4 travellers tell us why Australia’s Northern Territory is the best decision they could’ve made
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Tens of thousands of young people leave the UK every year to travel to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa (WHV). We visited Darwin, capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory, to find out why so many people go.
Nourlangie, Kakadu National Park // Peter Eve/Tourism NT
An Australian WHV is available to UK nationals aged 18-30 and allows them to stay in the country for up to a year, moving around at leisure, stopping for paid work along the way as much or as little as they please. A survey conducted by Tourism Australia found that some 57,000 people from the UK entered Australia on a WHV in 2016. It’s one of backpacking website Gapyear.com’s most sought-after products.
So why is it so popular? There’s the weather, of course, with most of the country enjoying better weather than the UK year-round, the Northern Territory in particular basking in uninterrupted sunshine during its dry season between May and October.
“I don’t even own a coat anymore,” says Clare Dazeley, 26, who is now in the fourth month of her stay in Australia and works in a bar on Darwin’s waterfront. “It’s a bit different to back home.”
One of the most daunting things about travelling and working abroad is the prospect of a language barrier, something that isn’t a concern in Australia. “We all speak the same language – mostly,” says Dazeley, before offering a few examples of her favourite Aussie slang. “It makes it so much easier to settle in.”
Beyond the promise of sunshine and no language barrier, working holidays in Australia are so established that, for many, friends and family have travelled on WHV before them, making it less daunting to take the leap.
“Both my older brothers did working holiday visas and said it was amazing,” says Beth Morrison, 24, who has worked in a waterside bar in Darwin for the last six months. “When one of them moved here for good I decided to just do it.”
Plenty of young people yearn to travel but don’t know how to go about it. The strong word-of-mouth around WHVs, an option which provides loose structure to travelling, offers a clear path. “I wanted to go somewhere, and all my friends told me it was awesome here. I started thinking I’d be an idiot not to try it for myself,” says Harry Reeves, 21, who has worked in construction during his trip.
“Knowing you’ll be able to work and save if you want makes the whole idea seem more real than travelling without any kind of plan.”
A WHV can also offer the opportunity to test a future career path in a different, somewhat more flexible environment. “I had just finished college, doing hospitality management,” says Niamh Redmond, 23, who splits her working hours between a hostel bar and a hotel.
“I thought the best thing to do was to experience a different country and get a feel for hospitality around the world. [Coming here] was a way of seeing if I really enjoyed it, if I did the right course or not.”
Expanding her working experience soon offered fresh perspective. “Coming to Australia, I realised I really did like hospitality,” she says.
It helps, of course, that jobs in Australia pay significantly more than their counterparts in the UK. “I’m getting paid more here for working in a bar than I was back home as a graphic designer,” says Morrison. “It’s ridiculous.”
Still, it’s something a little less practical that proves to be a recurring theme in the people we meet: the desire to be as far away from home as possible. You certainly can’t get much further from the UK than Australia, and by living in Darwin, surrounded by the stunning Australian Outback, travellers are certainly a long way from home.
In the second part of this article we’ll discover why so many working holiday makers end up in Darwin and the Northern Territory, and why as soon as they arrive they become so reluctant to leave.
Writer credit: Dave Owen