My Story in Darwin, Australia

G’day mate.. finally I had time to write my story again. In this blog post, I would like to share my experience for 4 months living in the Outback Australia, Northern Territory, with its capital Darwin. City name like Tennant Creek, Alice Spring, Katherine, Renner Spring, may seem unfamiliar for you. How come? Because the area is more often targeted by backpacker than tourists who want to visit Australia. My story this time focuses on the Darwin city and a little bit in the Tennant Creek area.

Bahasa Indonesia baca di sini

Getting Know Darwin City

Darwin is the capital of Northern Territory, one of the states of Australia. The tropical city at the northern tip of Australia has a different climate than most Australian cities in general. Darwin has only two seasons, Dry and Wet Season, very similar to Indonesia. If you look at the map, Darwin’s location to Bali is much closer than Darwin to Sydney or Melbourne.

The cost of eating in Darwin is relatively more expensive compared to Sydney or Melbourne, but in balance with the relatively larger income gained here. Find a job is also relatively more difficult here if you have no casual work experience before. Darwin also only has buses as a public transportartion, no trains or trams here. The largest Shopping Centre is Casuarina Square, and the newest Gateway, both far away from the CBD. Darwin also has a top University named Charles Darwin UniversityThe famous National Park here is Kakadu and Litchfield. During dry season, you should visit Mindil Beach Sunset Market, enjoy the beautiful sunset time while buying some yummy Asian food here. You can read the reference Things To Do in Darwin here.

My Reason Moving To Darwin

The main reason why Work and Holiday Visa makers (abbreviated as WHV) is to meet WHV second year requirement, for WHV Subclass 462 holders must work for a minimum of 88 days (or 3 months) in all areas of the Northern Territory and parts of Queensland, with specified work set by the Australian government. Darwin is one of those cities that meets these requirements. You can check more info here.

Our WHV generation, who departed around the end of 2016 yesterday is a lucky generation, considering the newly officially released 2nd year extension process for WHV subclass 462. And it may seem strange for Darwin, whose previous years were not the favorite destinations of WHVs from Indonesia, is now one of the most populated cities of WHV makers from Indonesia. For your info, there are some big employers in Darwin who are mostly workers from Indonesia, such as Compass Group ESS, Leprechaun Resort, and possibly others.

Apart from that requirement, personally I also want to experience a different experience in Australia. I hope by living in Darwin as well as other Australian outback areas, I can findhidden treasuresthat may be hard to find in major Australian cities.

Stay Overnight at Darwin Airport

Before the departure, I had ordered ‘Uber’ from one of Darwin’s WHV friend to pick me up upon my arrival at midnight, June 20, 2017. But apparently, she is already asleep matee! My phone and SMS are not picked up. Since it was already midnight, transportation to Darwin City was not available. I also decided to spend the night at Darwin Airport, the internet wifi quality here is good and the room is also air-conditioned, security guards are also there, it’s safe! I spent the night till 6 am here waiting for the first shuttle Shuttle Van departure to Darwin City.

Darwin Airport on midnight
Nintendo Switch became my traveling companion while on the plane and waiting room
Shuttle Van from Darwin Airport, cost $20 to Darwin CBD area

Enjoy One Day in Darwin

Arriving in Darwin City, I stopped at Mas Yunas’ house to stay temporarily here until the evening before returning to Airport for transit to Tennant Creek. I got acquainted with some housemates here, as well as my day-mate room mate, Nandra, who was still looking bored waiting for a job in Darwin. Other WHV friends here also told me how difficult it was to find a job in Darwin. One story, some work as Kitchen Hand, he should have worked for 6 hours, but because the restaurant was quiet, he was discharged even though only worked for 3 hours. Another story, those applying for Housekeeping positions here without prior experience will find it difficult to get the job.

With WHV friends, from left to right: Glenn, Dipta, Pandu

The first impression in Darwin, the weather feels ‘super hot’ during the day. The effects of being in Sydney for winter season the day before. Another impression? I was able to meet ‘indigenous’ Australians almost along the way. Many times, i don’t know why they are shouting, then come up to us and ask for “2 dollars please”. I’m grateful, during these 4 months living in Darwin, I have no bad experience with them. Whatever the negative view for them, they are still the same human being as us, who we should treat equally, “who am i to judge?“. Did you know? The boomerang we often see in those films is one of their discoveries.

My first $15-$20 lunch in Darwin
Thinking I might not be in Mass again for the next 3 months because of working in the remote area of Tennant Creek, I took part in the daily mass at 12PM in St. Mary Cathedral Darwin. It only takes 5 minutes walk from the home.
Visit the Museum of Art and Gallery of the Northern Territory. I learned a bit about the history of Darwin and Northern Territory and the history of Darwin’s great disaster like Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve in 1974 and the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese army during the second World War.
Nice wall hangings inside the Museum
Coastal Walk to Mindil Beach
Beautiful Mindil Beach
Remind me of masterpiece from Animek The Alkemek

With WHV friends in Moil area, on night before i’m going back to Darwin Airport. Thanks Arip Hidayat for the hospitality

Starting from Tennant Creek

Uh, the title of this blog post is about Darwin, why is Tennant Creek? Yes, my adventure in northern Australia, it started from Tennant Creek. For about two weeks I was here working in a mining camp.

Arriving at Tennant Creek Airport, it’s a small airport, which looks like a house with an airstrip around it. Waiting for approximately 15 minutes, we are directly escorted by a mini bus to the Bootu Creek camp site.

Arriving at the camp, Camp Manager calling our name one by one. After receiving the room key, I was escorted by the manager to my room, and informed that I will start work soon this afternoon. I met with WHV Indonesia partner here, Yuko, delivering his iPad Pro parcel from Sydney. And enthusiastly, I started my first day working in the Northern Territory.

AirNorth charter plane with some FIFO (Fly In Fly Out) miners who returned from his vacation to work again. The airplane is also relatively small with a capacity of about 20-30 people only
Arriving at Camp
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Luxurious room at Camp, it’s too good to be true
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My working uniform

Limited Food for Lunch Time

It was lunch time, I realized that there is no food service during the day, because the miners are still working in the mining area. For us Hospitality workers (Kitchen / Housekeeping / Cleaner), can only eat food from the fridge, cook instant noodles, or into the Cool Room to grab food from the morning or evening before. This kitchen only serves breakfast in the morning (open at 4am to 7am) and dinner (open at 4pm to 8pm).

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Opening Hours Dining Room
Dining Room

New WHV Friends from China

At lunch time, I met two WHV makers from China, named Alice and Emma (they use nickname, * as you know * Chinese names are hard to remember for Western people). The first introduction at lunch time was really memorable, because I as the new boy, could immediately be familiar with them, we asked each other names, niceties, and exchange little stories of our background. They also mentioned that in China, almost all social media was blocked by the government, they just made up their social media account just when arriving in Australia. Imagine how strict the regulations in China.

Lucky for current generation, though only be a friend in a short time, we can still communicate via social media, share our stories in other places. It’s always fun to share stories, because with our limited time and opportunities to try everything, we can still experience it by reading or watching other people’s stories, as I try to share through this blog post.

Nice and Very Nice Food

While i’m staying here, the food category for me is just two kinds, Nice and Very Nice (as Trinity says in The Naked Traveler book). Luckily we have Chef Jason and Chef Simon who are so amazing when preparing Asian Food, which is perfect food for an Indonesian like me.

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One of the Menu

The Mighty Chromecast

Chromecast that I bought at JB Hi-Fi Sydney for $60, is really useful for entertainment purpose. With HDMI TV provided in our room plus WiFi internet in camp area, I can stream my smartphone screen directly to TV wirelessly. Watching YouTube, Netflix, and so on the bigger screen certainly gives different satisfaction.

Two Weeks Isolated

For two weeks in this remote area, I felt so productive, have finished reading many books, study online course in Udacity, without forgetting to have leisure time by playing video games or watching TV. I also routinely prepare for the ‘quiet time‘ every day, which I almost never miss every single day. I find that praying and reading holy bible can be done anytime and anywhere, the most important is the intention. I can ignore all the things that usually keep me busy during my stay in the big city while I’m here.

But on the other side, I miss the freedom of exploration like I did in Sydney before, when I finished my work and on the day off, just enjoy walking in Sydney CBD, meeting friends and family, and go to Church.

Then what really makes me isolated here? I have difficulty socializing with some of my co-workers here, either because of differences in personality and way of life or maybe because I’m an introvert guy. I know that relationship can’t be forced, I try not to wear a ‘mask’ just to get along with them. As a result, two weeks I work here, I can only be friends with few people. Feelings of isolation made me to know more what the real meaning of freedom is.

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Bootu Mining Site, far far away from town

You’re Fired

That morning was feels unusual, I spent the morning dawn until sunrise to take some photos in the camp with my Sony mirrorless camera. And the night before I dreamed of a place that was completely new to me. And it’s coming true, on afternoon, Camp Manager came up to me and asked for time to chat. With a heavy tone, he says that I will not get a  working shift anymore and have to leave this place tomorrow, it means “you’re fired!“.

What is the main reason for me being fired? Very simple, I can not drive a car. Sad? Yes i’m so sad, being fired because of the lack that I have. My head feels hurt, it feels like i want to learn ‘driving car’ as soon as possible so I can keep stay here. Happy? Also yes, because this means I will leave my isolation zone soon, and once again hope for a better experience in a new place later. This is the first experience for me to feel ‘being fired’, and then feels sad and happy at the same time.

Got fired or rejected teach me that “when one door closes, another door open“. Learning from the Walt Disney  story who did not give up even though he was got rejected many times, but later he founded Disney and created a masterpiece with his mouse character that we know until today. Another success story about being rejected was from WhatsApp Founder, Jan Koum. Because of that, I try not to be discouraged, there is always a way, one door closed, another thousand doors will open. Hopefully!

Goodbye Bootu Creek Mining Camp!

Spend 1 Night at Renner Springs

The next day, I was given a job as Housekeeper for last time. Together with Yuko, my WHV Indonesia colleague here, for the first time I’m get this housekeeping experience in Australia. We were given a list of rooms to do, then wandered around the camp area with a trolley of housekeeping tools. The heat of the sun become a challenge for Housekeeper in a open camp area like this.

Rob, the Camp Manager, accompanied me to the ‘super expensive’ hostel in Renner Springs area, for an overnight stay and wait for the Greyhound bus schedule on dawn. The cost of $96 per night with the quality of a hostel or two star hotel, makes me think, this must be the monopoly price because there are no competitors nearby, in the middle of nowhere.

There’s not much thing I can do here, the streets look like the big pasture with the longest road in Australia, Stuart Highway, in between.

One Night Outback Experience at Renner Springs Desert Inn
Night Time

One Month Living in Casuarina

I have not got accommodation in Darwin until my overnight stay in Renner Springs. With just simple keyword “room Darwin” in the WHV Indonesia Facebook group, I finally found accommodation in the Wulagi area near Casuarina, Darwin region. With a price of $120 per week I get a big private room with a double bed, cabinets, and air-con.

My luxurious private room in Casuarina

The one thing that makes me ‘annoyed’ here, that is the dog barking frequently along the road to the house. But eventually I somehow got used to their barks, and the doggie got bored barking into me. I lived with Mrs. Kristy and Mr. Tony for about a month here.

My home in Casuarina
Beware of the Wife!
Hello Buddy, stop barking, let’s be a friend! 🙂
My favourite Library

One Month Working in Darwin Turf Club

A few days being jobless in Darwin, it makes me thinking too much. I was also waiting for an interview with one of  favorite employers in Darwin, Compass Group ESS. Based on information from my friend, it tooks about 2-4 weeks from the interview until you can start your first working day there, it’s really a long time. Rather than jobless too long in Darwin and waiting for ESS schedule, I had to start submit my Resume both online and offline (drop directly).

A few days later, I was accepted to work as Kitchen Hand at Darwin Turf Club, after going through walk in interview with a lot of candidates, praise God! I work with casual status but with full-time working hour, five to six days a week.

How exciting working as Kitchen Hand here, I do a lot of food preparation like Sandwich, Hot Dog, Pork Roll, Fruit Salad, Burger, and so forth. Together with Grandma Dawn, Antonnette, and Anapolla, I was helped learning many new things in this kitchen. In addition I also learned to be an all-rounder, delivering orders from the kitchen to the customers at the bar. I even feel the wrong order experience during my all-rounder time here. The most exhausting day was when the event day was over, the pile of dish wash and cutlery was ready to hit us. One month working here feels so good, because I enjoy this job so much, with many great colleagues.

Colleagues at Darwin Turf Club

Didn’t Pass ESS Medical Checkup

The long process of job application in Compass Group ESS starts from notification email for info session. I had to ignore it several times because at that time I thought it would actually work for 3 months at Tennant Creek. Lucky I did not directly reply to the email so I still got an email regarding info session schedule until I finally returned to Darwin again. Coming to Manigurr-ma, I with other applicants fill out the job application form so much, I also have to prepare some work reference, work history, disease history, and so on.

Finish the interview phase, I’ve got an email for medical check up. At that time I was still working at Darwin Turf Club, finished my work at 5 pm, I headed straight to Darwin City, to start medcheck around 6 pm. Again I had to fill in the form, fill in the history of the disease again, and I filled in my backpain history while working as Kitchen Hand on Google 6 months ago, and maybe this is one of the important points in recruiting new employee at Compass Group ESS. And it seems true, a few days later after medcheck, I received an email that I did not pass the selection of new employee in Compass Group ESS. Due to company policy, they did not provide details of why I did not qualify, so I can only guessing.

Sad? Definitely yes.. For couple of days, it feels like there is something hanging in my mind, “Why i’m not passed? Why like this? Why like that?”. Very stressful. However, this is Australia, life is hard, how the working holiday visa holders like us struggle to find a job, to survive here. Many stories from the WHV friendsthat I heard, there are some people who being jobless for a couple of months, have no more cash to survive, borrow money for few times. Another story, some people being fired after only working for 2 days, in another case, some people who working hard but their wages are not paid by the employer, waiting for a few months (how can they pay rent?). Later, there are other cases of friends who are exposed to fraud cases ranging from hundreds to thousands of Australian dollars, imagine the hard work in Australia should just vanish into empty hands. Therefore, my problem is a piece of cake compare to that, as OZ people said, “No Worries, Mate!“.

God is very good, His plan is always beyond my expectation, I thought positively back then. On the same day I received a job reference from Darwin Turf Club to work at one of the big restaurants in Darwin Waterfront. I was immediately looking for new accommodation in Darwin City, with the condition that I was still living in Casuarina, far away from Darwin Waterfront. Another consideration, I’ll get work on the night shift in this new place, so it’s a hassle if i’m coming home on midnight and i have no private vehicle. And starting from here, I will feel a new experience of living in a sharing apartment and meeting great friends in Darwin.

From Pinterest

Life Experiences in Sharing Room Apartment

This is one of life experiences that I want to feel in Australia, living with WHV friends in a sharing room apartment. This is a new experience for me because i’m always live in private room before in Jakarta, Sydney, Tennant Creek, and lastly in Casuarina. Located in Darwin CBD area, 4 men and 6 women start their  lives together, all housemates are Indonesian except there is one Japanese, named Kenji-san. It took several days for me to get to know them one by one, due to our different working hours.

The first night arrived, I was ready with a melodious ‘snoring’ from my roommate. Believe me, living in the sharing room is not complete if you do not meet a ‘snoring’ roommate. And since I slept in this sharing room, I became more aware that I also have the ability to ‘sleep-talking’. What kind of ability is this!

Badminton mini-competition from Consulate of Indonesia in Darwin
Have Cooking and Dinner Together with Housemates
Morning Jogging together with motivation “medical check up preparation”

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My new room mate family at Darwin City. . . This should be my first experience live in apartment and sharing room, because i'm always live in private room in Sydney and 'kost-an' Indonesia before. 4 men and 6 women start their lives together under one roof, reminds me of #TerraceHouse Japanese TV Series . . And once again, i've met Japanese friend in Darwin, Kenji-san. In some way, help me to try Japanese culture in home like saying #Itadakimasu when we're starting to eat, #Tadaima when i'm going back to home, #Ittekimasu when i'm going out, or #OtsukareSamaDesu when we're finishing something together. . . Life is beautiful when you're appreciate every single moment, and be grateful always in any condition. Happy Sunday! #WorkingHoliday #Darwin #NorthernTerritory #Australia #Indonesia #Japan

A post shared by Enlik Tjioe (Lee) (@enliktjioe) on

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Afternoon at balcony
Hangout in Mindil Beach

Trip to Litchfield National Park

A trip? Hurayy… I really missed doing 1-day trip again, because since arriving in Darwin I’m become a workaholic and hardly had time to do a trip. Starting from my short message in the housemates Whatsapp group, I sent a plan for a trip to Litchfield. Because of the good response of one or two persons, they give a list of names who interested for the trip. Honestly, seeing such a positive response made me more excited, and immediately preparing well for this trip. We’re using Bargain Car Rental Darwin service for one day car rent. Saturday, August 26, 2017, five housemates are ready to take a long trip together for the first time.

Our first ever trip together
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In the middle of nowhere

About two hours drive from Darwin, we arrived at Litchfield. Beautiful natural landscape, away from the crowd of Darwin CBD (*eh crowd!?), and waterfalls with swimming pools open to the public, enough to unwind the fatigue of work and the routine of living in the city. We swam in Wangi Falls, had lunch with the meals that we had prepared the night before, then proceeded to Florence Falls and Buley Rockhole. There is not much we can do while in Litchfield, but our bonding as housemate feels stronger since this 1-day trip. This is what always makes me want for traveling together again, because the wiseman saying, sounds like this, “Once Traveling Together, We’re Friends Forever!”

Moments in Litchfield

Midnight Birthday Surprise

Birthdays are always become an annual moment to give appreciation for someone, through words, gifts, and most importantly, prayer and hope to become a better person. September 9, 2017, it is our housemate birthday, Kenji-san from Japan, who may feel isolated in the midst of Indonesians people. With the intention to reduce the sense of ‘isolation’,  together we’re planning a birthday surprise for Kenji-san.

Honestly, the most difficult thing about planning is choosing the right time because our working hours are different, some are morning, noon, afternoon, evening and even until dawn. From the original plan, the surprise was done during the day, with consideration of many being at home then, then come the idea surprise at dawn time when we were all majority still at home (read: sleep). But in the end we chose this brilliant idea, “How about in midnight 12 o’clock?”. Quickly, we also prepare a birthday surprise for Kenji-san, birthday cake, candle, gift, greeting card, camera for documentation and so on. Finally, come the moment of togetherness on midnight. I’m really miss that moment! 🙂

Group Photo during Kenji’s Birthday

Three Weeks of Temptation

After finish my job at Darwin Turf Club, I started a new job at a restaurant in the Darwin Waterfront area. I started shifting from Kitchen Hand who used to work in the morning shift, moving to the night shift in this new place. I have to learn to sacrifice the night time that should be a relax time and quality time with my friends. Living Sacrifice!

The toughest trial is that there are times when I work really hard overtime, starting at 6 pm and finish until 4 am. How come? The overloaded dishwashing and kitchen utensils almost every night plus an inefficient work system made my early weeks working here feel so full of trials. Several times I have to work alone (which should be handled by at least 2 Kitchen Hand) plus the absence of a trolley that I can use to transport dirty plates from outside the kitchen during opening time, I have to go back and forth from the Dishwashing Area to where dirty dishes placed which is quite far away, carrying an empty container to accommodate the dirty dishes. My waist seemed to be detached because of the extreme work of Kitchen Hand.

How can I motivate myself who always feels stressful at that time is, try to remember my dream back then, remember my motivation to start this Working Holiday, why I want to ‘falling down’ after all the hard way to Australia, all for the family that I love in Indonesia. Remembering my happy moments, how I feel so blessed and loved, always give back my motivation to get back to work and survive in this temptation. Another way, I re-read my favorite fictional story like One Piece, and found one or two chapters that re-energized my mood at that time. Spiritually, the same thing applies when you read the Scriptures and find one or two verses that corroborate yourself. Sometimes in your life you will feel this ‘aha’ moment (EUREKA!), Do not be afraid! 🙂

In the end, I only worked for three weeks here because I got a new job at another restaurant that I hope will be better. I decided to go out with various considerations especially for my health reasons.

Become a Volunteer at Vinnies NT

Starting from my boredom in the absence of activity in the morning until noon (my office hours were just afternoon to night), i visit at one of the Vinnies retail stores in Darwin CBD area, and meet Bianca, one of Vinnies NT managers. With her beautiful smile and humble figure answered my simple question, “hi there, how can I become a volunteer here?”, and within a few days I was given the opportunity to become Retail Assistant Volunteer at Vinnies Shop Darwin CBD.

Being a Retail Assistant, I learned how to set up shop to keep it clean and tidy, learn to use cash machine, learn how to give a greetings to every customer who comes in. Through volunteering, I got a new experience for something that I’ve never done before. I learned how Volunteering become part of Australian culture. Making money is a happiness, but making other people happy is a super happiness! 🙂

Two Months at Ducks Nuts Restaurant

Now I am getting more nimble in new workplaces, maybe this is a positive effect from super stresfull heavy work before. I work more passionately, not only because this work more humane, but also because the coworkers here are a great and humble people.

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Ducks Nuts, one of the biggest restaurant in Darwin CBD

At the end of September, the Ducks Nuts boss gave “bad news” to every employee including me, that this restaurant will be shut forever by the end of October 2017. So next month, we all have to leave the job in this place, and try to find a new workplace out there. A surprising news especially for employees who have worked for several years here. The closure of Ducks Nuts, which has been operating for more than 10 years in Darwin, is also a bad news for their loyal customers.

Two months working here also became the end of my working day in Darwin, Australia. After hearing the news of the closing restaurant, I decided to end my adventure in Darwin at the end of October, because on one side I’ve managed to get 88 working days as a requirement for my Work and Holiday Visa extension, and on the other side I’m very curious about the other city in Australia, such as Brisbane or Melbourne. Finally, my choice was Melbourne with some consideration, one because the creative industry in this city that looks quite promising and many community and industry events held in this #1 most liveable city. In my mind, I have to try to get back in the industry that become part of my life in Indonesia before, Video Games and Information Technology.

My coworkers in Ducks Nuts Restaurant

Second Year Visa Granted

Lucky since my school time, I was used to taking care of my own school administration without the help of parents. Collecting files, scanning documents, and other things to complete the requirements, it’s a piece of cake for me, because everything listed in official website. After complete all the requirements, I immediately submit online form on the Australia immigration website, lodging a process to extend period of my stay in Australia on a work and holiday visa for one year.

On October 11, 2017 I did an onshore application (in Australian territory), the expectation of getting a second year visa started. The HAP ID from my medical check-up in 2016 was still valid so I no longer need to do a medcheck here, which cost about $300 in Darwin, quite expensive. With that money, i can be to buy airline tickets to Melbourne. And after the long wait for three weeks, my second year visa granted on November 2nd, 2017. Thanks so much to Merry, Dewi, and Cardona housemates who helped me a lot during the preparation of this visa lodge. I’m feel blessed! 🙂

What’s Next

When i’ve finished writing this, I’ve been living for about 2 weeks in Melbourne. Again I get lots of new experiences, new friends, and new communities. I am also still trying and struggling to get a job in the field of information technology here, a challenge that is quite difficult but it seems not impossible. When the opportunity came, I also have a dream to write a book about my Working Holiday story for a year. I will doing my best again in this second year opportunity. *Please pray for me, friends 🙂

Thanks to all of my friends that I met in Darwin and Tennant Creek, i’m feel blessed to know you all.

This the end of my writing, hope you’re get inspired!
Because sharing is source of happiness” *quote from Akademi Berbagi

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Sunset in Mindil Beach

Have a blessed day! 🙂


2 thoughts on “My Story in Darwin, Australia

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