Make Good Money in the Aussie Outback

by Sarah of on January 15, 2012

Make Good Money in the Aussie Outback

There are several jobs available all year round for backpackers/travellers/general vagabonds in the Australian outback and finding them is all too often by word of mouth. If you are willing to work hard and forsake a few creature comforts; while cultivating a sense of humour and honing a well-practiced ability to laugh at yourself (and this is the most important aspect) then a solid income can be made pretty easily.

What jobs can I get?

Depending on the season and any qualifications you might hold, work can vary from shearing sheep, roustabouting (working as a shed hand while the sheep are being shorn), mustering (rounding up sheep and cattle), teaching, fruit picking etc. What sort of work you want to get depends on which way you go about getting it.

How to get a job as a roustabout (shearing shed hand):

First of all, work out what area you will be travelling to. The best places for roustabouting work that I know of are near Broken Hill in NSW and Esperence in WA. In these places, shearing work runs all year round and can often be the door you need to get into other types of work such as mustering. Look up ‘shearing contractors’ in the yellow pages and ring around, usually you’ll have to leave a message and they’ll get back to you. If you have no experience, tell them. Oftentimes, they won’t mind taking you on and teaching you what you need to know. Another way is to post an advertisement on Shearing World, an online website for shearing-related jobs. Start calling a few weeks before you need work and ask where the meeting point is and on what day if you are offered the job. From there you can either drive yourself or usually catch a lift with the contractor (the bloke who gets the team together). Be warned, roads in the outback are fierce and a four-wheel drive really is a must. Plus, bull-bars are there for a reason. I know its horrible hearing that sickening crunch when the wildlife jumps out in front of you, but personally, I’d rather it was the crunch of the bull-bar than the crunch of a 200 kg kangaroo going through the windscreen!

What to expect:

Expect a lot of travel, long, often monotonous working hours, plain but good food, interesting characters and an expectation to prove yourself. It is also dirty and dusty, you may not have a light bulb in your room (which is usually shared, if you have a room at all, always ask) and a long way from the bright lights of the city. However, the Aussie outback is a very awe-inspiring place, the sunsets are absolutely breathtaking and the famous red sands seem almost too bright to be true.

How to avoid pitfalls:

Work hard, always listen and absorb as much as you can. Ask for help when there’s a break in the chaos if you need it, but if you can work it out by yourself, do. Keep quiet while you gauge the situation, never bitch behind other people's backs and just be a decent person. Most of what shearing people say is slang and will take a little time to get used to. If in doubt, just laugh politely, but not desperately. A simple ‘f*ck off’ is much easier than saying something witty when someone is coming a little too close for comfort! A lighthearted, hardworking, non-threatening exterior will do you wonders. Pull out burrs before they become embedded, never complain, especially about the cook, and above all, just have a go. Remember you are seeing places that are the privilege of the very few and you may never see them again.

Note: There is still some hierarchy left over from the days of old. It goes shearers, classer, presser then roustabout. Don’t worry about it too much, but do be aware of it.

What to Bring roustabouting:

To work in the shearing sheds, you will need:  4 light, modest work shirts (you don’t want to be leered at all day if you’re of the womanly persuasion), a singlet and shorts for the afternoons, 2 pairs of work shorts, one pair of work pants (obviously depends on the season), 6 pairs of thick woolen socks, a pair of work boots ( I wore Doc Martens, they are very versatile and comfortable), a light jumper, a pair of sunglasses and a hat, underwear, etc., any toiletries, bedding (it's almost never provided), a cotton pillowcase (also useful as a laundry bag), laundry powder and some pegs, something to tie long hair back (there is no way you want it cut off in the clippers by mistake!), PJs (long pants-otherwise you will never catch a break), panadol, betadine, antiseptic, a snake/compression bandage, heavy duty plasters, tweezers for burrs and a pair of work gloves, as well as anything else you feel may come in handy.

Buy a cheap duffle bag from the reject shop or similar and put everything inside. It helps keep everything in the one place and  the dust out.

How much money can I make?

A roustabout earns roughly $50 per run, which is two hours long, and there are four runs a day interspersed by smoko (half an hour), lunch (an hour) and afternoon tea (half an hour). So, $200 a day; about a thousand a week. However out of that comes petrol money (give it to whoever is driving you if you are catching a lift, about $20 each way is the accepted amount), food which is $25 per day and tax, which is about 15%. Still, it is a job with very little outgoings and you can claim tax back in many cases.

So, go forth and have fun. See places you can bet no one at your hostel has seen before and if you have any questions, or want to hear tales from someone who has already done it, my blog is I look forward to hearing from you!sa

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by Josefmarke Rewnes
About 6 years ago

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by Rhea
About 6 years ago

Hi - could you share some advice on the campsites you stayed at in Tassie?

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