I resigned last Friday. I caught a cold and I never went out. I am okay. I have been resting at home these days and I am completely healthy now. I have a new job – I am going in three days, to pick grapes in Mildura. I want to rush to get a second-year visa while I have work. Many working holiday-makers are unemployed. In the short term, I think it’s difficult for me to fly back to my country. My parents are worried, but I can cope by myself.
I’m 26, but people always say I have a young face. I grew up in a very ordinary family in China and received a very ordinary education, a Chinese education for everybody. I finished my university study and after I graduated I was working in computers, IT. And my life – it is pretty ordinary, you can say that.
After a while, I just realised that the work culture in China is not satisfying for me. Not satisfying. And I did some research online about Australia and got the information about working holiday visa and whether it’s viable to do that, to go to Australia.
I was working in a butchery in Dandenong; the meat is beef and lamb. I started in the afternoon, 2:30, until 11:30 at night. I’m at the end of the processing line. The boxes come onto the belt, all the meat that’s been cut, and we have to try to sort it out, classify the meat and then put it into a box and then in the storage.
It’s a very big butchery, it has about 500 workers on the processing line and most of the workers are mainly from overseas and from what I can tell, some are from Middle East, some from India, from Thailand, from China. I think they are also holding working holiday visas, and some on protection visas – I’m not surprised, because Australia is a migrant country. Most people are quite friendly and they just do their work.
Work is hard here, especially for us, without English, and also without any special skill. We can only do very hard work, and that is exhausting. I’ve got aches in my body – my back, my fingers, my feet and the joints of my legs. Even a machine will wear out after being used for a long time.
We got the job through the agent, advertised on Facebook, and we got accommodation through the same agent. It’s a house with five bedrooms, and nine of us are sharing. We’re each paying $120 per week. The rest of the housemates, they’re all from Taiwan. If I’m home, I just go on YouTube, watch something, some entertainment.
My first job was at a butchery at Warrnambool. I was using the butcher’s knife to cut the meat. At the end of the day, my fingers couldn’t move; my hand, it’s frozen. I only worked for two weeks because I injured my hand. The meat is beef, big and heavy, and when you are cutting there is one speed, okay? You have to be able to cut it very fast, and I can’t cope. I sprained the muscles on my hand.
This is a casual job, so I left. I didn’t mention it to them, because I don’t know I have the rights, and… I don’t know… - my English is not very good. I am a shy person; I am not very good at expressing myself, not outspoken.
After that first job, I went to a farm in Cobram, picking cherries. I found the job on Facebook. I took a half-day train, country scenery – animals, plants, bush – but I was tired, I didn’t pay much attention. This job, it’s also a casual job and we were paid according to how much we can harvest. Each tub they pay you $12.50, but in one day, the most I can pluck is maybe eight tubs. In the first week I was earning about $25 per day. My average was $60 to $80 per day. And it depends on the weather; if it’s raining we can’t go out and harvest.
I will show you a video. Most of the workers on the farm, these migrant workers, we live in a caravan park. Maybe five people sharing one caravan. There is a communal area for cooking and for taking showers. What I earn, actually it’s not enough to cover accommodation and food – not enough.
I want to go back. After arriving in Australia, it came across my mind. I miss my family, and time we spend as family, and my family’s home town, the cooking in my hometown. I miss all that. But even going back to China… working, career-wise, future, there’s a lot of challenges. So at the moment, I took this path, I have to continue.
My parents, they are very traditional Chinese people. They hope that I graduate, I land a job, and then I work hard. And eventually I get married and have an ordinary life. And maybe I can buy one or two properties and I can enjoy some passive income. I feel that that sort of life is just like a pig’s life. It doesn’t give people soul—it’s a dead life, not a living life. This is the life that they think is suitable for me. I didn’t do it the way they want me to, and I came here to see different worlds. Emotionally, they are not happy, but they can’t do anything to stop me.
I don’t know what will happen in the future. In Australia, I would like to experience a life that has more connection with nature. Not just human beings, the city and the high-rise, and always just work, work, work.
Of course to enjoy a very relaxed life, you need some conditions, like a house and some money put aside. Travel costs a lot of money. I am thinking of a very budget travelling plan. I need to buy a car so that I can travel. You have to work hard to accumulate that, to build up your nest egg. I have to work hard to earn a living, to work, work, but I believe that one day I will enjoy that lifestyle.
I’m always optimistic, okay? Before this, maybe the luck is no good, you didn’t land on a very good job, you don’t get paid well, the accommodation is not great, okay. But everything will go the right way, will go better, in future. I hope so.