What You Need To Know About Claiming Back Taxes And Super After An Australian Working Holiday Visa

I normally don’t write how-to posts like this, but since struggled in this process I believed it was important for someone on the internet to search for and find.

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You’ll need that money if you get your car stuck in the sand like this.

Foreigners working in Australia on a Working Holiday Maker Visa (subclass 417 and 462) are ‘residents for tax purposes’ and eligible to claim back superannuation and taxes (note that as of 1 January 2017, the first $37,000 earned will be taxed at 15%).

When I filed for my tax return in Australia in June, I got money back within a week. Now, after leaving Australia and filing for my tax return, it’s a completely different story. It’s not the quick turnaround I banked on. If you’re leaving Australia before the end of the fiscal year and you want to claim back taxes, don’t plan on getting it back quickly. Claiming superannuation was another obstacle. Make sure that even though you’ve left you haven’t lost track of any crucial information, such as your tax file number (TFN), Australian bank details, all previous Australian residential addresses and login details for online super and banking.

Below are some tips to making your process less stressful. But first: Here’s the key to getting back a ton of money after your working holiday visa:

DO NOT WORK CASH-IN-HAND.

It might seem tempting and it might seem like the best option at the time, but working cash in hand means that more likely than not your employers are cheating you while cheating the system. They’re not paying taxes which does nothing to help you, because  you don’t have to pay taxes! (at least not prior to 2017) This also means they are not paying into your superannuation, which you are also eligible to claim back.

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This describes the process to getting all that $$$$.

LODGING YOUR TAX RETURN

The most important thing to note here is that this process takes time if you do it before the end of the fiscal year, so don’t expect to get your money back quickly.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Collect payment summaries from all of your employers. Sometimes they will resist (most frustratingly, Hays Recruitment), so if they do print out every pay slip you received.

2. Read this from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Make sure you fulfill the requirements to lodge your tax return early, which for those on WHM visas means you’ve left the country, your visa has been cancelled or is expired, and you will no longer receive income from Australia. Note that you have to mail in your paperwork if you lodge it early. It cannot be done electronically.

3.Download and print the tax return for individuals form for the appropriate year. To lodge mine this year, I downloaded the most recent, which was from 2016, and crossed out 2016 and wrote 2017 on every page. Nailed it!

FINALLY: Collect all your payment information paperwork and with your tax return form (#3), mail it to Australia. If you are mailing it from abroad (which you probably will be), address it to:

Australian Taxation Office
GPO Box 9845
Sydney NSW 2001, Australia 

Now,  all you have to do is wait. The ATO says it will take up to five weeks.

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Maybe you worked in a cafe like this one in Alice Springs. 

CLAIMING SUPERANNUATION

Also known as ‘departing Australia superannuation payment’ (DASP). Claiming DASP seems simple, until you realized that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) is giving you a headache. That’s right, they’re a pain in the ass. Even though you may have left Australia four months ago and your visa has expired, you still have to cancel your visa before you’ll get your DASP. In fact, they won’t even let you submit your application for DASP before the DIBP clears you a runaway. (I only found this out after a week of confusion and finally messaging the ATO on Twitter.) So here’s how to do it:

1. Email Super Hobart (super.hobart@border.gov.au) with the following information:

  1. a clear statement that you wish to have your temporary visa cancelled,
  2. your full name and date of birth (and those of all people who hold a visa because they are a member of your family unit, or hold a visa only because you hold your visa.),
  3. passport number when you visited Australia,
  4. subclass of the temporary visa you wish to have cancelled,
  5. current residential address,
  6. the date that you departed Australia.

Note that this process can take up to five weeks. Once this process has been cleared, you can complete your DASP application, or if you’ve already completed it, finally submit it.

2. Read the DASP application instructions on the ATO website.

3. Complete the online DASP application.

Now,all you have to do is….

WAIT.

Have you claimed your taxes and DASP after a Working Holiday Visa? How did it go?


Featured photo: Degraves Espresso, on Degraves Street in Melbourne’s CBD.

 

 

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Where To Continue Your Learning In Melbourne

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Sign originally featured in this post.

Long- term traveling makes me loose intellectual capacity and critical thinking skills. That’s a big issue if you consider the fact that I’ve been traveling for more than two years. Going from the demanding readings and essays of university to a different type of learning, I yearn for the “ah-ha” moments of critical analysis and experience of group learning.

I learned a lot at the mine, but it wasn’t the same sort of education I’m referring to. Sadly there was little opportunity in the middle of nowhere in Northern Territory, unlike in Melbourne.

If you’re on a working holiday in Melbourne, just visiting or living, may be looking for some intellectual stimulation. During my four months there on a working holiday visa, it was hard to motivate myself to expand my horizons only by reading and watching documentaries.

Luckily, Melbourne is a city full of innovation and ideas. Anything from art to music to film can be easily accessed throughout the city. I was grateful to find places that hosted the type of learning I missed. Whether you’re like me and love the classroom or are just looking for some extra inspiration, these centers or organizations offer workshops, lectures or weekly classes on a variety of subjects.

Some of the organizations and centers on this list overlap with those mentioned in my post about how get your feminist on in Melbourne

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Electrical box in Melbourne.

The Wheeler Center 

Born out of Melbourne’s declaration as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2008, The Wheeler Center is a center focused on writing and ideas. Aside from publishing videos and original writing they host hundreds of talks a year on subjects ranging from human rights to technology at location in the Melbourne CBD. Their free events fill up fast, so make sure to follow their calendar of events and reserve your spot quickly.

Can’t make it to a talk? Find them on social media, subscribe to their newsletter and subcribe to their podcasts for learning on the go.

Center for Adult Education (CAE)

Melbourne’s CAE offers accredited courses for adults to finish secondary education and certificates and diplomas. It also offers short courses on a number of subjects from the humanities to practical life skills. You can learn anything from Swedish, sewing or floristry for a relatively low cost. Courses can last anywhere from one day to a few months. 

Photoh 

If you’re interested in learning photography in a non-competitive, relaxed setting, Photoh offers individual or group classes and weekly photography workshops in Melbourne from seasoned photographers. I took May’s Photo Challenge of the Month photo on their workshop on storytelling.

Melbourne Free University

Started in 2010, Melbourne Free University provides a space and opportunity for anyone, no matter their income or education level, to learn and discuss from experts and researchers. Topics include anything from social issues around the globe to the international politics of weapons. The free uni offers some six week courses as well as one-off seminars. The best part about it? Unlike most university experiences, participants get to enjoy learning the information without stressing about their grades.

Libraries in the City of Melbourne

The City of Melbourne’s libraries aren’t just beautiful (see the branch in the Docklands) buildings with good coffee nearby and free Wi-Fi. The library also hosts mostly free events, including history outings, recurring book clubs, lectures and art exhibitions. Check out their “What’s On” section for the latest events and don’t forget to reserve your spot online.

The School of Life Melbourne 

The School of Life was first founded in London in 2008 and opened its Melbourne branch in 2014. A bookshop cafe and learning space, it scatters provocative question ideas around for the purpose of facilitating meaningful interactions, The School of Life writes. The space also hosts various lectures on “how-to’s,” such as their upcoming January 2017 lectures “How to Find A Job You Love” and “How to Have Better Conversations.” It’s academically minded, critical and unique approach to various life skills will inspire you to think differently about your life. The only downside to this center is its hefty attendance fees. Ouch, that hurts the budget traveler’s wallet.

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You first met this koala triste in this post.  Now she’s sad because she wants to learn so much!

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Do you live in Melbourne? What other places do you go to learn? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

Want to simply learn more about what there is to do in Melbourne? Check out these websites you should be reading.


Featured photo of my friend Erin (author of this post on escaping from the outback) and I in front of a mural on Hosier Lane, one of the most famous graffiti spots in the city. Don’t forget that, of course, the city itself is a great place to learn.

Guest Post: Erin Escapes From The Outback Roadhouse

Yasmine’s note: Two days ago, I got a frantic email from Erin after not having heard from her for a while. She wrote: “allison. i only have a second but i want to tell you that this town has no wifi or cell phone service apart from telstra. i stole the office computer but i dont think ill be able to use it again.” Well, this isn’t looking good, I thought. And as you’ll read below, it wasn’t. I was even more shocked to get a text from her later saying “Allison I left! And I didn’t leave a note.”

Erin went to work at a roadhouse in a remote town over 500 kilometers from Perth (Roadhouses are known to be lucrative places of employment for those on working holiday visas in Australia. You can find some job listings on Gumtree or The Job Shop). She discovered the truth about working in the outback: it’s not as glamorous as people make it out to be and it can be sad to witness the realities of social problems. And most importantly, she discovered it wasn’t the right place for her. She had a lot of strength in taking the opportunity to remove herself from the situation. Her story shows us more than a hilarious and simultaneously depressing outback experience; it shows that there is no “right way” to spend a year on a working holiday experience. If you appreciate a space of your own with a functioning light bulb, than never let anyone try to convince you that you don’t need it.


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Taken from Lonely Planet. Try to guess where Mount Magnet is!

Mount Magnet: An Introduction

Mt. Magnet, named so for its surrounding hills’ high iron content which skew the readings of any compass in their vicinity, is the longest surviving gold mining town in Western Australia. Gold was first discovered here in 1891 and soon enough, it became quite a bustling town. As the madness faded, however, and large mining corporations gradually took over, introducing their “fly-in, fly-out” schemes (where city workers are recruited to spend two weeks on-site in all-inclusive mining camps before flying home for a one-week break), the town has slid further and further into obscurity. As of the 2011 census, its population counted 532 and a conversation with a young schoolteacher revealed that there are only five students enrolled in this year’s kindergarten class. There is a degree of resentment among locals towards the mining companies for their continued failure to reinvest into the community. Walking down Main Street, half of the buildings can be found boarded up (one of those, to my disappointment, was the “internet café”). Employment opportunities are few and far between and entertainment is more or less nonexistent apart from gambling and drinking. I spent a whopping 2 ½ days here—just 57 ½ days short of what I promised my employer.

Here is a humorous recap of my experience.

The Town

Stores at my disposal remaining open post-Gold-Rush-era:

  • Insanely priced local grocer (capsicum was $15/kg compared with the $2.50/kg found in select grocers along the east coast).
  • Coffee shop open only on Tuesdays & Saturdays.
  • Post office (which I was glad to see as I almost had to resort to snail mail just to tell my parents I was alive. With the 2 week delay, of course, they would have already called the number of Mt. Magnet’s other roadhouse which I had mistakenly given them, been told no “Erin Morris” works there, and immediately called the authorities).
  • Fitness center blasting Ariana Grande’s latest hits (this came as a surprise).
  • Pool open only in the summer.
  • Minimalist library where books were checked out on the honor system (rather admirable, really).
  • Hardware store.
  • Aforementioned roadhouse.
  • Then of course where I worked: A combination restaurant (only serving dinner)/bar/hotel (above which I stayed) and a pub/hotel across the road. The latter pub’s main attraction was the TAB machine, which allowed for betting on horse and greyhound races. These were mostly frequented by local aborigines, who spent all day in front of the TVs asking me to issue them vouchers with whatever change they could find in their pockets. Winnings were mostly spent on alcohol. Apart from the gamblers, the drinking crowd at both facilities was comprised of the same few people. The regulars seemed to find great entertainment in crossing the road every now and then just to see what was playing on the other TV….or which barmaid was working at the other bar.

There was no Wi-Fi, no cell service apart from one Australian network which I coincidentally didn’t have (it actually took me 5 hours to obtain service on the drive home), and as the hotel owners wouldn’t grant me use of the office computer (except the first day when I pleaded to send a 5-minute email to my parents), I had to go to either the Visitor Centre or the local library and pay $2/15 min of internet access.

Going those few days without internet and without being in the presence of at least one good travel-mate made me reflect on all of my “travelling” up to that point. I’m told I’m brave for being away from home, but with technology the way it is today, my friends and family are never more than a call or text away… so in reality, have I left them at all?

My Accommodation

We were forced to stay in the old, decrepit area of the hotel which the owners didn’t have the funds or interest to fix. I had to scour multiple rooms before obtaining a functional lightbulb for my room. The kitchen’s cleanliness was equivalent to that of a low-budget hostel (thanks to my amazing coworkers) and the only available cooking appliance was a microwave. As someone who enjoys cooking, it was difficult to accept the thought that I’d have to cook all my meals in a microwave for the next two months (eggs, chickpeas, vegetables, rice – you name it). I’ll admit this was a major factor nurturing my hatred for Mt. Magnet.

The recruitment agency had promised three meals/day but this was a blatant lie as the owner only gave me one (at dinner), not of my choosing (most items on the menu were too “expensive” and therefore off limits). Usually, the dish consisted of mashed potatoes, overcooked cauliflower and a slab of roast beef or chicken wing.

My Coworkers

  • An ex-meth-head (26 y/o) from Melbourne who’d been there for 14 months because cities brought too much temptation. She kindly gave me a tour of the town with her almost broken-down car. We couldn’t turn off the car at either site in case it didn’t turn back on. This, she told me, was standard precautionary behavior in the Outback. She showed me two sites, one of which was the garbage dump. All she seemed to talk to me about in the three days I was there was her new diet and workout regimen (which included walking one mile three mornings per week). She showed me her refrigerator shelf about four times just to emphasize how many vegetables she was eating. She also warned me that one of the truckers was off limits even if he tried to hit on me…. And then she felt guilty, so she told me if I could do it if I really wanted. I didn’t know how to tell her that we may not have the same taste in men.

 

  • Large Irish lady (30 y/o) who was finishing off a two year visa in December. She’d been there three weeks and upon news of my quitting, was intent on telling me how glad she was that she had pushed through the initial two because of how the place had grown on her. She was also raised behind a bar and had a deep fondness for truckers and alcohol so it made sense. When I had the nerve to complain about cleaning the maggots out of our kitchen trash can or the significant amount of mold in the shower stall, she pointed to this as a sure sign of privilege. While I will certainly admit to a fair amount of this, I would be more apt to call the willingness to clean one’s apartment a sign of maturity rather than privilege.

The Escape

On my third night at the pub, God sent me a guardian angel. I served two youngish, normal, decently educated guys: one of whom had just finished a one-day job as a diesel mechanic and was heading back to Perth in the morning, the other of whom had the following day off, so they were drinking pretty heavily. As they were the most relatable people I’d encountered in my time there, I ended up having a few beers with them after work, at which point the mechanic called me out on hating the job. I tried to stay positive, telling him halfheartedly that I thought it’d get better and that I came there in hopes of having the “authentic outback experience”, even if it meant pushing my comfort zone (that being the availability of Wi-Fi, a working kitchen and any sort of entertainment or friends). He divulged that he didn’t think it would get any better…that this was it….that he could tell I didn’t relate to my coworkers, whose only thoughts were (in his words) “he has a cock, he has a cock….  he has a cock”… that my bosses were assholes (truth) …. And that this wasn’t my only option for an “authentic outback experience”: I could work in a mining town with more than 4 stores (such as the magical Kalgoorlie).

I was still resistant at this point, especially since my boss was hovering within earshot on the other side of the bar, but the mechanic drunkenly gave me his number and told me he was leaving at 6AM the next morning if I changed my mind. I took the crumpled receipt back to my room and considered it for all of five minutes before I started packing. I asked the Irish girl if I could use her phone (as mine was inoperable) and desperately dialed the number only to find that he had already passed out. I then spent a sleepless night praying that he would answer in the morning. Once that seed had been planted, I couldn’t bear the thought of another day in that fucking town. Luckily, he picked up the phone at about a quarter to six, and by 6AM we were cruising down the highway towards Perth. I didn’t leave a note.

Conclusions

I’ve never experienced such a strange distortion of time in my life… my 2 ½ days felt like 2 ½ weeks, and I’m not exaggerating in the least. It was actually confusing and albeit a bit disappointing to realize I had, in fact, only lasted 60 hours in that town (and worked only 15 of them….not enough to even pay the placement fee I owed the recruitment agency). I think I got more than enough exposure to outback life, however, and have a thorough understanding of what I’m (not) missing. I’m thankful to the kindness of strangers, even if those strangers may be a bit racist (the mechanic actually told me Africa was better off when the white folk were governing the “blackfellas”), and grateful to myself for having the confidence to trust my instincts. I now return to Melbourne with a renewed appreciation for all of life’s comforts, which, in a way, is exactly what I wanted to gain this year.

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About the author:

ALY_0315

Erin is an avid traveler and reader who enjoys learning about different cultural perspectives and approaches to life. She is Yasmine’s #1 supporter.

Want to know even more about Erin? She was previously interviewed by Yasmine about her favorite hiking trails in Ibiza and how to make Melbourne your workout playground. If you read through archived posts, you can also find a lot of incriminating pictures of her. (Cough, Outback)


Featured photo taken at Barrow Creek Pub in Northern Territory. Originally appeared in this Character Tuesday post

Mine Camp Diaries: Dingoes Are Buggers And Old Mate Is Bored

Like I already mentioned, I’m very confused as to how these people get paid so much to do what appears to be nothing. It’s kind of like how the dental hygienist does all the work and then the dentist who never knows your name comes in all high and mighty, pokes the inside of  your cheek, says “great job” and walks away with his $150,000 salary. Even so, this means that as I’m discreetly mopping their mud-stained floors I get to overhear some of their conversations. *Sinister smile*

In one of the control rooms last night I got to be a third party observer with absolutely no personal interest in the matter (Name that movie! You win a virtual high-five if you guess correctly!) and overheard one guy discussing his upcoming trip to Melbourne. He can’t wait to go party at the Crown Casino and on Kings Street, the footy is waiting for him and mate, you wouldn’t believe the great deal he got on an Airbnb in the city.

When people keep to themselves and I overhear it, it’s cool. But when they interact with you and tell you all gossip, it’s even cooler. When boredom sets in I’ve noticed people love to chat. During one of my trainings at the water treatment plant, the guys told me stories of how sometimes people accidentally sit on their radios, allowing the entire mine to overhear. On one such occasion, a maintenance guy with a long mullet told his entire workplace about something he and his wife recently did that involves sticking things up his bumhole.

Now let me vent to you here

Distraction takes over. Sometimes when I get tired I get a bit loopy. It’s kind of like being hungover or intoxicated where the concept of time is completely off your register. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom, which is always, I realize I do everything twice as long as it takes. I fumble and I stare at the piles of fast-moving ants carrying dead beetles up the wall. More than a few times a night I suddenly “wake up” and am staring at myself in the mirror intensely analyzing one aspect of my facial structure. It could be three seconds or it could be five minutes. And each time I stare at myself, I don’t look any different. I’m still the sweaty, hat headed mess that I was the last time I checked. Shocking.

What’s the color of your urine? And newest obsession takes up a lot more time than necessary. I end up catching myself staring at the color wondering if I’m hydrated enough. I stand up and button my pants at sloth-speed, my head moving back and forth from the toilet bowl to the laminated dehydration chart on the back of the stall door.  Is that a beige yellow or a clear with hints of lime juice? Is that a white cotton shirt that got stuck in the wash with a yellow scarf? And the biggest question of them all is, is it still possible for me to be dehydrated when I drink minimum one liter of water an hour? 

Why didn’t you turn in your homework? A DINGO ATE IT! I’m so good at jokes. If you leave a bag of trash in the laundry room, dingoes will still walk in and rip it apart and throw it all around the floor until they find the leftover food they’ve been smelling. We left our trash there for a quick “morning tea” break and by the time we got back one of my workmates was cursing those “bloody turds!”

English language segment: bugger
If it has buggered up its broken. If you tell someone Oh, bugger you!” it’s a nice way of saying f*ck off. When my workmates are buggered they’re tired and if someone shouts oh, bugger! they mean “shoot!” If something is a bugger it’s annoying you.
Overheard:
“This vacuum buggered up, we can’t use it”
“Yeah, bugger that, we’re not going!”
“Ah, yes, Dalia* was so buggered last night after housekeeping she barely stayed awake at dinner.”

Weather considerations. Here in the Territory it’s still technically the “dry,” but based on the frequent torrential rainstorms and sauna-like humid clouds floating around me I’d say the “wet” has already arrived. Yet, when I say things like that out loud, people still are all “smh” about it and just tell me to wait up, mate, and stop your whinging because it’s “nuthin’ yet.” I keep waking up to the pounding rain and soon as I think maybe there’s a hurricane I just remember its the wet coming to pay us a visit.

Mayhem. Like I’ve already mentioned, night shift is twisting my insides all up and around and out. Yesterday it was 3:55, just a mere twenty minutes before I needed to sprint down to the mess to eat dinner before night shift starts and I still don’t have a uniform to wear. I had just recently realized, in a frantic lapse of memory and suggestion that maybe someone broke in and stole my uniform, that I forgot to put my clothes in the dryer. So I had two options in case they didn’t get done on time: go naked or wear wet clothes. Which do you think was going to help me keep my job? Better question: Which did I choose? ANSWER AT BOTTOM OF THE PAGE.

*Again, not their real names. For fear that one day they’ll realize I’ve been talking about them on my blog for all this time.

Featured photo: No relation to this post. Barbies just wanna have fun. 

Answer to uniform question:

NaptimeWithYasmine.Mine2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read other updates from life on the Mine Camp here.

4 Job Search Fails In Melbourne

You already know about how hard it was for me to get a job in Melbourne. I couldn’t get a housekeeping job. I didn’t get a dishwasher position (“experienced dishwashers only”). Whiny Whitney over here just can’t stop complaining about how wrong her expectations were. But the great news is… I finally found a job! It’s not enough hours, it’s far away from my house and the pay is despicable. Who cares? Let’s celebrate it! In honor of March 19, Labour Day here in Melbourne, I bring you four examples of how I failed at the job search before landing my current position.

1 Aeon Mag

The first of my job fails happened three days after landing in Melbourne.It’s an  example of how last minute planning leads to mistakes and inopportune situations.

I saw a job on Seek for an editorial assistant for Aeon, an online magazine of “provocative long form journalism.” It seemed like a dream come true. No industry experience required. A chance to work for a cutting edge publication! Lookout! I prepared my resume and cover letter, hesitating over every word to make sure it was perfect. The application was due on Monday. Sunday night, I had everything ready to send in. The only thing missing was a cell phone number. My plan was to wake up early, go to Optus, get my sim card, run to the Victoria Library to make the changes on my resume and send it in. Sounds simple enough.

Cut to Monday, where we’re rushing back and forth from the CBD to St. Kilda to get my passport. You can’t buy a sim card without one. I buy the cell phone. I run to the Victoria Library. I wait in in line to get a 30 minute code to get on one of their public computers. I download the documents to try to change my resume…and…I…can’t…make…changes! Hyperventilation commence! The computers at the Victoria Library aren’t equipped with Microsoft Word. BE WARNED! Before I realize it I only have 10 minutes left before my time is up. Someone is in line behind me.

Struggling to decide whether or not its worth it to send it in (I don’t have enough time to go back and get my computer), I decide to make changes on Google Drive and send in extremely professional links to a Google Doc in my application. I made that decision and was about to send it in. All the while, Erin approaches me and has some terrible difficulties with her applications that were due. She can’t even log into her Gmail because she forgot the password. She forgot her phone at home which is automatically logged in all the time. “You need to leave me!” I rudely told Erin. “I only have six minutes left!” She looked anxiously at me and walked away. “This is so stressful.”

I needed to find the correct email to send my application to, so I opened the link to the Seek advertisement. When I clicked on it, I saw a notification that the advertisement had expired. Frantically, with two minutes left on my computer I found any Aeon email address I could find online. I sent in the Google Docs of my resume and cover letter, and thought, well at least I tried. So that’s how you don’t try to get a super cool job in your dream industry.

Just last week, I finally got a rejection email. It didn’t even hurt. It was the 30th I had gotten. What’s one more?

2 “Nude Modeling”

Around the hostel and Brunswick Street, I kept seeing advertisements nude art models. It also said “non nude modeling as well.” When I saw the $250 payment and considered my dwindling account, I thought, how bad could sitting naked in an art class in front of people I’d never see again really be? 

I called the number on the flyer and made an appointment for them to explain the projects. I went into their office. Instead of a school or workshop, it was a chic, modern looking facility. A secretary told me to wait on the leather couches. I glanced down at the magazines full of naked girls. I looked around the walls and saw magazine covers of girl’s faces mid orgasm.

A girl with long black hair and straight across bangs opened her office door and told me to come in. “We’re going to explain to you two projects we’ve got going at the moment to see if you’re interested.” What kind of art projects are these? Who are the students? I sat opposite from her and couldn’t help but be distracted by the photos of vaginas and breasts she printed out and tacked to her bulletin board.

She went on to professionally explain the two projects – nude photos and a video series of female masturbation. For what, you may wonder? For an exclusive, members only “nude model” website. After seeing some examples and discussing the project, I politely explained I wouldn’t be interested. After all, $250 won’t even get me very far in this city.

Backpackers: If this isn’t your style, then avoid anything that advertises nude modeling!

3 Herbalife Pyramid Scheme

Maybe the moral of this post is that I should stay away from Seek. Because this one is a direct result of that as well. An bright, enthusiastic and passionate ad for group exercise instructors caught my eye. After two years of not working as in group exercise, I was dying to get back into it.

After speaking with the “head coach,” he was very vague about what the whole business was. He said they were a group of “coaches” who are “entrepreneurs.” I assumed this meant that they have their own classes around the city and are in charge of getting participants. He explained that, yes, that was exactly what it was. They have free “fit club” in Federation Square many times a week to recruit new participants. The idea was that I teach for free and that way, I get more exposure and I can promote my individual classes.

It wasn’t exactly like this. Participants of Fit Club work out for free, and are lured back into the office for “social time,” where they pay $5 for Herbalife smoothies. They are then encouraged to continue going to Fit Club, but changing their diet by incorporating the smoothies. The coaches are coaches not by qualifications, but their ability to sell a product. The other “coaches” were encouraging me to get involved, gushing over the benefits of selling Herbalife – you can work from anywhere! You don’t even have to be in Melbourne! It sells itself! You do it because you love the people and want the best for them!

Unsurprisingly, I’m not into selling smoothies and shakes. I’m into exercising with other people and general healthy living. As a certified group exercise instructor, I was disgusted by their unsafe workout routine and general lack of awareness for correct body positioning (some were more professional but others weren’t sure how to plan a class). When they figured out I wasn’t going to be selling the goods, I was treated very differently at Fit Club. I was no longer given hugs and high fives. I was now restricted to polite greetings. No group exercise for you, Allison!

4 Fundraising

*Big sigh* Sometimes I think about this and almost throw up a little. 

Fundraising for major charities, such as Oxfam, Save the Children and Guide Dogs, outsource their fundraising to smaller companies. These companies recruit face-to-face fundraisers to work on the streets or door-to-door for ongoing monthly donations. For each monthly subscription they sell, the fundraisers get a commission. The amount of commission depends on the company, as it also depends on how big the subscription is. An excellent fundraiser might talk to 40 people a day and get 1-2 sign ups. That’s a lot of no’s. I came to find out this is the harsh world of sales. The same world that I have attempted to avoid at all costs.

As a previous fundraiser, I believe this a genius idea. For much cheaper, non profits can ensure they have a stable income and achieve this by having everyone else do the work for them. There are many companies that fundraiser on behalf of the nonprofits – tons in Melbourne alone.And who better to recruit for your tough work than backpackers! Desperate for money, generally outgoing and certain to not stick around enough to receive their full commission (in some companies employees have to work a full three months before receiving any commission!), backpackers are the perfect victims.

I interviewed for two different ones, had training at one and worked for a week at another. Why only a week? It was brutal, soulless work. Even though I love non profits, there were things I couldn’t handle. It was not for me.

Training included a free, exquisite lunch. I hadn’t had a gourmet sandwich like that in weeks. I was in heaven. The lobby played house music and young men and women in suits and professional clothing stomped around in their shiny shoes. Everyone was enthusiastic and painfully positive. I will give them credit- they were excellent at maintaining a high moral in such a hard work situation. The day started with professional development meetings, then the company split off into teams. From 2pm-8pm, we walked through suburban housing developments. I went to Geelong, Tarneit and Burwood- places I didn’t ever think I would be walking through.

I knocked on doors, I got rejected. I got scowled at, annoyed at, disgusted at. I once couldn’t speak because the young man who answered the door hat deep blues eyes and abs to make you cry. I tried to make small talk with “tradies” and heard 1000 times “I’m not interested.” I even pretended to “not know how to get away from chatty old people” and talked to an elderly German woman for 3o minutes about how she got to Australia. I was so grateful to have a sincere social interaction.

I know this job isn’t impossible. My coworkers were proof of that. Some were making over $3,000/week on commission. But the whole ordeal, from the feigned corporate environment to the fact that I was invading someone’s privacy, made me more anxious than I knew possible. I knew I had to quit when four days in I started fantasizing about all the other things I loved about life. And how in four days, I felt like my feeling sensors had been ripped out of me. I crossed a line, that once crossed, means the end. Once you’ve entertained an idea in your head, there’s no turning back. I toyed with the idea of quitting, and I couldn’t pretend anymore.

When I got dropped off at the Richmond train station at 9:30pm the night I quit and headed back into the CBD, I felt like I was in control of my life. I was poor – I had worked over 40 hours those four days and made $100, one sale. But I didn’t care. I felt like running through the streets.I went alone to a bar to hear cumbia and happily danced by myself in a corner. I talked to everyone I could. I made small talk with Italian backpackers and teenagers on the 57 tram to Kensington. I overheard some guys laughing about union corruption in Australia and chimed in – could you tell me more? You’re so funny! Yes, I am a social person. And yes, I do love people. Just not when I’m at their door asking them for a monthly subscription to a nonprofit.