There are a lot of reasons why bar work is such a popular option for Working Holiday Makers: there’s plenty of it about in both urban and regional areas, most employers are used to itinerant workers, it’s a social environment and it’s (usually) better paid than jobs like fundraising or retail. And there’s booze.
But to work in an Australian bar there’s a little bit of red tape to get through, as you’ll need a Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate (RSA). This is a requirement for any jobs where alcohol may be handled, such as a bartender, glass collector, bottle shop attendant, flight attendant or security at a licenced venue.
The process of getting an RSA certificate has a slight complication in that the requirements vary between Australian states. If you intend to work in multiple states, you may need to get more than one RSA.
Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania and airlines will accept the nationally accredited RSA course (official course code SITHFAB002). This can be completed online, will only take a few hours and will generally cost somewhere around AUD$40-$50. If a venue has gaming machines a Responsible Gambling Services certificate (RSG, or SITHGAM201) will also be required.
In New South Wales the nationally accredited RSA course is not valid, nor are there any options to complete the course online. An NSW RSA needs to be completed in person with an instructor, and they’re generally a bit more expensive than other states (around AUD$100-140). However, an RSG course can be done online in NSW.
Additionally, to work in venues in Kings Cross or the Sydney CBD Entertainment precinct you will need a Photo Competency Card, which acts (much like a driver’s licence) as proof that you have completed the RSA. If you’ve completed the RSA course but don’t yet have your Photo Competency Card, you’ll receive an interim certificate which you can use in its place, and is valid for 90 days.
Victoria is similar to NSW in that RSA courses need to be completed in person, while the RSG can be acquired online. And at around the AUD$50 mark, is considerably cheaper than NSW. Unfortunately, certificates from either of the two states are not valid in the other, but if your RSA was completed in a classroom setting in another state (therefore not the Nationally Accredited Course), all you’ll need to do is complete a short online refresher course.
A quick Google search will reveal all kinds of course providers for each state. Most will have options combining both RSA and RSG and some even offer a ‘pay when you pass’ service. As always, it’s advisable to look into a variety of options first, to ensure you know that they’ll provide you with exactly what you need.