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Backpackers in Tasmania look to the mainland, waiting for COVID-19 pandemic restrictions to ease

July 21st, 2020 | | backpacker

When backpacker Alberto Villa moved to Tasmania in January, he didn’t expect his working holiday in the state would last until winter.

Key points:

  • Backpackers are staying in Tasmania far longer than they expected due to the pandemic
  • Farm work in Tasmania dries up during winter and many working holiday makers hope to head to the mainland
  • Competition is tight due to travellers previously working in hospitality now also looking for farm work

Mr Villa, a financial consultant, was contemplating heading home to Spain when the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Europe.

“They shut the borders,” he said.

“So I decided to stay here and extend my visa a bit more, and take advantage of the situation. We say Australia is a bubble and inside that, Tasmania is another bubble.”

“So it couldn’t be any better than staying here in Tasmania.”

For the past six months Mr Villa has been employed as a forklift driver by Heazlewood Seeds, at Whitemore in Tasmania’s north.

The business processes pasture, grains and vegetable seeds, and has been hiring backpackers for the past three years.

“They make a good fit for the type of seasonal work we’re doing,” owner Duncan Heazlewood said.

“It’s their last week, we’re running out of work for them.

“So hopefully they can find something else to keep them going, perhaps in a warmer climate.”

A man stands in front of a row of large grain silos
Duncan Heazlewood says working holiday makers are a good fit for his business.(ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith)

Navigating state borders

Border restrictions have created some logistical challenges for thousands of backpackers, who would normally move between states for work.

Seasonal work in Tasmania typically winds down during winter and starts to ramp up at the end of spring.

Careena Mecoli and Gabriella Franchi, two teachers from Argentina, have also spent six months at Heazlewood Seeds.

Although the work is drying up, the two workers are keen to stay in the country rather than return home.

“In Argentina there is mandatory quarantine,” Ms Franchi said.

“My family is happy that I’m here, I can travel around, I can work.”

A young woman holds a bag under a machine to fill it with grass seed
Working holiday maker Gabriella Franchi fills a bag with grass seed at a packing facility in northern Tasmania.(ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith)

Workers are now trying to find options in other states, but there’s competition.

Travellers who were working in hospitality, before the pandemic, are now also looking for farm work.

“All the international borders will be shut, minimum until Christmas,” Alberto Villa said.

“For us, definitely we’re going to stick around.

“I think there will be more opportunities in the future, because people will still need to harvest their crops.”

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow