Temporariness, belonging and place: working holidaymakers negotiating regional Australia through seasonable agricultural labour

Anderson, Esther Ruth (2020) Temporariness, belonging and place: working holidaymakers negotiating regional Australia through seasonable agricultural labour. [Thesis (PhD/Research)]

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This thesis is an ethnography of working holidaymakers undertaking seasonal agricultural labour as part of a temporary migration scheme, based on fieldwork in the Lockyer Valley region of South East Queensland, Australia. It is primarily a study of temporariness and place that considers how embedded structural inequalities associated with forced transience impact working holidaymakers’ everyday encounters. Through both immersive and targeted participant observation, this thesis considers the shifting positionality associated with being a researcher ‘at home’, while negotiating the methodological challenges of capturing a mobile population in place. Instead of tracing the routes taken by a transient population, this thesis departs from other studies of temporary migrants by firmly situating itself in a single location. This approach offers new possibilities for interrogating the interrelations between temporariness, place, and belonging, recognising that mobility is comprised of a series of arrivals, momentary pauses, and departures. Hundreds of thousands of young, independent overseas travellers are directed towards seemingly isolated regional settings across Australia each year, via the specific conditions attached to a Working Holiday (or 417) visa subclass. Established as a source of labour and opportunity for generating tourist revenue, the program enables applicants to spend twelve months in the country, with no restriction on freedom of movement. The program stipulates that individuals must fulfil visa requirements through employment in industries with identified labour shortages. In order to extend their stay for the maximum duration, working holidaymakers must undertake casual labour for specific lengths of time. A majority of working holidaymakers choose to travel to lucrative, productive, and diverse agricultural settings, where short-term, casual employment is relatively easy to acquire. One consequence of the current Working Holiday visa designation, perhaps unintended, is a predicament of vulnerability and the state’s complicity in generating precarity. The regional areas working holidaymakers travel to are often imagined through frameworks of boundedness and stasis, meaning they have different encounters with the landscape than long-term residents. The combined effect of localness and perceived ability to genuinely ‘claim’ space is further accentuated by external influences on working holidaymakers’ time, which force states of displacement and transience. As migration status intersects with other aspects of identity, such as ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class, the locations working holidaymakers inhabit (including accommodation, commercial settings, and places associated with governance, faith-based networks, employment, and public life) present differently within this heterogenous population. Further tensions can arise as working holidaymakers oscillate between roles of ‘worker’ and ‘tourist’, and are required to negotiate skill and agency. This thesis argues that there are distinctions between working holidaymakers who embrace transience and those who resist it as they negotiate the Working Holiday Visa scheme, and that this divergence has implications for place-making and relational practices enacted as part of their everyday lives. Accounting for the multiplicity of experiences in regional settings, this thesis is specifically concerned with the ways by which working holidaymakers –as both temporary migrants and seasonal agricultural workers –navigate the mundane spatial impacts of structural inequalities on their patterns of mobility, domesticity, employment, and relationships. I draw attention to the ways working holidaymakers seek out agency in circumstances that tend to invite systemic precarity. The results of a thematic analysis show that they develop unique strategies to ameliorate these effects, which are enacted through divergent forms of mobility, embodied knowledges, and the creation and maintenance of fluid communities.

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Item Type: Thesis (PhD/Research)
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Supervisors: Pocock, Celmara; Mason, Robert; Hickey, Andrew
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2021 04:38
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2022 22:05
Uncontrolled Keywords: working holidaymakers, agricultural labour, migration, Australia, anthropology
Fields of Research (2008): 16 Studies in Human Society > 1601 Anthropology > 160199 Anthropology not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4401 Anthropology > 440199 Anthropology not elsewhere classified
Identification Number or DOI: doi:10.26192/2eba-8877
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/42201

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