My Life as a Banana Peeler

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The Life of a Banana Peeler in Tully as featured on ITTN.ie (Irish Travel Trade News)

Backpackers in Australia are required to work 88 days on a rural farm to obtain a second year working holiday visa. Every traveller has done it but we’ve got the inside story from Lainey Quinn, aka Little Miss Sunray, who is on Day 20 of her rural work in Tully, Queensland, and she’s loving it so far!

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Lainey in her banana peeling gear!

What rural work are you doing?

I am a banana peeler in Mackays Warehouse in Tully, Queeensland. My working day starts at 2pm when I am picked up by my supervisor outside my working hostel, Banana Barracks. The first thing I do when I get to the warehouse is make a cup of tea and after that I get ready to work. Each worker has to be fully protected so hairnets, plastic gloves and sleeves and an apron has to be worn and into the “cold room” we go. We peel on average 3200kg of bananas each day which are then sealed into boxes and frozen, ready to be used for smoothies!

Where are you staying and was it easy to find accommodation?

I was chatting to another backpacker on my Whitsundays tour about farm work and she recommended I go to the Banana Barracks. I contacted the Barracks and was told to come out as soon as possible as there was work available straight away. It turned out there actually wasn’t work for another two weeks so I used that time to work on my travel blog and get settled in properly. The accommodation here is very basic. You have a choice of staying in the dorms (8 people per room) or in a bungalow with three other people. I chose the bungalow because there is air conditioning and a TV in the room (the dorms have neither) but I quickly realised the air conditioning doesn’t work in mine. The temperature reached 46 degrees last week and it’s been three weeks since I asked for it to be fixed! As you can imagine, this heat is very different to Ireland so it’s hard to get used to!

How did you get your peeling job?

The office manager of Banana Barracks contacts all the nearby banana farmers and finds everyone work. It’s luck of the draw and you take whatever you’re given!

What are the most popular farm jobs backpackers get?

Banana farming is huge in Queensland and especially Tully. Most women work in sheds packing and sorting bananas and the men will “hump” bananas (carry banana bunches from the trees onto a moving trailer). The men who can’t hump will either string bananas bunches up in trees or inject the fruit with pesticides. I was very lucky to get a peeling job as it’s the most well-paid banana job and is relatively easy compared to the shed jobs. Other rural jobs that backpackers get in different areas of Australia include picking strawberries, melons, papayas, cotton and some manage to find work in mining towns or charcoal factories.

A group of backpackers from Banana Barracks injecting bananas for their 2nd year visa.jpg
Some girls will get the job of injecting pesticides into bananas.

Do you enjoy doing your farm work?

It was hard to get used to especially after the madness of travelling up the East Coast prior to this but I love it now! You meet a lot of backpackers and make lifelong friends in small towns like this and the locals are also great craic! A lot of Irish people seem to just settle down in Bondi Beach as soon as they arrive in Australia and find jobs with the hope of getting sponsored (and skipping their farm work). Aside from Tully being the wettest area of Australian and it currently being cyclone season, I am really enjoying being away from everything commercial and “touristy” and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

How do you spend your free time in Tully?

There are a few creeks nearby which are great for hikes but you have to keep your wits about you because the waters are infested with crocodiles! There is also white-water rafting and sky diving nearby, both of which I have yet to do. Alternatively, you can catch the Greyhound bus to Cairns for the weekend and party it up!

What are your plans after your farm work?

I am quite spontaneous with my travel plans so I recently decided I going to pop over to Asia as soon as I finish my farm work and do some travelling there. I also want to do a Muay Thai training camp in North Thailand and spend a good bit of time travelling around Vietnam. After that, I’ll return to Australia to save up more money and then travel around South America afterwards!

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Snakes are often found in the banana bunches on the farms… this is a 4 metre python!
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