A Week of Fruit Picking and Verbal Abuse in Bundaberg

“Stop chatting to your girlfriend and get back to work, you Pommie cunt!”

The speaker was my supervisor, and we were in a Queensland tomato field pruning vines. My ‘girlfriend’ was my male coworker who, being a white Australian, couldn’t really be subject to the usual racial or national insults so was instead a ‘blooming pufter’ (apparently based simply on his not being a foulmouthed redneck douchebag, rather than anything to actually do with his sexuality)

Our Japanese and Korean coworkers were ‘all these bloody gooks’, and we were collectively ‘a bunch of lazy cunts’ – although he didn’t seem to mind the blond European girls, funnily enough…

Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia

Bundaberg, surrounded by vast industrial farms

Even without this racist old prick for a supervisor the job would’ve sucked; we had to work our way up and down the rows of tomato vines, bent double to reach down and prune them so they’d grow as desired. There was no shade out in the field, and the Queensland sun beat down on us like a sledgehammer. We could snatch ten minutes’ rest at the end of every second row (i.e. once there & back) during which we huddled in the shade of the van or a tree and pounded the water back.

We’d chat about our respective countries or how to say this or that in various languages, until our bigot-in-chief with the face like a leather treasure map reminded us we were cunts and were there to work not sit around chatting shit like a fucking bunch of old women.

Needless to say, it wasn’t the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had, and even once we’d finished work for the day it still sucked – we were all staying in the same hostel, the kind of working hostel that exists all over that part of Australia (this was in Bundaberg) where backpackers sleep in sweaty dorms, wake up en masse to pile into vans out to the fields of whichever farm they’re contracted out to, and then return in the evening to cook dinner in the shared kitchen and sit around whittling the hours away with a deck of cards (at least nobody pissed in anyone’s bag in that hostel).

Whether you’re in Australia to expand your horizons, make new friends, see the world and explore new cultures, or just save money towards your next spell in Southeast Asia, fruit picking is frankly a shit way to do it. Much better to work the bar at an Irish pub or perfect your latte art at some cafe in Sydney or Melbourne (thinking of doing the 88 days of farmwork required to extend your visa? Have a read of this – totally not worth it, just go to New Zealand instead!)

And that racist bastard supervisor was just the icing on the shit cake; although he’s a funny caricature to tell people about now, listening to his bullshit every day was mind-numbingly tedious and absolutely not worth the income (especially with the sore back to boot). I completed the week to make sure I got paid and then got the hell out of there to finish my run up to Cairns, sail the Whitsundays en route (which was 3 days of comical misery), do some diving at the Great Barrier Reef and the SS Yongala (awesome), and then head back to Melbourne – to work in an Irish pub.

For more Australia posts click here, and see my Australia overland page

Photo credit: Iancochrane, Flickr. Used under cc

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