Aug 20, 2013

Experimenting unusual environments while working in Australia: "Fake wwoofing" in a banana farm

Meet me in from of the cafe of the shopping centre. I'll be wearing a cow boy hat!”

That's how my last adventure in the Australian rural world started.

Category: Australia
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Meet me in from of the cafe of the shopping centre. I'll be wearing a cow boy hat!”

That's how my last adventure in the Australian rural world started. I moved with 4 other backpackers on the 25th June in a banana farm, in a small village called Mareeba located less than an hour away from Cairns.



I replied to an advert for wwoofing on the helpx website. Not really a wwoofing job actually as we don't live with a family, we get paid instead of having food provided and we work 38 hours a week! I had heard about these 'fake wwoofing' , it's a very clever way for farmers to avoid paying backpackers the minimum wage. So to give you an idea we work 38 hours a week but 30 are considered as wwoofing (6 hours a days) and only 8 hours are paid for 100 dollars – 12,5 dollars an hour. Fortunately we're given 160 dollars each week for food which means we're getting paid 260 dollars a week for 38 hours of work....which is less than 7 dollars an hour!!! At this stage of my journey I wasnt expecting to save more money - I was determined to do wwoofing for 3 months – I accepted this offer thinking that a few more dollars before starting my roadtrip in Asia would be welcome.



What makes this banana farm very special is...that they don't have any! Banana picking is supposed to be very hard as bananas can be very heavy but banana fields in this farm have been let down for a very long time. We picked up bananas for less than a week in total since I've first arrived two months ago! Work is very easy in general and varies a lot: we cut leaves, we irrigate the banana trees, we clear up the base of the trees...I had never seen a banana tree before now I surely have!



Even though two months in a farm seems to never end everything went ok on the whole but once more I have been confronted to the reality of the rural e world that I had seen when I first arrived in Australia. A Sunday afternoon as we were sunbathing on the esplanade in Cairns next to the public pool one of the workers from the farm made a joke:

The water must be pretty warm with all these little aboriginal kids pissing in there!”

Probably a bit disappointed not to see us rolling on the floor crying with laughter, he felt obliged to justify his remark by telling us that as a child his mum would never let him to the local pool because they were used by Aboriginals. This is only one example among many. Encounters in these isolated areas keep exasperating me proving me each time that locals can be extremely racist, sometimes unpleasant and often uneducated. Unfortunately I had already come to this conclusion when I was working at the roadhouse last October in North Queensland. It's with a weariness and disillusion feeling that I live my last few weeks in Australia mixed with the impatience to leave this country to keep travelling and discover new culture.



I don't regret to have travelled there though. I shared this experience with other backpackers I really got along with. Also we had the chance to live in a part of Australia that not many travellers get to see: the Tablelands which is a fertile land part of the Great Divide Range (3500 kilometres and the 3rd biggest range in the world!) In the end of the afternoons we can watch incredible sunsets from the owners' house which is located on a hill. When the sun disappears behind the mountains the colours of the sky and the clouds become just exceptional and make us forget the pitiful world of the farm.



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