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Memoirs of a Backpacker

Postcards from #Canada150

I did not have the typical backpacker job hunting experience in Australia. My first job was from a Canadian friend who was also traveling in Australia. He had called to see how my job search was going in Wollongong, which was not producing any results. He let me know that he had a job at the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) in Melbourne helping with post-state election activities and they needed staff.  He passed along my resume, I booked a flight, and two days later I met the VEC team and was hired!

Working at the VEC was a unique opportunity. It was a temporary department created to handle post-election activities. Whilst there I learned all about the compulsory voting process in Victoria and that this was the main reason why our department existed, to find out who did not vote! This was interesting to see firsthand as Canada does not have compulsory voting.

I could not help but laugh when reading through peoples’ reasons for not voting and determining if they were valid, as I had never experienced compulsory voting!

Finding my Aussie soul-sister

I’m a really big believer that you can learn a lot and make lifelong friends by striking up a conversation with a stranger. This is exactly what I did on a 3-day overnight trip through Kakadu National Park!

I met this amazing girl from Alice Springs who was just as free-spirited as I was and had decided that she should see more of her country. Over our camping trip we learned each other’s life story. She had been to Canada a few years earlier and had visited the university that I attended in St. Catharines, Ontario for her work with an exchange program – small world!

At the end of our trip she had one day left in Darwin while I was staying for a few weeks to find some temp work. I was waiting for my friends to travel up the west coast before we would drive down to Alice Springs together. She instantly offered that I could stay with her and that there was a good chance the company she was working for would need some temp help in a few weeks to prepare for an upcoming audit. So we said our “see you laters” and that I would be in touch once I started to head to Alice Springs.

In Alice Springs my new found friend greeted me with open arms and had already set up a swag for me in her home. She instructed me to sign-up with the local temp agency so her company could request me for work.  I was so humbled by her hospitality and warmth, we felt like we had known each other for years. In the few weeks that I was there, the locals embraced me as their own with joining their trivia team, pub night and even getting to see the Cat Empire play an outdoor concert! To this day I cherish meeting my friend and time spent in Alice Springs and we remain in touch as we truly do feel like sisters.

My year living and working in Australia is one I will never forget and is very near and dear to my heart. It helped me grow and learn what I wanted out of life, being fortunate enough to meet amazing people throughout the journey.

Name: Suzanne Koukal
Occupation:  Experiential Marketing & Productions
Hometown:  Toronto, Canada
Working Holiday in Australia: 2009

Start your life-changing International Experience Canada (IEC) adventure today!

This is one in a series of stories shared by International Experience Canada participants from the 1970s to present to celebrate Canada 150.

IEC began in 1951 as a reconciliatory cultural exchange between Canada and Germany following World War II.  Today, IEC supports Canada’s interests by administering Youth Mobility Agreements (including Working Holiday) with 33 countries and territories. The agreement between Canada and Australia started in 1975 and is currently reciprocal in the number of inbound and outbound participants.


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Canada Down Under is an on-line portfolio of Canadian-Australian stories produced by the Consulate General of Canada in Sydney and other contributors.

Canada Down Under est un portefeuille en ligne d'histoires canado-australiennes produites par le Consulat général du Canada à Sydney et d'autres contributeurs.

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