“There was no time to play with my phone in the middle of work…” More and more Indonesian youth have been looking abroad for opportunities to work and live, and Australia is one of their most popular destinations. Oki Mustopa from Kediri, East Java, who recently completed his stay in Sydney on a work and holiday visa (WHV) has shared his tips and insights into the visa application process and how to deal with the challenges involved in living and working in Australia.

The WHV has enabled young people aged 18-30 years to travel and work in Australia for up to one year. The great news is, beginning November 2016, there is an option for holders of a WHV (subclass 462) to apply for ‘a second-year visa’. This article will be focusing on my experience as an Indonesian recipient.

First, I needed to apply for a letter of government support from the Directorate General of Immigration in Indonesia. It was the end of November 2014 when I registered myself on their webpage and three months later they invited me to Jakarta. There was an interview and they verified all documents required. Within 30 days, the Directorate emailed the support letter to me.


To give you a better idea about the process of obtaining the letter, have a look below:

List of WHV requirements. Image: Directorate General of Immigration website

After I got the letter, I lodged my WHV application at the Australian Visa Application Centre (AVAC). I paid about $460 for the visa fee which was followed by a medical check-up as part of the visa requirements. For me, it was a long process to finally get the visa. It took about five months in total! But it was a great relief that in April 2015 the Australian Embassy approved my visa application.

The WHV application process. Image: Directorate General of Immigration

Fast forward six months, I landed at Sydney airport in the chilly spring of 2015. After two years of a stable full-time job in Surabaya, it was such a big transition moving to Australia. I was filled with excitement, yet there was fear and hesitation whether I could survive for one year. I started my first few weeks in a rough situation as I had to deal with a new culture and looking for budget accommodation and a decent job.

By networking with the Indonesian community in Sydney and looking at websites like Gumtree, I began to work casually from one place to the next for several weeks in places like restaurants, warehouses, cafés and as festival staff. I also gained experience as an administrator for a while. After that, I was offered a kitchenhand job in childcare. By the end of spring, I felt more established and eventually enjoyed my life in Sydney. Below I highlight some of best bits of my WHV experiences:

Living in a metropolitan and multicultural city

As a person who was raised in a small village, living in a wonderful and exciting big city like Sydney was a privilege for me. I lived in an eastern suburb close to some of Sydney’s most famous spots like Opera House, Darling Harbour and Bondi Beach. I was also lucky to experience Sydney’s annual firework events on New Year’s Eve and Australia Day. Socially, I met and befriended locals and others from many different countries.

Gaining international work experiences

Besides earning money to make ends meet for daily living, working in Australia made me understand the working environment in a western country. For example, I was required to work effectively as my employer paid my salary on the hour. In other words, there was no time to play with my phone in the middle of work. I hope this will benefit me in my future career.

Improving my (Australian) English

I love learning languages, especially English. I believed that one of best ways to improve my English was to experience it firsthand and WHV was my answer. But Australian English is quite different from the English I had learned for many years (American English) and I found the accent difficult to understand at first. For that reason, I tried to use English in daily conversation especially at work and home.

Working in childcare

I have always been interested in working in education. So when I was offered a kitchenhand job in childcare, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Working in an open kitchen enabled me to observe the interaction between educators and wonderful young learners. There were also opportunities for cultural exchange when I worked there, including by promoting Indonesian foods and teaching some basic Indonesian.

Traveling around Australia

Australia is a really big country and I was glad to travel around for a bit. It was during the end-of-year holiday in 2015 that I took a night train to Melbourne, where I also visited Philip Island to watch the penguin parade. I flew to Queensland to see friends and sightsee around Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, and the Gold Coast. I also did a road-trip to Canberra on the Queen’s Birthday. Moreover, before flying back to Indonesia I managed to visit Perisher in the Australian Snowy Mountains to cap off my WHV journey.

Visit the Australian Department for Immigration and Border Protection website for more information about working in Australia, and check the regularly-updated AIYA Jobs Board for new opportunities.

If you would like to share your WHV experience or have insights you believe would be useful for applicants, send us an email at [email protected].