International farm workers share thoughts on Burnett
AS THE end of the picking season approaches, so to does the time to say goodbye to the region’s visiting labourers.
In order for backpackers to earn an extra year on their Australian Working Visa, they must complete 88 days of farm work.
This quest for rural labour takes many travellers to regional areas, eager to finish their working days so they can enjoy another year Down Under.
The Times sat down with six young travelling workers, and asked why they’ve chosen to do their farm work in the North Burnett, and to share some parting thoughts about the region.
Elliot Stephenson from Lincolnshire, England, and Lewis Barron from Aberdeen, Scotland, are mates who work together at the Smart Berries farm in Mundubbera.
Both are into their second year in Australia.
“I lived in Melbourne for a couple months, but then I had to leave because I couldn’t find any work,” Lewis said.
“I then worked in a nut factory in Lismore for a bit, but then just came back to Mundubbera just because I could find work.”
Elliot said there was one simple reason they both returned to Mundubbera following their first year travelling around Australia.
“There’s always work in Mundubbera,” he said.
“We knew we could get jobs again, and from what we’ve heard from other farms I feel like we’re quite lucky here.”
The pair said some of their friends in Bundaberg and Mildura had experienced work and hostel troubles.
“It’s quite hot here, but you can save your money very easily, build your bank, do something and then come back to work,” Lewis said.
When asked whether they would recommend the North Burnett to their mates back in the UK, Elliot replied with, “well we came back, didn’t we?”
Due to the abundance of farm work around Mundubbera, Picky Packers Hostel is a popular choice for backpackers to call home during their 88 days.
Hostel resident Claire Odot from Toulouse in France praised the kindness of people in the area and spoke about a special community moment she experienced at the weekend.
“The other day I had a friend who was looking for some farm work, and we walked up the street looking for a job for her,” Claire said.
“Everyone just started coming up to us to help, asking how they could help.
“It just shows the kindness of everyone.”
South Korean farm worker Hee Young Jeong agreed and said he had travelled to the North Burnett area after a recommendation from someone back home.
“In the Korean community, a lot of people recommended this place,” Hee Young said.
“It’s a small, quiet, town, and the people are kind here.”
Frenchman Brendan Maboma believed he felt more connected with the people in Mundubbera and said “there’s less fuss around than the city”.
“Relationships around here are more meaningful when I talk to people, it’s the honesty,” Brendan said.
Yeovil-born Englishman Pete Brown said living next to the pub at Picky Packers was handy, however he did say he was missing one thing.
“There’s a cricket pitch in town, but there’s no football for the Englishman which is a shame,” Peter said.
“I wish there was some five-a-side pitches, but I know that would be a bit hard since it’s a small town.”
Hee Young, on the other hand, said he wished there were more Asian food options on offer at the town’s supermarket.
“I’d like to be able to make food from back home, but they don’t have much Asian ingredients,” he said.
Claire suggested it would be good if community events were advertised more, indicating some travellers were unaware of some of functions being held around the town.
“I would usually find out at work sometimes, but if I wasn’t working I wouldn’t know about the Christmas events happening, which I would’ve definitely gone to,” she said.