harvest job
Getting a harvest job can be rewarding, but it can also be physically demanding. Source: Philippe Lopez/AFP

International students in Victoria who are looking for short-term work may want to consider working on Australian farms. The agriculture sector has been experiencing labour shortages due to the pandemic, with border restrictions preventing workers from entering the country for the peak harvesting season.

Here’s what you should know about finding a harvest job in Victoria:

What is it?

The Victorian government notes that there are thousands of short-term jobs in paddocks and packing sheds across the state. The Big Victorian Harvest needs workers of all ages and skillsets. Jobs include:

  • fruit picking in the field
  • preparing and packing the fruit in sheds to get it ready for distribution
  • pruning and thinning fruit trees
  • driving tractors, forklifts and other machinery

Most of the jobs require skills that can be learned on the job, but others may require training, skills or licences (i.e. driving), so check what’s needed before applying. “The work is rewarding but it can be physically demanding. Some jobs may require heavy lifting, bending, climbing ladders and operating machinery. The work is often outdoors,” notes the state government.

Am I eligible for a harvest job?

You can do harvest work in Australia if you are:

  • an eligible working holidaymaker holding a visa with appropriate working rights
  • an overseas student with working rights in Australia
  • holding a temporary work visa with general work rights, not restricted to an employer or type of work

You can use the Department of Home Affairs free Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) service to check the terms of your visa.

What should I do if I’m interested in getting a harvest job?

Before applying for a job, you should first do your research. Read about the produce, harvest process, industry and where it’s located. Consider searching for information on horticulture industry websites and local government websites. The Fair Work Ombudsman’s “Working the Harvest Trail” page contains useful information for job seekers.

“Ensure the job and employer are reputable before you apply. Jobs are often listed by labour hire companies, which source workers for farmers. In Victoria, you can check if the company is a licensed labour hire provider on the Labour Hire Authority website,” notes the website.

How can I apply for a harvest job?

Job seekers can register on the Jobs Victoria online hub to find work. The hub matches job seekers who are ready to work with employers who are looking for skilled and talented workers. Upon registering, job seekers will receive job alerts that match their skills, experience and location.

It’s worth noting that most seasonal horticulture workers are hired under the Australian Government’s Horticulture Award. The award outlines minimum pay rates and other entitlements like leave and overtime. Under the Horticulture Award, you can expect hourly rates to be approximately A$24.80 for a casual adult employee.

harvest job

International students may relocate to take up short-term agricultural work. Source: Philippe Lopez/AFP

Relocate to take up short-term agricultural work

International students are also eligible for AgMove — an Australian Government initiative that helps with costs for eligible people who relocate to take up short-term agricultural work, including harvest jobs in Australia. The financial help is available until Dec. 31, 2021.

Those who relocate to commence agricultural work, including harvest work between May 5 and Dec. 31, 2021, must complete at least 40 hours of work in at least two weeks to be eligible for reimbursement of up to A$650 if you are a visa holder with a general right to work in Australia.

If you continue to work and complete a total of at least 120 hours of work in at least four weeks, you could be reimbursed up to a total of A$2,000 if you are a visa holder with a general right to work in Australia.