When staying in the bush isn’t an option

Backpacker sent packing to find sponsored work


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Hazel Nichols, originally from England, has been working in the Moranbah and Alpha districts on stations, but has to leave now to get sponsored work in the city. Photo - Kelly Butterworth.

Hazel Nichols, originally from England, has been working in the Moranbah and Alpha districts on stations, but has to leave now to get sponsored work in the city. Photo - Kelly Butterworth.

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Backpackers are falling in love with the bush but having to move back to the city to find sponsored visa work.

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WHEN Hazel Nichols was a child, she read a book called My Friend Flicka and from that moment on she wanted to muster cattle on horseback.

As a backpacker in the Clermont and Alpha regions, Ms Nichols had that opportunity and hundreds of others which she said cemented her love for the Australian bush.

After growing up on a small property in England, Ms Nichols said the decision to move to Australia and find work was one she would never regret. However now, after one year in the country, she must be sponsored – and finding a sponsored position in the outback was not as easy as she anticipated. 

With a background in business and marketing, she is now leaving her RMs behind and packing away the Wranglers to head back to Sydney to find a sponsored, four-year position.

Her long-term goal is still to stay in Australia as a permanent resident in the bush. 

She said she was not alone – with many of her friends approaching the end of their first year in the bush with the knowledge they will soon need to move to a capital city in order to stay in the country. 

Ms Nichols has been working with Rebecca and David Comiskey at Melton, Alpha. She said working with the Comiskeys was “an incredible experience”. 

“I am so grateful to Bec and Dave and all the people of Alpha for welcoming me to their incredible community with such open arms. 

Hazel Nichols.

Hazel Nichols.

“I have made memories to last a lifetime and can only hope that one day I will be able to return to this special, special place.”

Ms Nichols said while backpackers were required to spend three months working regionally, there was often no way for them to stay on and be sponsored because of the cost and four year commitment rural businesses must make.

“I have absolutely loved it – it’s just an amazing community and just so many different experiences and great people there,” she said of living in Alpha.

“Anyone can apply for the one year working visa providing you meet the criteria, and then if you want to stay longer you have to do three months of rural work and in return for that then you can apply for your second year visa, however once you’ve used that there’s no option to stay longer unless you get sponsored.

“That’s a skilled workers’ visa then, and they are primarily office work, or of course you can get a defacto and be married.”

Laughing, Ms Nichols said she did not find a husband while living in Alpha, so her only feasible option was to move back to Sydney and get work in advertising. “It is really sad that you can find something that you love so much, but you can’t stay and work in the country because of the restrictions,” she said. 

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