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Australia is a wide brown land of almost mind-boggling vastness. It's so big that its mainland can fit all of Western Europe and vast parts of the east. The Aussie mainland is also close to the same size as the United States.
With so much room to play with, Australia is a paradise full of adventure that's at the top of every backpacker's to-do list, with everything from world-class surf breaks to wineries, rock climbing and indigenous culture to explore and enjoy.
Best of all, you can get paid to holiday there, with working visas available for backpackers to spend heaps of time in Australia and earn some coin to help the local economy and their own pockets.
Station jobs for backpackers are some of the most popular roles, combining hard work with adventure second to none. So, to help get you in the saddle, here's what you need to know:
With so much land down under, Australia has become one of the world's biggest agricultural producers with vast tracts of the nation devoted to cattle and sheep grazing. This has led to the creation of what's known down under as stations, which are just like American ranches. Here you'll find some of the most common farm jobs in Australia.
Anna Creek Station in South Australia is the world's largest cattle station with its livestock grazing over 23,677 square kilometres, which makes it just over half the size of Switzerland.
There are hundreds of stations dotted around the nation, and there's always work to be done and high demand for hands to do it.
While there are many jobs available, the main station jobs for backpackers are usually to do with running the household or maintaining the livestock.
It's said that an army marches on its stomach, and on a station, the station cook is responsible for keeping the army of workers well-fed and satisfied. Depending on the size of the station and its workforce, there may be a whole team of station cooks on hand, preparing meals and snacks throughout the day and night.
Another important role is that of a nanny, also known as a Governess on an Australian station. This person is responsible for the care and sometimes education of any children that may be at the station, whether they are the sons and daughters of the station owner or even the workers.
Outside, the main focus of an Australian station is the care of livestock, with cattle and sheep spread out grazing over hundreds or even thousands of kilometres.
Station hands – also called Jackaroos (males) and Jillaroos (females) - are tasked with helping to take care of the livestock and helping out with whatever jobs need doing around the station. This can be everything from putting in new fences to taking out the rubbish.
You can also be put on horseback and tasked with mustering the livestock when the time comes to round them up for sale or checks, or ride out to find lost animals. This is a prized job and one that even Prince Harry has done!
Horses are a big part of life on an Australian station, so Stud Hands are required to help take care of all the equine needs, everything from feeding to grooming. Another major job is Tractor Operator, which involves operating heavy plant machinery around the station.
Stations have been established in Australia since the nation's earliest days, so they tend to be well-oiled workplaces that are used to new arrivals and showing them the ropes. Due to their remoteness, you can expect to be given accommodation of some kind on most stations, usually a bunkhouse or quarters called a “donga” that has sleeping areas and bathrooms and toilets.
These quarters are usually quite sparse, so it's wise to check with the station you are working at beforehand if you need to bring your own blankets, sheets and pillows, and any other essential supplies.
If you have your own accommodation, like a van with sleeping quarters, most stations will allow you to drive that onto the property.
For food, many stations provide meals with a dedicated station cook, though whether this service is included as part of your employment or paid out of pocket depends on the individual station.
Regardless of the station you're working at, it's vital that you have the right clothing so you can do the work effectively and stay protected. With the sun an ever-present element, if you're working outside, you'll need a good quality wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, with hardwearing long-sleeve shirts and tough trousers like jeans. You'll also need a sturdy pair of boots and plenty of changes of socks and underwear. Many stations will provide safety gear for jobs like Jackaroo/Jilleroo and station cook.
Just like preparing for any job, it's always best to check with the station you're working at what you'll need to bring before you arrive.
Aside from the great adventure and decent pay that station work can bring, a huge drawcard for taking on this kind of employment is supporting extensions to visas for backpackers.
Working on a remote cattle or sheep station can count as what's called “specified work” for gaining a 2nd or 3rd year visa extension for your working holiday.
Specified work has a number of categories of jobs that count toward this extension, and station work is classified as "plant and animal cultivation." The guidelines say your plant and animal cultivation work must be "maintaining animals for the purpose of selling them or their bodily produce, including natural increase" or "immediate processing of animal products including shearing, butchery, packing and tanning."
With sheep and cattle stations directly involved in developing livestock for sale they firmly meet these guidelines and represent a great opportunity to qualify for an extension of your stay in Australia. And what could be better than being paid to have an adventure that extends your holiday?