need to get it before you apply, having known bar owners and managers who handle employment I know they apply a simple and common filing system, in the 'KEEP' file goes all those that hold a current RSA and in the 'NO' pile or as some know it the 'Rubbish Bin' pile are those that don't already hold one. Also very important is to check which states accept RSA's from other states as it will save you money if you can just transfer your RSA. In NSW you must attend a course and you can not use any other state RSA, the course will cost around $130 and you will get a photo ID card after. The other tip is to create a special bar related resume that leaves out all the boring bits and sells you on the fun and interesting stuff. A sexy photo (good looking not naked) in the top right corner will also put you on the top of the pile as we all know most bars are keen to have good looking staff behind the bar, especially bars based in the CBD. Also take photo copies of your RSA with your Resume to prove you have it, Bars will like this as it means you are well prepared... oh and don't lie about working behind a bar if it's a busy bar because your trial will be throwing you in the deep end and you'll be found out and not asked back.
May 28, 2012
Brilliant tips - I can't believe you have to learn to work behind a bar, good to know though! xx

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