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What is a white card!? In this post we shall look into what white card Australia is, how to get one, where to get one, how much it costs and is it worth it.
What is a white card?
Upon arrival in Australia one of the first things you will notice is how all of your pockets in every garment you possess start to leak, just surviving day to day is a constant challenge to keep a grip on that ever more illusive budget. So after locating your temporary digs and unloading yourself of everything you own, the first thing you’ll do is go get some food. You walk into the local greasy spoon cafe, “cheese burger please” you eagerly await your first taste of prime Australian beef patty, mouth watering as you gaze out at the business people of Perth going about their busy lives. “G’day here’s your cheese burger sir, that’ll be $16.50” Whaaaatt!!!
I think I need a job!!!!! You get back to the hostel and start asking around about work, anything. One of the first things I was told is that I NEED to go and get myself a white card, especially if it’s laboring on building sites that I’m after. Is that what I’m after I don’t know? How much does it pay $25-35ph, yes damn right that’s what I’m after! Where do I sign up!? Basically a white card is the Australian health and safety certification scheme equivalent to our CSCS card and entry to building sites without one isn’t really going to happen. Unlike many things it doesn’t expire after 12 months but if you don’t work in construction for 2 years then you will need to re-apply, but as we can only stay and work for exactly 2 years at the most, this should not affect us humble backpackers.
How to get one?
Luckily, as on site laboring is one of the easiest jobs to pick up in a major city like Perth the white card if fairly easy and quick to obtain. There are numerous ways to get one.
White card Australia is an organization that allows you to apply for and complete the course online in just a couple of hours. All that is required is that you have a good internet connection for YouTube and speakers. Most backpacker hostels have an ample computer rig up to be able to do it. I was in northbridge backpackers as a friend I had met was completing theirs online. There was 4 of us all crowded round the computer watching the training videos and helping with the test. When it came to test time, honestly it was like being in a bar after about 6 pints playing on one of those interactive “it box” quiz machines you get, all screaming the answer, the only difference was it wasn’t touch screen. Even if between the 4 of us we weren’t sure there was a button labeled “show me the answer” which when pressed brought up a 10-second video with the answer being blatantly displayed! Unfailable…. I’d say so. The only drawback with this method is that you need a printer to print your certificate WHEN you pass and a scanner for a photo that will be used on your actual white card. $35-50 seems to be the going rate.
The other method is getting on google finding a training centre that does the course (there’s lots of them about), call them arrange an appointment for the course, normally about 3 hours. This time in a classroom with probably 5-10 other people, watch some videos and take a multiple guess test. Drawbacks with this method are that there is no show me the answer button or drunken comrades to shout out the answers…better pay attention to them videos eh! Also, it depends on how busy the training centres are, if there flat out then you could be waiting a while to get it done all the while that bear like grip on that budget is failing miserably. Pros to this method are instant certificate and no printer/scanner needed. $50-100 seems to be the going rate for this method.
Is it worth bothering?
Simply put yes! well if you plan on spending any real time working in one of the capital cities, most of the lads and a few of the women I met along the way were working in construction. A lot of the opportunities for work you’ll find come from fellow backpackers and if there’s a large proportion of them working on site, it could be the easiest way to get your first job. Things can move fast when it comes to job openings, if an employer says to a backpacker find me another laborer to start in two days, they’ll be plenty of people to jump at the opportunity. Saying “I’ll do it, just wait 2 weeks while I get my white card” just ain’t cutting it! Competition among backpackers can be fierce, don’t be the only one without a white card.
If you plan on being in the smaller towns/out in the sticks working on smaller jobs for one man bands then maybe you won’t need one, as it is over here in the UK smaller jobs are normally more relaxed.
To sum it up…
If you plan to stay in the cities for 1-2 years and are not keen on bar/hospitality/call center then a white card is in many ways essential. You may never use it but its always good to have in your arsenal. Construction work is in abundance and normally brings in a good hourly rate with good hours. The only time to not bother with one is if, like myself, you plan to travel the continent following the harvest trail, going from farm to farm.