By Rebecca Sterry
At Verwood Estate, we operate family owned winery and vineyard. Every year, we love working with a number of fresh-faced backpackers who require a season’s work to continue travelling Australia. We love employing backpackers, adore getting to know each of their stories, and are passionate about working together and ensuring they feel like part of the family. The following passages are a series of short stories detailing how each backpacker came about to arriving at the farm in Verwood Estate Wines within Sutton Forest in NSW.
Joe is a young Irish man from a small town called Clare, 23 years of age. He left Ireland in November 2019 to explore Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. He first arrived in Sydney where he has family and began to settle in. Though, as many people alike have been affected, the 2020 pandemic of Coronavirus meant that Joe had to remain in Sydney for longer than intended. Worried about meeting the conditions of his visa, which states that a minimum of 88 days regional work must be completed in order to stay in Australia for a further 12 months, Joe was lucky to find a farm willing to contribute towards his 88 days in Tibooburra. There he worked for a month helping the residents with maintenance and repair work on their hotel, as well as tending to the animals residing there.
Though, Joe longed for more adventure, he began his search to find another place to complete the rest of his 88 days work. He contacted Natalie through a post advertised on a local backpacker’s page and arrived at Verwood Estate Wines on the 10th August 2020. He is now completing the remainder of his days here restoring the farm and vineyard to its full potential after being affected from the bushfires in late 2019 to early 2020. Joe has become a welcomed and great member of the Verwood family.
Aidan is another young Irish man of 30 years from the more commonly known area of Dublin. He first left Ireland in September 2019 to travel Southeast Asia for 3 months. On his travels, he visited Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, staying for a month in each country. Aidan visited an elephant sanctuary in Chang Mai for a day where he took part in feeding, bathing, and tending to the elephants there which he described as a rewarding and once in a lifetime experience. After his time in Southeast Asia, Aidan had not yet finished with his travelling and embarked on a new experience here in Australia the next few years.
Aidan first arrived in Perth where he took the initial important steps in becoming a backpacker travelling Australia; he bought a campervan. From Perth, he travelled to South Australia, and this was around the time of Covid-19 which meant that Aidan was grounded there for roughly 6 months during the lockdown period. Once lockdown had eased, Aidan headed up to Byron Bay and along the East Coast to Sydney which is where he then contacted Natalie about completing his 88 days regional work here at Verwood Estate Wines to obtain his second year working holiday visa. He is now helping with the restoration of the farm and vineyard after it was affected by the bushfires and is a great addition to the Verwood family.
Lisa is beautiful young, Canadian lady from the city of Toronto in which she lived there for 7 years of her life after moving out from her parents’. Lisa chased adventure as she was not yet certain on a specific career path and wanted to explore the world to find her purpose. This journey brought her to Australia in August 2019 where she arrived in Melbourne and began to travel the east region up to the Sunshine Coast and back over the entirety of a month. After some time travelling, Lisa then settled in Melbourne for a while looking for a job before wanting to explore again, this time in New Zealand, Tasmania, and possibly Southeast Asia. However, the current Covid-19 pandemic halted any plans of travelling, particularly with Victoria being the worst affected state in Australia, meaning that Lisa was forced to remain in Melbourne throughout the lockdown period. Time was soon beginning to run out on her current working holiday visa, which expired in August 2020. She then began looking for work to complete her 88 days to be able to remain in Australia for a further 12 months as the pandemic had affected her plans to travel more.
With her time imminently running out, Lisa had contacted Natalie regarding farmwork and to her delight, Natalie offered her a position at Verwood Estate Wines just in time for her to be able to remain in Australia. As the timing was so fine, Lisa had to apply for a new visa called the Covid-19 Pandemic Event which bridged her time here in Australia whilst completing her 88 days. She booked a train journey to NSW, but at this time all trains were getting cancelled so Lisa had no other choice than to fly into Sydney; because of the timing, Lisa had just arrived after the NSW/VIC border had closed and therefore had to isolate for 2 weeks upon arrival at Sutton Forest. She then began her regional work in restoring the vineyard and farm after the bushfires and has become a much-loved member of the Verwood family.
Chiara has recently arrived at Verwood Estate Wines as of 22nd September 2020. Chiara is a lovely young Italian lady from a town called Conegliano. She initially left Italy in July 2019 to come to Sydney, Australia as an exchange student in which she studied 3 courses at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Chiara’s speciality is marketing work with the 3 courses studied being emergent media practices, promoting events, and management for sustainability. Chiara was enjoying her time here in Australia and decided to apply for a Working Holiday Visa in February 2020 to further her stay in which she continued down the marketing route and began an internship in marketing and events whilst in Sydney. During this time is when the lockdown period came into place due to the current pandemic, meaning that Chiara was soon needing to complete her 88 days regional work before her current visa expired.
Luckily for Chiara, she stumbled across Natalie’s position for farmwork that would qualify for the specified work required of the visa and allow her to apply for a second working holiday visa in Australia. Chiara took the first train from Sydney to Sutton Forest in which she is now completing her 88 days helping rebuild the business with her marketing skills, as well as helping around the farm. She is settling into the farm life well and is becoming a great member of the Verwood family.
Beth is a beautiful young lady from a small town called Telford in the UK. She first arrived in Melbourne, Australia in November 2019 on a working holiday visa. Beth’s family had moved to Australia as of September 2018 in which she had visited over Christmas and New Years and fell in love with the place. She therefore decided that this is the place where she now wanted to live. After settling in to Melbourne and the holiday period was over, Beth began searching for a job and potential farmwork, though this proved to be more difficult than anticipated as Beth struggled to find anywhere that would take her on due to the visa she held – if any of you are unfamiliar with the working holiday visa, it requires for you to complete 88 days regional work and only allows you to work for 6 months under one employer, hence why many positions were reluctant to employ her. This was also at the time of the pandemic where lockdown was taking affect and making job hunting the more difficult.
As Beth was living in Metropolitan Melbourne, this was also considered a ‘hotspot’ area in which the lockdown restrictions were at stage 4 – the most intense stage. This continued over a period from March until June, and then again from July – October of which the current lockdown is still in effect and progressively ceasing depending on the average daily cases. At this point, Beth was beginning to give up essentially as no matter how much she tried to find potential regional or paid work, she was unsuccessful. Just as her luck was beginning to run out and the expiry date on her visa was imminently approaching, Bec (who is her cousin’s partner) was in a similar position and starting to face the possibility of having to return to the UK if her luck didn’t change. Though, the very day that they both decided to give up, was also the day that Natalie responded to Bec’s enquiry of work at her farm for their 88 days.
Because of the current lockdown and the NSW/VIC border being closed at the time, Beth and Bec had to act very quickly and leave Victoria before the isolation requirements changed in that they wouldn’t be able to isolate at the farm, but in a hotel that would have to be paid for willingly by themselves (of which they didn’t have the money for that to due to having no previous work). Beth and Bec travelled from Melbourne, Victoria to Sutton Forest, NSW on the 6th August 2020 in which they both isolated at Verwood Estate Wines over a 2-week period to then begin their farmwork, just in the nick of time! Beth is now providing support services for Natalie in rebuilding the business after the bushfires and pandemic had affected them. She is also tending to the many animals here, including the goats and cows, bottle feeding them morning and night.
Bec is another young woman from the UK who left her hometown of Telford in December 2019. Bec’s partner is Connor, who is also Beth’s cousin, of which Bec and Connor had planned to move to Australia for some time to start a new life there together. Bec arrived in Melbourne on a working holiday visa on New Year’s Eve where she took some time to settle into Australia living with her partner and his family. She then began searching for a job, either paid or farmwork, and soon began to relate to Beth’s struggles as finding one was proving difficult.
The current pandemic also affected the job search as lockdown restrictions were limiting the work available, and with Bec being on a working holiday visa, she already had a few limitations as to how long she could work for one employer for. Endlessly searching over the months and not getting any responses or success, Bec was beginning to face the inevitable possibility of having to return to the UK as no income or regional work to extend her visa meant that her options were running out. It took until Bec was at breaking point and had given up that Natalie responded to her offering both her and Beth a position at their farm to complete our 88 days regional work. Thrilled at how their luck had just changed, both Bec and Beth now had to face the complicated process of being able to leave Victoria with the border to New South Wales closed.
It took a lot of research, applying for permits and both getting a Covid-19 test to prove that we were negative and not a health threat to NSW to be able to enter the state and complete our farmwork. Bec and Beth left Melbourne on the 6th August 2020, successfully crossed the border, and entered NSW and travelled to Sutton Forest in a day trip consisting of an 8-hour drive. Upon arrival at Verwood Estate Wines, Bec and Beth had to isolate for 2 weeks, as per requirement of entry into NSW, before they could begin to explore the new state and start working towards their 88 days. Bec now provides support services for Natalie, helping to rebuild the business and tends to the animals including the calves and goats which are all currently being bottle fed. Bec also looks after the resident Kitty living in the establishment, and helps with training Natalie’s young Labrador, Lady Momo.
A common theme for all the backpackers here is that they all managed to find a position at Verwood Estate Wines when it mattered the most, and it was almost as if it were fate! We are all very thankful to Natalie and Scott for providing us with the regional work we needed to meet the requirements of our visas, and thus allowing us to remain in Australia for a longer period. We’re lucky to have a great group of people working together and we all feel as though we have become part of the Verwood family!