With fruit picking jobs all year round, Bundaberg entices Backpackers from all over Australia. Sweet potatoes, sugar cane, tomatoes, pumpkins, you name it and it’s probably grown in Bundaberg! So the perfect place to come to get your 2nd Year Visa? Maybe don’t book your plane ticket just yet…
I’ve spent the past 2 months working in Bundaberg and staying at the Workers & Divers Hostel. It wasn’t the worst 2 months of my life but it was far from the best. But here’s a few reasons why I think I’d reconsider going to Bundy, were I to do it again.
1) You’ll most likely get taken advantage of
It’s hard to get rich in Bundy. Whether it’s the farmers taking the piss paying you crap contract rates, the hostels charging outrageous rent, or bad weather giving you unexpected days off, you may find you’re not earning quite as much money as you’d hoped.
In my case I landed on my feet with a good job. I worked on a sweet potato farm earning $21/hr and was part of a great team. The downside? My rent at the hostel was $200/week. It was actually meant to be $235, however, I stayed in my campervan and was given a $35 discount. A lot of people thought I was crazy! But the way I saw it was I got cheaper rent, plus a clean, comfy, bed bug free bed to share with Chris.
The hostel owner turned out to be nothing but a greedy contractor with a never ending list of rules stating all the things you can’t do in the hostel, along with threats of kicking you out with no refund. He didn’t care about the backpackers, he just cared about how many beds were filled and how much money he was making.
Obviously not all hostels are the same and some are better than others. But often the cheaper ones get you contract rate jobs where you might work your ass off for 10 hours and not earn much.
2) Bundaberg farms aren’t always the nicest places to work
As I said above I got very lucky with the farm I worked on and was part of a fun team full of both local Aussies and international backpackers. It was that team that made the mundane and repetitive work bearable. But this isn’t the case on some farms.
Before working on the potato farm I worked in a packing shed where things weren’t so great. The supervisor never smiled and didn’t know how to talk, just shout. She would walk around the pack house shouting and swearing at people while smoking a cigarette. And if you did something wrong, even on your first day, she would scream at you for it. The rest of the local staff were always stressed and it was a horrible atmosphere to work in.
Back at the hostel I would talk to people about their farms and often I would hear similar stories. One farm had a dog that would bite the backpackers and the farmer would do nothing about it. On other farms people would be shouted at, sworn at, nothing was ever good enough or fast enough. I think a lot of the farmers lacked respect for backpackers, especially if they’re from non-English speaking countries.
3) There are thieves lurking in Bundaberg
During my first 3 weeks in Bundy 3 people got their i phones stolen. Many of the hostels offer very little security. Doors are often left open and old locks are easily picked. It’s not hard at all for people to walk in casually off the street and take their pick of mobiles, laptops etc. After one of the phone’s was stolen our hostel checked back the CCTV footage. They saw a man wearing a mask with his hood up walking around the hostel. But nothing more was done about it.
It was shortly after one of these phones was stolen that someone tried to open the door to my van. I was sitting in the front one night chatting with Chris when a young guy tried the handle. He didn’t see me through the tinted side window but I saw him, and watched him as he went up the street, trying each vehicle he came to. For the whole of my stay in Bundaberg I could never fully relax with my stuff. I made sure everything was always hidden and out of sight.
4) Bundy is rough as
There’s no doubt about it that Bundy is a rough town, one of the roughest I’ve been to in Australia. I definitely didn’t feel safe walking about the streets at night by myself. Often on the way into town I’d pass homes and hear domestics going on from within. On New Years Eve a group of us were walking past a house when my friend said Happy New Year to a woman, touching her lightly on the shoulder. She flipped out and had to be held back by 2 kids who just kept saying, “They’re just tourists, they don’t know!”
Most weekends I’d go to a club called Central with people from the hostel for a few drinks, and there’d always be a few shady characters about. One night we were sitting at a table when a couple of locals came over and sat across from us. They started banging and shaking the table, trying to knock over our drinks and staring at us as they did it. They came across as so pumped up and aggressive, just looking for a fight.
Another night a huge and extremely pissed Aboriginal woman started slurring incoherently at me in the toilets. I had no idea what she was saying, but I ended up running into one of the cubicles with a friend to escape her. She banged on the door and shouted at us before leaving.
But at least the police seem to have it under control. After dark they are everywhere! I’ve never seen so many police cars for a place of this size. At the weekends especially, they will be driving the roads, walking the streets, keeping an eye on everything. At least their job never gets boring.
“I can’t stand being in a place where Backpackers are taken advantage of!”
Since leaving Bundaberg it’s amazing how many backpackers I’ve met who have recently spent time there doing farm work. It’s almost like a right of passage in the backpacking world. And they all say the same thing. It was a shit place but I met some amazing people.
And this is totally true. I had hilarious nights out, met friends I know I’ll see again, gained experiences I’ll keep with me forever, and I actually had some fun! But would I go there again? No way. I can deal with the rough locals. I got used to the dirty hostel. But I can’t stand being in a place where Backpackers are taken advantage of!
I hated how my friends would get home from picking lemons all day with looks of despair on their faces as they’d barely earned enough money to pay their rent. They wanted to leave and look for work elsewhere but couldn’t afford to and didn’t know where to go. Backpackers come here because they’re desperate and then stay because they’re desperate. They know the rent’s not fair or the pay is a joke, but still they keep coming. It’s just all one big vicious circle that will never stop.