9Volunteering and working for room and board

Volunteering and working for room and board

If your priorities are meeting people, living with locals, acquiring new skills, exploring Australia and making your money last, volunteering or working for room and board can be an option to consider.


WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers on Organic Farms) is a network of organizations that facilitate homestays on organic farms. Australia has the most WWOOF farms in the world with 2,600 hosts, so you’ll probably hear about “WWOOFers WWOOFing” sooner or later—nope, not a new Aussie swear word.

The idea is pretty straightforward—volunteer on an organic farm or business for a few hours a day and get free room and board for your services. You’re expected to work for 4-6 hours per day maximum, 5 days a week, for your hosts but your living expenses are minimal since food and accommodation are provided. Basically, you don’t make money but you shouldn’t be spending much either.

Tasks are usually farm-oriented—sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing, etc. No previous experience is required, you’re also here to learn!

Interested? Start by doing a list search (no need to register or join). You can choose the type of farm, farming methods, type of accommodation offered (i.e. separate building, caravan, tent, etc.), preferred length of stay, meal procedures (i.e. shared meals, shared cooking, eat separately, etc.), language spoken, diets catered for and skills you can learn. Browse host profiles, they are usually pretty detailed.

Once you register on WWOOF Australia and purchase a membership ($70 for a single 12-month membership, $120 for two people), you will have access to host contact information as well as to a precious tool—feedback from previous WWOOFers! Read them carefully, take them with a grain of salt and make a decision on a potential host.

Communication is key when arranging a stay with a host. Make sure to spell out all details to avoid bad surprises. For instance, it’s important to agree on the number of hours you’re expected to work, days off, general schedule, type of accommodation provided, expected length of stay, etc. You may want to do research on the area as well as farms can be in remote regions (how you will get there and leave, facilities or attractions nearby, etc.).

WWOOFing is a great option if you want to improve your English and if you need some structure at the beginning of your stay as you will get to meet new people in a homey setting. Your host may also be willing to be a reference for your future job search or recommend you to potential employees.

For more information, read Is it a good idea to volunteer during my WHV experience? and tips for a great volunteering experience.

WWOOF membership
How much? $70 for a single membership / $120 for a dual membership
How long is it valid for? 12 months
Can I use my membership in other countries? Nope – in Australia only

HelpX and Workaway 

HelpX and Workaway are two other services connecting volunteers who do work for “hosts” who, in turn, provide room and board. While WWOOF focuses on facilitating homestays on organic farms, these two offer a broader range of volunteer opportunities with hosts in organic and non-organic farms, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, hostels, etc. HelpX even offer experiences in urban areas, such housekeeping or childcare.

Much like with WWOOF, make sure to agree on the terms of the experience with your host before committing to it.


The website is a bit, ahem, vintage, but it works just fine. You can browse host profiles and do a quick search (tools are more basic than WWOOF) to see available opportunities.

Registering as a “helper” is free but you will have to wait for hosts to contact you. The paid membership (Premier membership) is worth considering as it’s the best way to use the service fully—you will be able to contact hosts worldwide and read feedback left by former helpers, for instance.

For a complete overview of HelpX, read Volunteering with HelpX on a Working Holiday Visa.

HelpX membership
How much? €20 for a single traveller a couple or two friends
How long is it valid for? 24 months
Can I use my membership in other countries? Yes worldwide


Workaway offers access to the full host list even if you’re not registered. Search options are also available to target your search—minimum stay, host rating, project type, etc. Note that unlike with WWOOF and HelpX, hosts looking for help with a business activity may offer payment to ensure the country’s minimum wage requirements are met. When a host is offering payment it’s clearly marked on their profile.

You can only contact hosts once you become a “Workawayer” by signing up and purchasing a membership.

Workaway membership
How much? USD42 for a single traveller / USD52 for a couple or two friends
How long is it valid for? 12 months
Can I use my membership in other countries? Yes worldwide

Au pair jobs

What’s an au pair job?

On paper, an au pair helps with basic housework (usually kid-related tasks) and child care. You’re not “just” an employee, you’re part of the family you live with.

Note that this is not a women-only job. Plenty of families welcome male au pairs!

An au pair isn’t a nanny. First of all, you’re not a professional and you don’t get a salary. You shouldn’t be expected to take care of a newborn (unless it’s your choice!), double as a full-time housemaid or be on the clock 24/7. You’re more like a responsible older sister and some families will ask you to speak your mother tongue with the kids.

As with many live-in positions, expectations must be set before starting work—hours of work, exact tasks, days off, living arrangements, etc.

Note that as an au pair, you may be able to work for the same family for longer than six months, despite condition 8547 attached to your visa stating that “You must not be employed by any one employer for more than 6 months, without the prior permission in writing of the Secretary.” Being an au pair is an “approved circumstance” that gives you the right to apply for permission. For more info, read Applying for permission to work longer than 6 months with one employer and WHV in Australia — How to Work More Than 6 Months for the Same Employer.

Why an au pair job?

Because babies are cute and kids are the least dangerous creatures you’ll find Down Under.

Just kidding.

Obviously, you do have to be responsible and comfortable with kids, but au pair jobs also have interesting perks to consider:

  • If you secure an au pair position before your trip, you won’t have to look for a place to live and a job when you arrive. However, do have a plan B just in case the family situation changes (it’s rare but it does happen) or you got the kids-from-hell family.
  • Au pair jobs are a great way to improve your language skills through complete immersion in an Australian family.
  • If this is your first trip abroad and your first steps into adulthood, it can be comforting to find some structure living with a family. Many au pairs report forging a strong bond with the kids and the family.
  • Accommodation and meals are provided so your expenses are minimal. You may be able to save most of your “pocket money,” typically $150-$400/week.
  • You’ll meet other au pairs at school pickup, at the park, during play dates, etc. Fear not, you won’t be the only au pair around!

How much will I make?

The average seems to be $200-$300/week, up to $450. The pay agreement depends on the number of hours you’ll work, the size of the family, age of the kids and the location.

If you work 30-35 hours per week, you should get at least $250-$350.

Make sure the family’s expectations (and yours!) are realistic—you shouldn’t be running errands, cleaning and making meals for the entire family on top of taking care of the kids and pets.

How can I find a family?

There are different ways to find a host family:

  • Some HelpX and Workaway hosts occasionally look for an au pair. You won’t get any pocket money but you should be working fewer hours than with a regular au pair job.
  • You can contact an au pair agency like AuPairWorld and AupairAustralia solely dedicated to matching job seekers with families. Some of them charge “course fees,” keep in mind that you aren’t required by law to take any kind of training whatsoever (but a first-aid certificate is always an asset!).
  • Some families post an ad on Gumtree, Australia’s most popular classifieds website. Use the keyword “au pair” to find relevant offers.
  • Look for Facebook pages for au pair jobs. You can also post your own ad to find a family.

Take your time to find the right family and make sure to iron out every detail before you commit to the job! And remember, if the kids bite and the parents pile extra chores on you… you can always find another family.

Hostel jobs

Hostels are a quintessential part of most WHV experiences and it’s almost sure you’ll spend at least a few nights in a bunk bed at one point on your trip. But you may stay longer than planned if you land a hostel job!

Are you friendly, flexible, outgoing and tidy? Are you willing to clean common areas, the kitchen and bathrooms or handle the check-in process a few hours a day? If so, you won’t pay a dime for your bed. This is a great job to meet new people and make your funds last during your job search. However, note that unlike the opportunities mentioned above, you won’t get a free meal (… unless your hostel offers the typical backpacker breakfast, i.e. sliced bread and Vegemite!).

There are three main ways to find a hostel job:

  • Ask hostel staff directly or check the bulletin board
  • Make a list of hostels (contact info is usually available online) and contact them by email
  • Check classifieds on Gumtree or offers on HelpX and Workaway

The key here is to be at the right place at the right time, so don’t hesitate to ask the backpacker community for tips.

Volunteer work without room and board

Your WHV experience can also be a volunteering experience to help the community, advocate, bring awareness to specific issues and more. Even if you don’t get room and board or a salary, volunteering is always surprisingly rewarding. On the practical side, you can learn new skills (including language, cross-cultural and communication skills), secure strong references, make friends and ease into the community. Plus, you’ll feel happy knowing you worked for something you care about—the environment, animals, people, a special event, etc.

Remember that you can volunteer as little or as much as you want, for a day-long festival or for a months-long project!

To find volunteering opportunities, check out:

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Cofondatrice de pvtistes.net, j'ai fait 2 PVT, au Canada et en Australie. Deux expériences incroyables ! Je vous retrouve régulièrement sur nos comptes Insta et Tiktok @pvtistes avec plein d'infos utiles !
Cofounder of pvtistes.net. I went to Canada and Australia on Working Holiday aventures. It was amazing!

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