Finding avocado work
Hello! Welcome to the Australian avocado industry. First up, here at Avocados Australia, we’re a not-for-profit representing the interests of the avocado industry; we don’t deal directly with arranging labour for farms and orchards BUT we can help you out with background and where to look for work in the nation’s orchards and packsheds. We might be a bit biased, but we think our industry has orchards in some of the nicest parts of the country.
Click on the headings below for more detailed information and links on how to find work in our friendly avocado industry.
Did we mention you’ll be working in some of the most beautiful parts of Australia? And because of the location of the growing regions, if you want, you can work your way around almost the whole country!
Do I have to have experience?
Experience is not always necessary (except in those instances where you need a certain type of license or ticket to operate machinery). Most job ads will tell you what sort of tasks you will be performing, and what skills are preferable.
Growers and packshed operators will provide on-site training for the work being undertaken, and you will also be taken through a workplace health and safety induction, and be informed about the orchard’s COVIDsafe plan. Please abide by all of the requirements of the COVIDsafe plan. Avocado orchards and packsheds are in rural and regional areas, and we all take the safety of those in the industry, staff members, our families and our communities very seriously.
How hard is seasonal work?
Let’s not beat around the avocado tree. Picking and packing jobs are physical work and it may take some time for your body to adjust to the different muscle groups being used. If you are relatively fit, you can certainly consider work in the orchard or the packshed.
How much will I be paid?
The avocado industry is covered by the Horticulture Award 2020. You can read the full Award here, or you can use the Fair Work Ombudsman calculator (click here for more information on pay rates or click here to go directly to the calculator). And again, the job ad should give you some indication of rates, and if they are looking to pay hourly or piece rates. Employers can do a combination of piece rate and hourly rate shifts.
Here’s some important points for you:
- the piece rate is paid on how much you pick, pack or prune each day
- there should not be group rates; piece rates are based on what you pick yourself
- to work on piece rates only you must have a written and signed piecework agreement
- piece rates vary on a number of factors including the availability of fruit, density of planting and the weather conditions.
For more on piece rates, please read this information from the Fair Work Ombudsman.
As you grow to be a good picker you have the opportunity to earn more than the base rate in the Horticulture Award. For horticulture the average piece rate worker must be able to earn more than 15% more per hour than they would on the minimum hourly rate.
If you are just starting out and learning to pick, keep in mind that you will not earn as much as experienced workers who will be able to pick faster. If you are new to horticulture, consider working on the hourly rate until you’ve learnt the ropes. If you can, speak to those who have already worked in horticulture about their experiences.
Finding avo vacancies - try here first
Both farm employers and labour hire companies will list their vacancies on the Harvest Trail: https://jobsearch.gov.au/job/search. In the search box, type “avocado” or your preferred town, eg “Mareeba” or “Coffs Harbour”. Harvest Trail also offers a search specific to the harvest trail, here: https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest/search.
The Harvest Trail is also on social media (Facebook Page – National Harvest Labour Information Service – facebook.com/National-Harvest-Labour-Information-Service-133019196865847/). And the toll free number for the NHLIS is 1800 062 332.
Our Avocados Australia Avocado Directory does list some labour hire companies and services that may be of use. The directory is being constantly updated with new listings, and businesses that service the avocado industry are encouraged to list here. If you click here, there are several labour hire firms listed in our Avocado Directory. One of them may be able to assist in your search for general industry work. (If that direct link does not work, search under “labour” in the Avocado Directory.)
Australian Government job hub
The Australian Government has set up a jobs hub you can customise by state and industry (for horticulture positions, select “Food Production/Agriculture/Horticulture”. Click this link: dese.gov.au/covid-19/jobs-hub/find-employers-hiring-now
There are a large number of national job boards, but a few you can try are:
Check out the section below for state-based hubs and the government relocation assistance schemes that are available.
Also, the Fair Work Ombudsman has information on working on the Harvest Trail. You should definitely give this a read for more information on your workplace rights, knowing what you should be paid and keeping your own records: fairwork.gov.au/horticulture-showcase/working-the-harvest-trail.
COVID-19 relocation assistance - national
Federal relocation assistance
On 5 May 2021, the Australian Government announced changes to its incentive program for ag workers.
The new approach will accommodate short, but intense, harvesting seasons and provide the right incentives to get job seekers to give agricultural work a go with a helping hand from the Government.
Under AgMove, the Commonwealth Government is introducing more flexible incentives which will see Australians eligible for up to $2,000 in relocation assistance (or $650 for temporary visa holders) when they complete just 40 hours of agricultural work over a two-week period. This reduces the existing initial eligibility period for reimbursement from six weeks to just two.
If workers continue in agricultural work and complete 120 hours across a period of at least four weeks, they will hit the second eligibility point where they will be able to access reimbursement of up to $6,000 for Australian workers and up to $2,000 for temporary visa holders.
AgMove relocation assistance is flexible and can be used for a range of items, including:
- Accommodation costs such as rent, motel, caravan, or campsite fees
- Travel costs such as fares, petrol, car hire
- Some employment-related expenses such as safety clothing, uniforms, and work boots.
Please check all of the criteria carefully as there are requirements for both you and your employer. Click here for more about AgMove, including a claim checklist, and more about the application process.
Please check the links in the state sections for details of the available state-based assistance.
COVID-19 job hubs & relocation assistance & bonuses - by state (click here)
Western Australia: The WA Government has launched an initiative to connect jobseekers with opportunities. Please note, this initiative exists to provide information only and is not a recruitment service. Links to recruitment services can be found on the site https://studium.work/jobsinfoodandag and job ads are also posted to the Facebook page here: facebook.com/jobswafoodandag.
- The Western Australian Government also has a Regional Travel and Accommodation Support Scheme, click here.
Queensland: The Queensland Government has also launched an initiative to connect jobseekers with opportunities. Check out the #pickqld site and search under #pickqld on social media.
- The Queensland Government has a “back to work in agriculture” incentive scheme, click here. (Applications close on 30 June 2021.)
New South Wales: The NSW Government has launched Help Harvest NSW to connect unemployed workers with farm work opportunities across NSW. Take a look at the site and see what job opportunities are around the corner, visit nsw.gov.au/covid-19/help-harvest-nsw. You can also search via #HelpHarvestNSW on social media.
South Australia: The South Australian Government has launched a job hub for seasonal work: seasonaljobs.sa.gov.au/. PIRSA is also posting some job ads to the department’s Facebook feed here and you can search under SeasonalJobSA and #GetASeasonalJobSA as well.
- South Australia is also offering relocation assistance to students moving to regional areas for work, click here.
Victoria: The Victorian Government has launched a website that might be of use: vic.gov.au/workingforvictoria. The government is also offering a sign-on bonus and extra benefits for those who undertake seasonal work, click here for more.
Tasmania: Tasmania encourages you to look for opportunities via the Harvest Trail (links above) but DPIPWE provides some great information about working on the harvest trail here and a seasonal crop chart here.
Border closures (click here)
For current information about border closures within Australia, please visit https://farmhub.org.au/covid-19/. On this page, you will find a “Border Control” section with up-to-date links for all states and territories. Some states require a permit to enter. Please check ahead.
If you are crossing a state or territory border for work, we advise you to ask your new employer for a letter/email confirming you are travelling to take up work, to have proof on hand of where you will be living, and if necessary, proof (eg receipts) showing you have quarantined for 14 days. Even if the borders are open when you set off, have all of this information ready in case things change before you cross the border.