Backpackers find a ray of hope in Deni
Stranded in an ocean far from home and nearing the end of a three-year visa, the reality of Ruth Hariyono is a far cry from her once-simple dream of backpacking Australia.
After putting in the tough jobs to extend her stay in the country, Ms Hariyono is now trapped, fenced off by COVID-19 and the border closures that followed – within Australia’s borders and internationally .
She and her partner, backpacker Daewon Park, keep themselves afloat by working on short-staffed Australian farms.
They recently moved from Carrathool to Deniliquin, where they were employed to harvest grain.
Ms Hariyono, originally from Indonesia, first arrived in Australia in 2019 after completing a three-year masters degree in Taiwan.
â€œI had a dream of working in a hotel or restaurant, I think it’s my passion,â€ said Ms Hariyono, who quickly fell in love with traveling Australia, citing the spectacle and the fresh air of its vast countryside.
” For me Australia is the place to live of all the countries I have visited. ”
But there was a problem; the work and holiday visa she arrived with was only valid for one year.
“Due to visa requirements, if I wanted to extend my stay, I had to work on a farm.”
Not wanting to cut her stay short, Ms Hariyono found work on a strawberry farm in Caboolture, Queensland.
It was grueling and thankless work, which she was not used to.
Honestly, this was my first experience on a farm, and I have to admit it was difficult.
â€œI couldn’t make any money and had to get up early in the morning in cold weather and bend over all day. “
Ms. Hariyono didn’t have the courage to tell her family in Indonesia, she didn’t want them to worry.
But I didn’t give up. I kept trying, and finally I finished my three months and was able to go to Sydney, where I pursued my dream of working in the hospitality industry. ”
Gaining two more years on her visa, Ms. Hariyono was finally free to start her working holiday properly.
But city life did not live up to expectations.
Lonely and bored with city life, she began to remember her time on the farm:
Of course, it was difficult, but she had found friends, with whom she could exchange ideas and knowledge, a community that she increasingly missed.
And then COVID hit.
â€œI couldn’t go anywhere, I couldn’t find a job,â€ she said.
“What I could find was only 20 hours a week, and that didn’t cover the rent.”
Stranded and struggling to keep afloat, Ms Hariyono had no choice but to stay in Australia as her friends and colleagues scrambled home.
At first, I was here on my own.
â€œA friend came and stayed with me for a while, but they returned home to Indonesia.
“Now it’s just me and my partner.”
Forced to cancel her plan to return home because of the virus, Ms. Hariyono was at the mercy of another type of illness. She was homesick.
â€œI missed my family so much; I missed the house and Indonesian food, â€she said.
But as more and more backpackers fled, life has become much busier.
“ There aren’t many (backpackers) now, but it makes it easier to find work.
“And that means we get paid at a better rate, with less chance of being scammed by non-legitimate contractors.”
Ms Hariyono and her partner have carefully navigated the locks and restrictions, but are still moving to get all the work they can find.
They worked on an almond farm in Robinvale, packed melons in Griffith and vegetables in Bairnsdale, before moving to Tocumwal where they picked oranges.
Most recently, the couple found themselves wrapping carrots and picking nectarines in Swan Hill, and then ginning the cotton in Carrathool.
And yesterday they started harvesting grain in Deniliquin.
But the couple found out firsthand that the real estate market is still at full capacity and has yet to find accommodation.
Due to the short-term nature of farm work, they cannot take out a rental lease.
They plan to stay in a trailer park while looking for a suitable home.
â€œI contacted some places, but I couldn’t find the right person,â€ Ms. Hariyono said.
â€œAnd the prices are quite expensive for backpackers like us.â€
Anyone who can help the couple find short-term accommodation is kindly requested to email Ms. Hariyono at [emailÂ protected]