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Work in Australia’s Tropical North

Take Advantage of the Country’s Work and Holiday Visa

Public Lagoon in Cairns Australia
The public lagoon in city center of Cairns, Australia.

Working in Australia has just become easier thanks to a reciprocal visa agreement between the United States and Australia.

The Australian Work and Holiday visa allows American visitors aged 18 to 30 to travel and work in Australia for up to 12 months, and to work for one employer for up to six months. Whereas citizens of the commonwealth countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada have had a relatively easy time working in Australia, Americans were much more restricted until now.

The labor shortage in Australia means there is a need for hospitality and tourism workers, and opportunities exist in Australia’s warm tropical north.

For tourism job prospects year round, head to Cairns, Australia’s most northern city and gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Many dive boats, restaurants, and youth hostels depend on the influx of international travelers to operate their businesses. The ability to speak Japanese or German is highly regarded, with French, Chinese, and Korean coming in a close second. Don’t forget that farms on the outskirts of Cairns are also perpetually short-staffed at harvest (which is not necessarily in autumn). This leaves an abundance of higher-paying, albeit more strenuous, positions open for working travelers.

Work on a dive boat in the Great Barrier Reef
Work on a dive boat in the Great Barrier Reef.

As with the dress in the tropical north, applying for short-term jobs is more casual than what you may be used to. Don’t bother trying to set up a job before arriving in Australia because potential employers like to get the look of you first. When I got a job at a youth hostel, my employer barely glanced at my resume but instead preferred to have a long chat about life. As with job hunting elsewhere, however, it is important to be on time to an interview, have a well-groomed appearance, and to have a copy of a professional-looking resume. Also be aware that if you are interested in bartending, you will be expected to have an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol). This certificate is easily attainable by attending a one-evening course at the local TAFE College or other institutions.

To find a job in Cairns, try the following resources:

The Newspaper. You may think it a bit old-fashioned, but employers still favor the local newspaper, The Cairns Post, to announce job vacancies. You can find postings every day, but for the best selection buy a Saturday paper. Send in your resume as requested, and then unless stated otherwise call the potential employer about two days later. Don’t wait for a potential employer to contact you. It is acceptable and sometimes expected that you follow up with a polite inquiry call on the status of the hiring process.

Notice Boards. Almost all youth hostels have notice boards, and employers who seek young people for short-term or seasonal work use these boards to get the word out. I simply chatted with the owner of the place at which I was staying, which then led to a job. For a listing of Cairns hostels, see You will also find a major notice board on Abbott Street outside of Global Gossip Internet cafe, which often has job postings in addition to apartment share requests.

Cairns Backpacker Express. This is a free magazine that you can pick up at hostels and on free-standing magazine racks throughout town that occasionally posts job vacancies.

Dive Shops. There are four dive schools in Cairns, and all of them teach SCUBA diving year-round. Occasionally there are job openings at the school itself, but you are likely to have better luck finding a job as a “hostie.” Hosties work on the boats that go out on day trips and overnight, and she or he is responsible for anything from food preparation to helping guests with their fins and snorkels. The best way to get a job on a boat is to contact one of the schools directly, or even walk in.


Employment Agencies. Like Cairns itself, employment agencies tend to be understaffed, and my experience with two staffing agencies proved to be futile. While you may have some luck with any of the places listed below, I recommend contacting employers directly. Your job hunting time may double while you wait for someone at an agency to contact you.

 CBC Staff Selection

 Neato Employment Services


 Signature Staff

Pick your Favorite Activity. Many companies post job vacancies on their website and welcome young foreigners with working visas as well. Some examples include Cairns Skyrail, the Quicksilver Group, and RnR Adventures. AJ Hackett, the bungy jumping company, readily employs foreigners for their café and bus driving, and finds that young travelers often have the flexibility they desire (benefits include free jumps!). Perhaps the best route is to take advantage of Cairns myriad opportunities for outdoor adventure, and then pursue a job. Find the things you like to do, such as horseback riding or ballooning, and inquire about a job at the end of the day. A great way to establish rapport with a potential employer is to tell him or her how much you enjoyed yourself during an experience their company made possible.

For More Info

See Australia’s Department of Immigration: Working Holiday Visa for more resources.

Related Topics
Short-Term Jobs
Short-Term Jobs in Australia
Living in Australia
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A Working Holiday in Australia
Finding Jobs in Australia
Jobs in Sydney, Australia: If You’re Under 30, Apply for a Working Holiday Visa

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