Backpacker claims sought-after $180k job is Australia's 'biggest scam'

She has revealed her experiences with traffic control work, including the huge upfront costs and lack of stability.

While it's often seen as a lucrative job where workers can earn up to $180,000 a year, an Irish backpacker has argued traffic control work is the "biggest scam" and far from the fairytale payday its portrayed to be.

The young TikToker Kerry is a solo traveller who was working as a traffic controller in Sydney after hearing about how much money people can make in the job. But she was completely taken by surprise when she had difficulty finding stable income, after spending $600 up front on courses and the uniform.

"I’m going to tell you why traffic control [work] is the biggest scam in Australia for backpackers," Kerry claimed in one of her videos posted to TikTok.

"It depends on the company and the work they're doing, I know other people don't have this experience. But this is for the people who are coming to Australia and spending hundreds on traffic control courses thinking they’re going to get loads of hours and it’s going to be like a full time, stable job," she continued.

Kerry said if backpackers are looking for something more stable and easier to get into, hospitality or bar work is by far the better option.

Three images. All screenshots of Kerry's TikToks talking about how hard traffic control work can be.
Kerry has shared her frustrations with the unstable work online. Source: Supplied

Traffic control pay rates vary greatly

Former Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) NSW boss Brian Parker revealed in 2018 some traffic controllers can earn up to $180,000 per year.

While those with union jobs may experience higher pay and more regular hours, Kerry explains she was only paid around $40-$45 per hour and was found it difficult to land even that job — applying for 30 Traffic Control jobs before getting just one call back.

When looking online, jobs in Sydney for Traffic Controllers are generally advertised around the $35 per hour mark, not including any loadings such as overtime pay, but there are certainly those who do get paid more. In 2022, TikToker Chloe Brianna said she made almost $3,000 for just five days – or 66.25 hours – of work.

Big up-front costs

In each state or territory, there may be slightly different requirements. Kerry was working in NSW, which requires a person to do the following three courses to able to work as a traffic controller:

  • Traffic Controller Skills

  • Traffic Management Implementer Skills

  • White Card - Prepare to work safely in the construction industry

In total, Kerry said she paid $600 for the three courses and then spent even more to buy her own boots and uniform.

"You have to go do all these courses, right, in the middle of f***ing nowhere, then you have to buy all the gear," she said in frustration.

Do you have a story about a job you've had? Contact reporter Laura Koefoed at

Unstable working hours

Kerry was completely disheartened by how few shifts she would receive from the company she worked for, saying that some weeks she would only get two days of work, and others she would get no work at all.

"They might not give you shifts one week, and I’m like ‘sorry sir, I have to pay rent here, can I have some hours?’" she said.

On top of that, when Kerry did get shifts, she said it was always without notice.

"My boss used to text me at like 11 pm at night being like 'you’re on work tomorrow at 6am' — at a site two hours away — and like, can you at least give me 24 hours notice?" she stated.

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