How Port Douglas became a haven for Latino travellers - Part 1


Javi Navarro


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Latin night at the IronBar in Port Douglas is always a popular event for the visiting South American population. Image: Javiera Navarro.

It is getting to be part of the normality of Port Douglas to be in Anzac Park surrounded by Spanish-speakers, or be served by one in a restaurant.

From May to November, dozens of backpackers settle in this remote tropical town to work, and it is impossible not to notice or even get infected by their culture and rhythm.

Despite these young travellers being from several nationalities, the prevailing majorities are from Argentina and Chile, and are here in Australia on the Work & Holiday Visa.

These kinds of humans move by groups, and can’t help moving the hips when they hear some music, especially reggaeton.

Some weeks they can be like zombies walking the streets with a piece of paper in the hand, knocking every door and starting the phrase with: “I was wondering if you have any job vacancy…”.

You can find them in the kitchen of a cafe or restaurant, probably washing a big pile of dishes or cutting some salad. Or maybe you are lucky enough to get them as wait staff with a big smile and asking you to please repeat your order because they didn’t get the Ozzie accent.

My name is Javiera Navarro, a traveller from Chile, and I am here to give you insight into your temporary neighbours.

In this three part series I will explain who we are, why we come here, and what draws us to Port Douglas year after year. 

Part 1: Who we are

The Latinos backpackers in Port Douglas are in Australia mainly with the Work and Holiday visa. This permit gives the chance to young people to travel around with the possibility of working.

The main goal of the visa is to have people working in seasonal jobs (you can’t work with the same employer for more than six months), and that way, the backpacker has the money to travel around.

Alejandro, 25, arrived to Australia with the W&H in July of last year. He is from Chile, and had been planning this trip since he was 18. The main goal of his trip is to make money to travel around the globe.

“I have always wanted to come work and travel to Australia or New Zealand, but the visa here is easier to get,” he said.

“I knew people in Chile that had done this experience and it sounded like the ‘Australian dream’: easy to find a job, good wages and excellent life quality”.

His experience has been as great as his expectations, he says.

The Work and Holiday visa has some requirements that can change depending of the nationality of the applicant.
There are two kinds of W&H in Australia: the 462 and 417. The first one is for the citizens with a valid passport from one of these countries: Argentina, Austria, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, USA and Vietnam.

The 417 is for the citizens of Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Sweden and UK, among others.

So we can see that the Latinos are holders of the 462 W&H Visa. To be eligible to get this Visa, the person has to have certain characteristics and qualifications.

Let's see who are these Latinos:

- From Spain, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador or Peru.

- 18 to 30 years old.

- Have a tertiary qualification (degree, graduate certificate or diploma) or have completed 2 years of undergraduate university study.

- Have at least a functional level of English (completed a relevant approved English language test).

- Around AUD$5,000 in the bank (in the moment of applying for the Visa, to support the initial stay in the country)

Apart from being able to work around the country and in any type of work, with this Visa the backpacker can also study for up to four months.

From the moment the person with this Visa enters the country, they have one year to stay in Australia and leave and re-enter as many times as they want.

Read Part 2: Why we come to Port Douglas 

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