Deniliquin Pastoral Times
Stranded in Oz
. . . but discovering Deni is a silver lining
Stranded an ocean away from home and nearing the end of a three year visa, Ruth Hariyono’s reality is a far-cry from her once simple dream of backpacking around Australia.
After putting in the hard yards to prolong her stay in the country, Ms Hariyono is now trapped, fenced in by COVID-19 and the subsequent border closures — within Australia’s confines and internationally.
She and her partner, fellow backpacker Daewon Park, have been keeping afloat by working on Australia’s short-staffed farms.
They recently moved from Carrathool to Deniliquin, where they have been employed to harvest grain.
Ms Hariyono, an Indonesian native, first arrived in Australia in 2019 after completing a three year masters degree in Taiwan.
‘‘I dreamed of working in a hotel or restaurant, I think it’s my passion,’’ said Ms Hariyono, who quickly fell in love with travelling Australia, citing the spectacle and fresh air of its vast countryside.
‘‘For me Australia is the place to live from all the countries I’ve visited.’’
But there was a problem; the work and holiday visa she had arrived on was valid for one year only.
‘‘Due to the visa requirements, if I wanted to prolong my stay I had to work on a farm.’’
Not wanting to cut her stay short, Ms Hariyono found work at a strawberry farm in Caboolture, Queensland.
It was a backbreaking and thankless job, and one she wasn’t used to.
‘‘Honestly, it was my first experience on a farm, and I must admit, it was hard.
‘‘I couldn’t make money and had to wake up early in the morning in cold weather and bend my back 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 could go to Sydney, where I pursued my dream of working in hospitality.’’
Earning an extra two years on her visa, Ms Hariyono was finally free to begin her working holiday proper.
But city life didn’t live up to expectations. Lonely, and bored with city-life she began reminiscing about her time on the farm:
Sure it was hard but she had found friends, ones that she could exchange ideas and knowledge with, a community that she found herself missing more and more. And then COVID hit.
‘‘I couldn’t go anywhere, I couldn’t find jobs,’’ she said.
‘‘What I could find was only 20 hours a week, and it didn’t cover rent.’’
Stranded, and struggling to keep afloat, Ms Hariyono had no choice but to stay in Australia while her friends and colleagues scrambled to return home. ‘‘Initially I was here by myself.
‘‘A friend came and stayed with me for a while, but they went back home to Indonesia.
‘‘Now it’s just me and my partner.’’ Forced to cancel her plans to return home because of the virus, Ms Hariyono was at the whim of a different kind of illness. She was homesick.
‘‘I missed my family so much; I missed home and Indonesian food,’’ she said.
But as more and more backpackers fled, life became far more busy.
‘‘There’s not many (backpackers) left now, but it makes finding work easier.
“And it means we get paid a better rate, with less chance of being scammed by nonlegit contractors.’’
Ms Hariyono and her partner have carefully navigated lockdowns and restrictions, but are still moving around to get whatever work they can find.
They worked on an almond farm in Robinvale, packed melons in Griffith, and vegetables in Bairnsdale, before moving on to Tocumwal where they picked oranges.
More recently the pair found themselves packing carrots, and picking nectarines in Swan Hill, followed by cotton ginning in Carrathool.
And yesterday they began work harvesting grain in Deniliquin.
But the pair have discovered first hand that the real estate market is still at capacity, and are yet to find accommodation.
Due to the short term nature of farm work, they can’t take a rental lease.
They plan to stay at a caravan park while searching for a suitable home.
‘‘I contacted some places, but haven’t found the right fit,’’ Ms Hariyono said.
“And the prices are quite expensive for backpackers like us.”
Anyone who can assist the couple with short term accommodation is asked to email Ms Hariyono at ruth.Harrison@gmail.com.