Wwoof Australia is a wonderfully put together volunteer organization in Australia. It is one of the very few volunteer opportunities I am aware of in the world that is practically free, which makes it hugely attractive to budget travelers. Wwoof is an acronym for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Wwoofing is comprised of working on some type of organic farm or project in exchange for room and board. The only cost you’ll pay is the $55 (AUD) annual membership fee. This fee is your source for finding a Wwoof host in your area, and provides you with insurance while you do so. You can work on any type of project from dune restoration to vineyard work to cattle ranching, depending on your interests and the hosts needs at the time of year you visit.
Wwoofing gives you the opportunity to experience the local culture in a way that few tourists are able. Australia is much better developed in the area of sustainable living than the United States, and I enjoyed learning organic practices from my host. It was a little difficult for me to pick the caterpillars out of my salad when one slipped through the washing process, but it was great to know the only thing in my food was food…not pesticides or chemicals.
Choose Your Wwoof Host Wisely
It’s in your best interest, as well as the best interest of your Wwoof host if you choose to volunteer in a place well suited for your lifestyle. If you aren’t okay with sleeping in a tent using a compost toilet, then don’t contact a host who is offering that type of accommodation. You’ll end up being miserable, and you won’t be doing the host any favors as your performance will probably be lacking. The hosts generally offer a good synopsis of what the living and working conditions will be like in their profiles. Browse the Wwoof book until you find something that will work for you.
Australia is one big country, if you haven’t already noticed. Some of the hosts are in locations that are off the beaten path. They’ll generally pick you up if they know you’re coming. Wwoofing is pretty popular in Australia, as a great way to travel on a budget while learning about the Aussie culture on a personal level. Many of the hosts I contacted before my Wwoofing days had already accepted other Wwoofers for the time I wanted to volunteer. In the summer months, there will be lots of work but also lots of Wwoofers. In the Australian winter, the hosts won’t have as much of a need for help in the agricultural sector.
Don’t Be Afraid to Leave
My Wwoof host was a truly wonderful person, and my Wwoof experience was both enriching and rewarding. I did, however, run across a Wwoof host who was…horrible to say the least. During a day trip touring the Tenterfield wine country, we stopped by a lavender farm. The woman who ran the farm was a Wwoof host, and the most racist person I’ve ever met in my entire life. She told us tales of the poor Asian Wwoofers she had volunteer previously, who she evidently treated horrendously. I think we were okay in her book, being two Caucasian females but I can’t imagine what it would be like to live with such a creature day in and day out. I’m confident most of the Wwoof hosts are incredible, but if you end up in a situation that isn’t good for one reason or another, don’t be afraid to bail. It is your vacation and you don’t want to look back on it as the time you suffered through volunteering in Australia. I had to change host families once as an exchange student. It made me really uncomfortable, but I’m positive my memories of Spain are much more pleasant than they would have been if I had decided to “hang in there.”