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Katie recently worked in Rochester, this is her story…..

Well it started off very upbeat, me and a group of friends were off to Rochester to go and pick tomatoes, not very glamorous but we had our job the 2nd year visa. We arrived on the bus and went to Rochester Hostel backpackers and called our contact. After waiting for 2 or 3 hours the guy came to say hello and that he would be back in another hour to get us. In that time we were able to cook at the hostel until he arrived.

Another 2 hours passed and we were getting a little impatient, there was about 10 of us waiting and all we wanted to do was to see where we would be staying and settle in. Eventually this little bus with came along but there wasn’t enough seats for all of us! We were asked if anyone could drive a mini bus as there was a spare nearby. I offered and was given the keys to drive the extra one with the smashed dirty windscreen. It was very hard to drive, dangerous actually, I could hardly see out of it, the van was definitely on its last legs.

After leaving the waiting spot we went to pickup more people from the train station! After that we were finally on our way to our new home to begin our tomato picking adventure in Rochester. We arrived at Murrigum Holiday park and were allocated our beds, they over booked so they had to go acquire some more! The conditions were a bit cramped and flies lingered but the people there were cool so we didn’t mind to much. I guess that what keeps you going, to support of other pickers and backpackers in a similar situation.

The next morning we were off to work. We got picked up in the rickety bus at 5.30am and went to the tomato field where we were shown what to do and then we got picking!! The pay rate was $1.50 per 20 litre bucket. So the first day we averaged about 50 buckets after working hard and as quick as we could manage, so $75 pay, it could be worse. The next day everyone was aching and sore from a physical first day of work, some friends decided half way through the 2nd day they weren’t going to stay any longer as they wouldn’t make money to even pay for the camp and transport, which $150 a week.

I managed to stay for 14 days, I picked 5 buckets of cherry tomatoes at $10 each, so that’s $50 per day. I then found myself working on the machine where the driver didn’t seem very safety conscious. When he asked the pickers to go and check our rows for remaining tomatoes he shifted the huge machine about without looking who was nearby. He hit me on the head. This machine which is the size of 3 tractors and it really hurt! I carried on for a bit and found myself dazed and upset.I asked to go sit down for 10 minutes to compose myself and recover from the incident. I was told “It’s not alright to be tired” He obviously didn’t listen to what I was trying to tell him so I just walked off. I had worked from 7am until 5.30pm that day and because i needed a little break after being hit on the head with a huge machine I wasn’t going to get paid. By that stage I was fuming, as you can probably imagine.

A few days before I left the people that had been there before me got paid, that pay was a week late. Payment was by cash and not to your bank account. Everyone seemed to get around half of what they had expected to earn and the farmer wouldn’t budge on the wages, so in essence there was nothing anyone could do. We tried rallying together to get better conditions and pay but to no avail, we were then being sent to all the fileds that were nearly harvested, by then most of the tomatoes were finished and rotten. In one hour I managed to pick 2 buckets of good tomatoes, whoo hoo $3 in an hour!!! Yes, that is sarcasm!
I wish I had a car. If you don’t have one you’re pretty much stuck in the middle of nowhere unless it’s a shopping day, then if you’re lucky enough to get a space in the bus you can go to town for a quick supermarket stop.

Anyway, now I am off to Tasmania to try find a 2nd year visa job, I have no money so hoping things will work out!! I’ll let you know :)

Best Wishes,


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Dimitri /

G'day Guys, My name is Dimi, I'm one of the admins/starters of . Freddie and I started this community to help working holiday makers and harvest workers find jobs in an easy and transparent manner. We're not just here to help you finding jobs, anything related to your working holiday down under, we will help try find a way to make it easier for you too achieve. Getting your tax done, deals, travel spots... you name it. If you ever have any questions or feedback please don't hesitate to ask. We're always looking for ways to improve the site and help meet our members needs and build a stronger community. Hope you're doing well and best of luck. Cheers Dimi

3 Responses to “Katie’s Rochester Tomato Picking Nightmare”

  1. Allan Cope

    Not a good start Kate hope things improve for u

  2. Andrea Pavkovic

    That sounds crappy! You did well staying as long as you did.

  3. Kate

    Hi Katie, contact fair work Australia, (it doesn’t matter how long ago you worked on the farm) just google them and contact the office near you. Give as much details as you can about the farmers and information about the days you worked the hours you did each day with a start time and finish time and what you got paid. You will then be told to fill in a complaint form that is available on the net. you will get the amount of money you should have been paid which works out to be around $19.82 per hour which is the award rate for farm workers. If you are told you get paid by contract meaning by the amount you pick that is legal but must equate to at least the award rate of $19.82 per hour if it doesn’t then fair work Australia will get you what you are owed. Any other backpacker that reads this


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