Jobs in South West QLD
A place that fewer than 30,000 people call home, but that boasts more land than most of the world’s countries, including New Zealand and the UK. South West Queensland is the perfect encapsulation of rural Australia – a seemingly never-ending vastness, dotted by small, close-knit and hardworking communities, each hundreds of kilometres from the next.
The unique experience offered by South West Queensland can make it a tempting destination for anyone who wants to experience the real Australia. It offers a chance to trade the modern metropolises and sandy beaches for the feeling of that famously red dirt between your toes.
Iron-heavy soil aside, why should you visit South West Queensland? Where is it, how do you get there, and will there be work available to those who’d like to stay a while?
The answers to all these questions can be found below.
Where is South West Queensland?
South West Queensland is a 319,808km² region that, as its name implies, encompasses the southwest corner of Australia’s second-largest state.
Pre-European settlement the area was the home of the Gamilaraay (or Kamilaroi) nation. European exploration began in 1860, with the ill-fated expedition of Burke and Wills, who passed away at Coopers Creek. The hot and semi-arid climate of South West Queensland offered limited access to water, making farming difficult, although this changed when the Great Artesian Basin was discovered which allowed water to be drawn from bore holes.
While South West Queensland remains sparsely populated, it is known for cattle grazing, opal mining, cotton farming, and its healthy deposits of oil and gas.
The major towns of South West Queensland
What are the major towns and communities in South West Queensland? As a place with fewer people than you’ll find attending the average professional football match, the word ‘major’ needs to be taken with a grain of salt. That said, what these communities lack in size, they more than make up for in character.
Home to around 7000 people, Roma is the largest town in South West Queensland. It is a 479km drive west of Brisbane, and is connected to the state capital by road and rail. Wheat and cattle form the backbone of this town’s strong agriculture industry, while rich gas deposits also contribute a significant amount to the local economy.
As one of the first settlements gazetted in South West Queensland back in 1865, Charleville is an historic community that boasts a number of heritage listed sites. Agriculture is by far the town’s largest employer, with livestock and cereal crops sustaining the local economy.
Found 440km due west of Brisbane, at the junction of four main Queensland highways and just within the border of South West Queensland, St George can perhaps be considered the region’s most connected community. Its position on the banks of the Balonne River have made it a popular fishing site, with locals enjoying a steady supply of Yellowbelly and Murray Cod. In terms of industry, St George is known for its cotton, garlic and onion production.
The only other South West Queensland town home to over 1000 people, Cunnamulla is slightly more remote than those above, being located around 750km west of Brisbane. As one of the driest towns in the region, crops can be difficult to cultivate here, so sheep grazing is the main form of agriculture.
Getting to and around South West Queensland
As a sparsely populated area with limited public transport, by far the best and most common way to get to and around South West Queensland is to take your own car. Both Roma and St George are a 5.5 hour drive from the Brisbane CBD, while the region’s major centres are between two and five hours from each other.
Roma and Charleville (and some smaller communities in between) are serviced by a twice weekly passenger train to Brisbane. This doesn’t make for the most efficient travel however, with the service taking 17 hours end-to-end, twice the time it takes to drive the same route.
The most efficient – though also the most expensive – way to travel to and around South West Queensland is by plane. The area has a rich air travel history, as one of the first regions to be serviced by Qantas, in 1921. Seven airports are spread across the major towns, with semi-regular flights connecting the area with much of the state.
Perhaps the most common form of public transport is the bus network. This affordable, reliable, comprehensive and quite efficient network is often used by working holidaymakers.
6 things to see and do in South West Queensland
- Charleville Cosmos Centre: The perks of being in the middle of nowhere come into clear view at this centre, which uses powerful telescopes to offer amazing, light pollution-free views of the Milky Way.
- Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum: A service that rural Australia relies upon heavily, the RFDS has saved countless lives, as this museum explains.
- Roma bottle trees: The Australian version of the girthy baobab trees of Africa, the circumference of Roma’s biggest measures an incredible 10m.
- Yowah opal fossicking: South West Queensland is known for its opals, and at Yowah you can try and find your own!
- Bilby spotting: Perhaps the cutest of Australia’s desert animals, the bilby calls the red earth of South West Queensland home, and those with sharp night vision might be lucky enough to spot one!
- Eulo mud baths: Water bubbles up from the Great Artesian Basin at Eulo, and visitors can enjoy a soak in the mineral-heavy mud.
9 in-demand jobs in South West Queensland
Are you eager to see what South West Queensland has to offer, and hope to stay a while? While the population might be small, there are a surprising number of work opportunities on offer here, including:
1. Station farmhand (livestock)
Cattle and sheep are big business in South West Queensland. The area has a number of stations that cover more arid areas, and these vast operations are often on the lookout for an extra set of hands. This work is a truly unique experience, though you’ll need to be comfortable with animals, motorbikes and getting your hands dirty!
2. Farmhand (cereal crops)
On the eastern side of the region, where rainfall is a little more reliable, cereal crops are big business. Farmers here are on the lookout for help all year round, but particularly during harvest.
3. Cotton ginning
It can be a surprise to see such a thirsty crop as cotton in such an arid environment, but with the Balonne River serving up plenty of water, the area around St George is home to a healthy cotton industry. Farmers often need help in cotton ginning – separating fibres from seeds – packing and dispatch.
4. Grape harvesting
While its climate means that South West Queensland isn’t really known for wine, the region is known for supplying a healthy portion of Australia’s table grapes. Here you can find work picking, pruning, covering and generally maintaining the vineyards.
5. Onion and garlic harvesting
Bulb plants are another staple crop of South West Queensland. Onion and garlic are particularly big in the area around St George, where workers are tasked with picking, packing and stacking the vegetables for dispatch.
6. Sheep shearing
Those with the necessary skills and strength won’t be short of work in the western part of the South West Queensland region. This is sheep grazing country, where the demand for shearers rarely lets up. While not a job for the faint of heart (or weak of back), there’s real money to be made for those who can shear hundreds of sheep per day.
7. Fencing construction
Fences are the only way for a station owner to protect their assets, and as a region that is larger than the entire country of New Zealand, there are quite a few fences to fix and construct. This work might be laborious, but it’s also consistent and often well-paid.
Do you hold a trade? Whether you’re a carpenter, electrician, plumber, bricklayer or arborist, you can be as in-demand in South West Queensland as anywhere.
With pubs and cafés forming the social hubs of rural townships, and with the unique experiences of South West Queensland drawing an ever-greater number of visitors to the region, hospitality is a growing industry. Cooks, cleaners, waiters, bar staff, tour guides; there are a wealth of opportunities available, many of them short-term and casual.