AE 412 – Interview: Life Working as a Brickie in Australia with Rhys Linnett

Learn Australian English in this interview episode of The Aussie English Podcast where I interview Rhys Linnett about life working as a brickie in Australia.

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AE 412 – Interview: Life Working as a Brickie in Australia with Rhys Linnett

G’day, guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English, the number one podcast for everyone and anyone wanting to learn Australian English.

As usual, at least as I try and do every single Wednesday, this is a new interview episode where I try to bring you an Australian, and I chat to that Australian about their life, about what they do for work, what they do for a crust, how they earn a living, just about interesting things related to that person and life in Australia. And today’s episode is no different.

So, today I had the pleasure of interviewing my little cousin Rhys. Rhys is a really interesting fellow. So, he is a pretty typical Aussie bloke. He has a pretty strong accent, which I think you guys are going to either love or hate, and you will see you shortly what I mean. Rhys absolutely love you mate. Thank you so much. But you do speak incredibly quickly. He does mumble a little bit. And he changes his sentences halfway through saying them quite often. So, that is why today’s episode is definitely for advanced learners. You might have to listen to this one a couple of times, because he speaks incredibly quickly.

So, make sure that you download the free download for today’s episode, guys. You can read the transcript and you’ll be able to better understand everything that Rhys is saying. Make sure you download the MP3 too. So, just jump over to the website, and go to the free download to get your free transcript.

So, today’s an interesting episode, because of works as a brickie, and aside from this, is a world champion in karate. So, we get to talk about both those things, although today’s episode just focuses on being a brick, laying bricks, working in Australia as a tradie, how to do that how to find a job doing that, working as a brickie, a tradeie, a sparkie, whatever the trade is. If you’re a trader from overseas, there’s a lot of content in today’s episode that will hopefully help you with regards to things like getting paid, what to look out for with bosses, and how to avoid dodgy jobs, as well as what it’s like working with Aussie blokes. Quite often I hear from other listeners, as well as Australians that I know, that Aussie trendy blokes tend to be pretty brutal with their… the way that they joke around on the work site. So, there’s lots of jokes. They hang shit on each other, as we say, which means “to tease” each other, and Rhys talks quite a bit about this and what it’s like and how you should view it, especially if you’re a foreigner and you’re not used to these kinds of jokes. Rhys into a bit of depth talking about that.

Anyway guys, the intro has gone long enough. I’m looking forward to bringing you this interview with Rhys. So, Rhys, take it away. Let’s get into it.


Let’s see, one, two, one, two. All right, guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. I’m at my uncle, auntie, and cousins’ Christmas party. We’ve just had a few beers, had some… what do we have? Meat, veggies.

A bit of potato salads.

And then some fruit salad for dessert.

And I got my cousin Rhys here, my little cousin Rhys. How old are you now, Rhys?


23. So, seven years younger than me. But Rhys has become, I guess, you would say… you`re still a bricklayer or you’re not a bricklayer anymore? A brickie.

Yeah, so I still do bricklaying, but I work with a landscaper. So, I still get to do it every so often, but more like laying pavers, a little bit of everything, do a bit of everything in, like, the trade sense.

And aside from that, you’re a world champion martial artist as well.

Yeah, yeah. So, when I was a bit… was like 17, I won the World Cup in karate, and I’ve been doing karate for 12 years. So…

Yeah, so that was the main reason I wanted to get you on to talk about being a brickie and how that got started, and then to talk about, obviously, karate and where it’s taken you. So, can we talk about bricklaying? How on earth did you end up doing that? And was that something you always wanted to do or did you just fall into a trade after you finished high school?

So, for me I wasn’t very keen on school. There was a program like TAFE, where was every Wednesday you’d go and do like a trowel trade. So, I did bricklaying, bit of plastering, bit a rendering, bit of any sort of trade with a trowel, like tiling, and stuff like that as well, and I got… I was really good at bricklaying. I just sort of had a knack for it. And then I got offered a job showed on the spot, and I was about… I think I was 15, but my parents said, “No, you gotta stay in at least finish year 10 when I was 16”. So, then straightaway after that I did another course where every Wednesday for a year I would go into two bricklaying, and then I left school and got a job, pretty much instantly I met a guy at the doctors. Actually, he was a brickie. And then, I liked the trade. It was like fun for me to do and I was good at it. So, I sort of just fell into it like that by talking to the guy. And then yeah, just took off from there, did an apprenticeship, and yeah.

So, what kind of skills do you need to have if you want to be a bricklayer, especially a successful bricklayer? What are the kind of attributes or skills that are required or that you have to develop as your learning?

I think it’s more like the… I think a lot of people get caught up with the actual laying of the bricks. It’s not actually that difficult to lay bricks. It’s more about setting everything up and working… like time management. So, you know, working out which walls you want to tackle first. If it’s hot and, you know, the Australian summer, you want to be on the shade side and sort of work your way around following the shade, rather than sitting in the sun, ’cause, you know, it’s going to take a toll on you, you gonna get tired and things like that. So, I think it’s more about being smarter, not so much just thinking about I have to lay as many as many bricks as possible. Doing it the most efficient way possible. Also, obviously, you need to be physically fit. If you can’t, you know, lift a wheelbarrow full of mud or a wheelbarrow full of bricks, it`s going to make the job… your life a lot harder and just generally be motivated, when you get to work, you get there, you do your eight hours, and then you go home.

That’s crazy. So, what kind of numbers are we talking? With like how many bricks you’ve laid in a single day? Are we talking hundreds or thousands?

So, usually the… like, the standard you want to get to is 400 per person per day. That’s usually the standard. You can lay more. So, if there’s a group, we used to have a group of three, we’ll be aiming for about fifteen hundred per day, depending on the walls, though. So, if you’ve got a nice long straight wall, no windows, things like that in there, you’ll aim for a bit higher, ’cause you don’t, have any sort of the obstacles in the way. If you got a house with like windows, stuff like that, you might aim for a bit low, you might be trying to get your 400 or stuff like that per day, but that’s generally usually about 400 a day’s the goal, but if you get more or you get a little bit less, it’s sort of just depends on the walls and stuff like that.

And is it pretty competitive with the other guys? Like, who can reach this number first or get the most done first?

It kind of does, especially like as an apprentice because you kind of like have that sense that you want to prove yourself. So, a lot of the times you will race with like your boss and you’ll try to lay more bricks. But usually what happens is, because you know you’re not physically used to doing that much labour and that much work, the next day you might lay 500 on Monday, and then Tuesday you might lay 300 because, you know, your hands sore or your arms are sore, stuff like that, ’cause you’ve been working quite hard. So, it’s more about consistency as well. So, if you consistently can lay 400 each day, it’s kind of better than going, well, I lay 1000 on the first day, but couldn’t get to work the next day, ’cause I was too tired or, you know, too sore.

Was that something that shocked you too? Was it… and did it take a long time to work up the strength to be able to do, you know, days where you have to lay 400 bricks, and then the next and the next day? Do people go in and burn themselves out by trying to play too much at once? And is it something that takes years to develop or is it a lot quicker?

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I found from… ’cause obviously as an apprentice like if… when you`re an apprentice you pretty much do all the labouring and all the… you do the crappy jobs, basically. Once you start getting onto basically what, as a brickie you get called, you get to sit on the line, which basic means you’re lying all the bricks. It took about maybe a month of doing that every day for me to actually get used to being able to lay, you know, three to four hundred bricks consistently every day, more just my wrists and my actual hands, ’cause having to grab the bricks and hold them each day, and pick up a trail of mud every day, like your wrists get really sore from doing that, and your shoulders. But, yeah, about a month it took me to get… to sort of get used to it, because I suppose just doing it every day, you don’t really have a chance to have a break, whereas if you have a break, and then, you know, just try and start again, you sort of lose that muscle memory and that strength. So, yeah, it’s just basically took about a month, I think. So, if you did it for a month and you can practice and get that chance, actually sit on the line each day, it’ll… you’ll get… your body will adapt to be able to do that every day.

Crazy. And so, living in Australia is it… Is it interesting for you that you would imagine living in such a, you know, quote- unquote “well-off country” where everyone is highly educated that there are more and more young men going to trades these days? And what are the main things pulling them away from say going to university for another 10 bloody years to get a degree or a Master’s and a PhD? What are the main things pulling people towards say, you know, not even finishing high school, but ending up with a job like being a brickie or a sparkie or a chippy?

I think because you can be quite successful with it, and it’s not so much about the education, it’s more about the fact that, as you said, you know, six or seven years studying and there’s no real guarantee in a good job. So, it makes it kind of like… especially for me it was lucky, because my… I have, you know, well, I’ve got you, I got my older brother as well, who before I’d even left school were already in university, and I knew people who were in university, and they’d finish and struggling to get a job and, you know, we have Meg who she lives in Sydney and she finished, you know, a double degree.

This is my cousin for context, Megan. So, she came over from Canada and did a degree here, but couldn’t find a job.

So, you know, and I had that sort of benefit of going, well… I can still do all those studies at university, but there’s no real guarantee, whereas a trade, they always need tradies … you know what I mean?

Houses need to be built.

That’s it, you know what I mean? People want to live in houses. They need to be built. Someone’s got to do it. And you can still be really successful in doing that, and, I mean, eventually, if you play your cards right and you work hard, you do… probably… eventually, you don’t actually have to be on the tools. You can go and quote jobs and have a set group of workers, and they’re going to be doing the job for you, and then you don’t actually have to be on the tools, but you still are a bricklayer, you know, or you still are a sparky, but you don’t actually have to do all the manual labor. You still might go in each day, you know, some… here and there to get a job done if you need a few extra guys or something like that, but you can eventually get off the tools and, you know, you can still be earning really good coin as opposed to, you know, you might spend six or seven years, and then you might not even get a job for another two years or something like that.

That’s exactly it.

So, is that their main aim too of most tradies these days? It’s not to be like the old school guys? You know, when we were growing up a lot of my friends’ parents were these, you know, say, old Greek or Italian dudes who were brickies and had worked for 50 years in that job and their bodies were just totally torn up, and, you know, they just… they, you know, couldn’t sit down without being in pain. Is there more of an educated sort of take on that these days and trying to get you out of using tools for your entire life, and more towards say like managing your own business and having your own guys, than, yeah, just sticking to the tools and smashing it out your entire life?

I think… I mean, I’m not… I can only speak from my generation, cause a lot of my friends are tradies that pretty much everybody that I know who is a tradie is roughly around my age, you know, give or take, that is generally the goal, is to get to a point where either you’re running your own business and you’re not on the tools, and you sort of… you choose to go when you want to or if you need a few extra people just to, you know, get a job done or whatever, to help lift something, then you might pop in. Or the other instance is to become a project manager or a site foreman where the physical labor isn’t there. Okay, it’s a lot more mental strain, because you’ve got to be organising, you know, six or seven blokes, and making sure that everyone’s making their quota, you’re making money and they’re making money, and also the business itself is making money. Or, yeah, you go into more like a commercial side of thing, where you’re a foreman or, you know, you’re site supervisor, something like that where the labor intense side is not… it’s not going to basically, as you said, you’re not working for 50 years doing that trade and absolutely be wrecked by the end of it.

I know for a fact that everybody that I know that’s a tradie, that’s the goal, and it’s basically just taking the steps that you need to do towards that. You know, it’s not going to happen overnight. You’re not going be doing it at, you know, 23 or something like that. It’s more looking at 30, 35 when you’ve got a family and stuff like that. So, you’re not having to do all that physically demanding labor that’s going to, you know, limit you to be able to play with your kids, you know, play a bit of footy with the kids or, you know, take them swimming and stuff like that or, you know, being able to actually be active at that age rather than, you know, slugging it out, and you still might make a lot of good money, but you can’t really enjoy life afterwards.

I was going to get on to too talking about foreigners who have come over to Australia and could potentially obviously do these jobs or maybe they did these jobs in their home countries. Would you encourage listeners who are potentially not living in Australia to come over here and take up bricklaying or continue doing this job over here? Is it easy enough for foreigners to get into as well?

I find… to be honest, I mean, I’m only speaking from the people that I’ve work with who are foreigners, whether they be from England, from India, from, you know, Asia, any sort of like place that they actually work a lot harder because… especially if they’re trying to get citizenship here or residency that there’s a lot more on the line for them. For us, it’s, you know, it’s just a pay cheque.

You know, you might not get as much as you got last week, ’cause you, you know, you didn’t work hard enough or you know… I think we take it for granted how lucky we are that there’s so much work available and it’s so easy to get, like, especially if you’re working in the trade, it’s pretty impossible not to get a job, you know? If you really want to work, you’ll find something. You just gotta be wanting to do , you know, the harder job sometimes to then maybe get, you know… do the harder jobs for a few months, and then is going to lead into something that’s going to make, you know, a lot better, or… I mean, and if you’ve got the trade background, so if you are, you know, a brickie in your own country and you’re thinking maybe you’ll come over here for some work, I mean, generally, most of the time they work a lot harder, and they’re… you know, there’s no skill difference. It’s more just about getting out there and, you know, putting yourself out there to get the jobs rather than just, you know, chucking out a few messages. You’ve got to actively seek the jobs. If you drive past a job site or if you go on a train pass a job site, pop in, let them know that you’re looking for work, and they’ll probably, you know… tradies know tradies. So, I might not know somebody to, you know, for… looking for brickies, but I know a friend of a friend who’s a brickie who needs, you know, blokes to help him out. So, there’s always ways of getting, you know, people who are always asking for, you know, extra blokes for work and stuff like that. So, if you talk to one bloke, you know, they’re going to be… surely know somebody who needs an extra hand.

And what sort of advice would you have for them for coming to Australia? Say, they’re the best bricky in the world, they get the job, they come to the site, but they feel like they don’t mix well with the people there or they can’t communicate with them as well as they’d like. I have that… I’ve heard that from a few friends before, where they say they just seemed to be teased quite a bit or that they just don’t understand the slang or the accents. What kind of advice would you have for those people on how to learn the language or better fit in as well in these kinds of sites? Should they take this kind of stuff seriously with regard to like say being teased? Just do you wanna talk about that for a sec?

I think, for me, like, majority of the time, for… especially like in a trade atmosphere, there is a lot of… I won’t really call it “bullying”, because it’s all in good fun. Like, it’s very… I mean, me speaking personally, I’ve been on loads of different sites, with loads different crews, that majority of the time, everyone’s just taking the piss. We’re just having a bit of a laugh, sometimes it gets a little bit personal, and generally for me, I usually just… whoever’s, you know, sort of takes it a bit to far, just take them to the side afterwards like, not in front of everybody else, and say, “Look, I don’t really appreciate you talking like that”, you know, or “mentioning stuff like that”. I’m all for a laugh and, you know, if you make a mistake or you slip over in the mud or something like that and you get your clothes dirty, look, I’m all for a laugh. You know, if you want to make a bit of fun of me and stuff like that, I just… you know, I’ll laugh with you. It’s funny. We get over it, and stuff like that, but I feel like if it ever gets taken a bit too far, just to talk to the person who did, one on one, don’t do it in a group, and stuff like that, and just sort of address it, and just say, “look, I don’t appreciate it”. Like, I’m all… job sites are meant to be fun. You’re meant to have a bit of a laugh and, you know, take the piss a little bit with each other, but if it sort of oversteps boundaries a bit, I feel like you should just, yeah, talk to the person who did it and just let them know that you don’t appreciate it, and, you know, generally, most of the time tradies are pretty good. Sometimes, you know, in the heat of the moment, you might get… say something that, you know, you shouldn’t have said, and generally, they’re probably agreeing with what you’re saying. It’s probably just the best option to talk to them about it. You know, one on one. Just sit… you know, after it happens, or at the end of the day, or at the start of the next day, just let to them know. That’s probably the way I would say. Whenever I’ve had an issue with somebody, I’ve always sort of spoken to them, like, personally, after work or the next day in the morning.

I guess, that’s an important thing to know too that it’s not just unique to foreigners, getting say, you know, teased by Australian blokes. It is just that you guys tend to do this to one another, and it’s an important thing, I guess, yeah, is… it’s almost like telling kids at school not to react to bullies, because it’s almost like people are testing you to see how you’re going to react. And they… I think, for me at least, most of the time I’ve been in these environments people are looking to see that you can take a joke and that they can… they want to see if they can press your buttons, right? And you need to try not to show them that it’s affecting you. But it is… yeah, if it does get that bad, always either talk the person or talk to the manager or someone.

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Yeah, yeah, exactly.

But what advice would you have to for the language and how to fit in learning the language that’s spoken? ‘Cause, I know that it is pretty… it’s a lot more full of slang than say the… you know, what I would experience at university or in a job in a café or something. What would you… what sort of advice would you have if you had an Indian bricklayer come and work with you, and he said to you, “I want to speak about how you guys speak?”. Do you have any advice for those sorts of people?

I think if you… exactly what you said, if they actually are… come up and ask, and say, “look…”, I know for 100% for me if we had, you know, anybody who… I mean, I’ve lived overseas and stuff like that before, and I have to explain sometimes what I’m speaking about or talking about just because…

Even to native English speakers, right?

Yeah, even to native… You know, I’ve lived in England and even the people who speak English they would struggle understanding what I was trying to convey sometimes, just because of the… you know, you slip into your slang and they don’t really understand what you’re saying, but I think like, yeah, the golden rule is if you approach someone and say, “look, I want to learn to speak the slang and understand what you guys are talking about”… because even for me, like, some people that I meet, I’m like “what?”, like, I don’t understand what they’re saying, and then, you know, usually, I’ll just ask them and it clicks and it kind of like makes sense. So, if you ask the people that you know, especially, if you get hired I will just talk to the boss and say, “look, I want to learn the slang and, you know, I want to approach them more” or approach to the guy to say, “Look, you know, if I… can I… is it okay if I ask, you know, if I don’t understand or something like that what you’re saying and you can explain it to me”, then, you know, that’s like you’ve already gone leaps and bounds in terms of understanding the slang, because, as I said, sometimes I don’t understand what people are saying. So, it’s just more about, yeah, just ask, if you don’t understand what they’re saying or, you know, just approach them beforehand at the start of the day. And then maybe they can even just give you a few things that they already say off the top of their head, yeah, and explain it, that way you already sort of have a rough idea.

Exactly, and I think that goes for any area that you working in in Australia. I would say try and pay attention to these things. Ask someone. Don’t just let it slip by, because you won’t pick it up if you have to constantly keep sort of going past, and then, you know, take a note of it and try using it. Try saying it the next day. Don’t be afraid of saying it incorrectly, ’cause I’m sure that even, you know, wherever you work if someone was to say something incorrectly, you’re just going to have a sort of laugh and a giggle, correct them, and then move on.

Yeah. If anything, I think it kind of adds to the camaraderie, you know?

And that you can take a joke and the people can take the piss.

Yeah, exactly, like a lot of a…. the workplace I work at the moment, pretty much everybody has a nickname. Like, one of the guys has a nickname he mumbles a lot. So, we call him “Mumbles”, and it’s stuck, like, you know, like glue. So, you know, I wouldn’t take it as a bad thing if you, you know, muddle up a… some sort of slang that you’re trying to use, because it’s going to end up being your nickname, and it’s got to actually, if anything, it’s going to put you more within the group rather than push you away.

I think that goes with teasing a bit too, right? If people don’t tease you, it’s almost like you should probably… in these kinds of environments, potentially be a bit worried, because I remember being at jiu-jitsu and asking one of the guys there, “Why are you constantly making fun of me, mate? Like, do you not like me? Or like, is there something I can do, you know, to fit in better?”, and he’s like, “Mate, we do! That’s why we’re teasing. If we didn’t like you, we wouldn’t talk to you”.

Yeah, exactly, and I think that’s like… I mean, I know for like the boss that I work with, I’m like… we’re really quite close with him, and generally, if we…, I mean there’s me, the boss, and another guy who are sort of the main three workers, and basically, if we’re not making fun of you and including you in the jokes, we might… I mean, it might be more directed at you or something like that, but I wouldn’t take it personally, I would think that, if anything, you’re more included. And, I mean, you know, I get teased all the time at work as well, but you know, everybody knows that we can take a joke and give it back as well. So, if you are getting included by being, you know… it’s kind of… I won’t really like to use the word “bullying” and “tease”. It’s more just like you just having a bit of fun, and, you know, just if you noticed something like, you know, I wore a T-shirt that said “Rockstar” on it, so then I became “Rockstar Rhys”. So, you know, it was a thing to be but then it kind of like… it kind of stuck as a nickname and then now it’s funny, you know what I mean? And we all laugh about it, and then if I ever wore it again everyone would be like, “Hey, rock star!”.

I think there’s a very Australian thing to is learning to take a joke and not take stuff too seriously, and you should be able to tell when to take it seriously and when not to. But that’s, I guess, something that you have to kind of learn if you come from a completely different culture, it can be a bit of a shock sometimes, but I think, yeah, you have to come into it knowing, alright, Australians have a sense of humour and they like to joke with one another, especially, their closest friends will usually cop the brunt of these kinds of jokes, and if they don’t joke with you, they probably don’t like you very much.

Yeah, exactly. I think you, yeah, you’ve hit the nail on the head there where it’s exactly… exactly what you’re saying. If you’re not getting included in jokes with… I mean, all of my friends… I’m a short person, and all my friends always tease me about it, you know. Like…Oh, whatever we’re… if we’re going out shopping, they’ll… “Oh, man! There’s room in the six-year-old girl’s or something like that for you.”.

And then you remind them that you’re a black belt in karate and kick the shit out of them.

Exactly, you know, and that’s just the way things work. You know, I’ve got a mate who is… he’s… I mean, he’s quite heavyset. So, whenever we go, “Oh, mate, I don’t know if you’re allowed in the lift as well with us. You know, “It’s going to be too heavy”, and stuff like that. But, you know, it’s because he’s my mate that I do that, you know? I wouldn’t just walk up to somebody who, you know, who’s on the heavier side and just tell them that if I don’t know who they are.

And if you were actually worried that they were too heavy to get in the lift, you probably wouldn’t say anything. You just wouldn’t go in the lift.

Exactly, but I suppose, especially for a construction site side of thing, exactly what you said. If you’re not sort of being included in the jokes and, you know, even a little bit directed at you or directed to other people, you’re more included in the group. So, I wouldn’t take it to heart, and most of the things that are said on the job site are, you know, they’re just throw away comments, you know. They just say them.

Do you have any other do’s and don’ts, I guess, for working on a job site in Australia, especially if you’ve come from a different culture, speak a different language? And are there things like say, making sure you go to Friday night drinks and that sort of stuff that the listeners should try and do?

Yes. So, if… I mean, especially if you… I mean, if you’re first starting off you might, I mean, if you get like a Friday night drinks, something like that. If they offer you to come, I would say 100 percent you should go, because you’re being asked to come in and join, you know, join the other colleagues, the other workers, and it’s going to… it’s going to make you more including the groups. It’s going to make work life a lot better. I mean, I would say the first time you get invited 100 percent go. Obviously, if it doesn’t work with your schedule you’ve got things to do like after that, then, you know, you might have to miss a couple here and there. But if you… if the first time you definitely get invited, I would say 100 percent you should go just because it’s going to increase that camaraderie and it’s gonna make you more included in the group, and just can make work life a lot better.

What are your thoughts, if you were to start working on a work site and there’s just one guy who constantly doesn’t want to hang out with you outside of work? What does… How does that make you and everyone else there feel too?

I think for me… I don’t really… I’m not really too stressed about it. Sometimes you just don’t get along with some people. Some people are just there, they want to do their job and go home. So, I think, you know, I would always make an effort. You know, I’ll try to make an effort and most days. If I’m going out somewhere with a couple of guys from work, I’ll always invite as many people as I can, ’cause, you know, it’s just what you do. If you’re going out for a couple of beers after work, if you’re right near a pub, we invite everybody. If anyone wants to come down, we gonna have a couple drinks, you know, you’re more than welcome too.

And this is probably the most important thing if you’re from an overseas country and you want to make Australian friends, it’s make sure you socialise with these people.

Yeah, I mean, even if, you know, as you’re saying, if you’re struggling to understand what people are saying and stuff like that, just being there is going to make it, you know, it’s going to take a whole lot better. Just, you know, by having a presence there, you know, you’ll get included into things, they’ll invite you out, you know, just… just being there is going to be, you know, so much better than if you’re not.

And if for no other reason, but to practice your English.

Exactly, you know, you’re going to get a really good opportunity to practice your English, and I suppose you’re on… not even on a job site or someone that, you’re having beers, it’s gonna be even better opportunities to go, “Oh, look, what do you mean by this? Or, you know, I am saying this right? Or something like that, ’cause it’s a less more … you know, when you’re at work, you’ve got things to do. So, you can’t stop people and ask them, “Is it… Am I saying this correctly?” ’cause you got, you know, you’ve got certain things you have to get done for the day. Whereas, you’re having a couple of beer you can sit there and talk for 20 minutes about, you know, this is the way you say it, this way, and, you know, whatever it might be.

And so, I guess, a few more little housekeeping things about being a tradie in Australia. What was it like when you first started with regards to pay, and how’s it ended up today? Like, for people interested in wanting a career in Australia, what kind of income can they get as an Australian bricklayer when they start all the way up to where you’re at currently?

So, it depends on the age. So, if you… I mean, I’m assuming most people would be moving to Australia or trying to become a resident of Australia, they’re are going to be over the age of 21, which will make you a mature age student. So, I’m not exactly sure on the exact pay of a mature student, but I’m close to sure… say, I think is about 700 a week and that’s on a wage. And that’s… if you’re a first year or second year, sorry a first year, and then I think the increase isn’t as much as if you were younger. So, for me, I started on about 360 dollars a week, as a first year, but then, the jump was big. It was up to like, you know, 500 for when I was a second year. So, I think the jumps are less frequent, but because you’re obviously a mature aged, you got rent, you got food, you’ve got, you know, your car, you’ve got more bills and stuff to pay. They start you off quite high, and then the jump isn’t as big. If you’re a qualified bricklayer, you can pretty much expect to get about close to 350 to 400 a day. And that’s if you’re a subcontractor. If you’re on a wage, it might be a bit different, because they have to include things like super, tax, and your annual leave, and things like that. So, it might be a little bit less, but in the long run it means less stress for you about having to work out your own tax and what you get is what you take home, as opposed to if you’re subcontracting you need to have a bit of a… manage your money a little bit better where you need to save a little bit for your tax, maybe put away more for your super, and if you need any insurances you have to pay for that as well. Whereas, if you’re on wages, you’re covered under the boss. So, it kind of depends on which way you go. If you’re starting out and they don’t know who you are, maybe you’ll probably get put on a little bit less, and then, once you prove yourself, you can sort of… you’ll either get a bonus or you can ask for more money. And most bosses are pretty… pretty ok with you speaking to them about a pay rise and stuff like that. Generally, the way I always go about if I feel like I want more money, is I approach my boss, whoever it may be, and I ask them what do I need to be doing to be getting more money?


And I explain my thoughts, and then I get theirs back, and you just basically talk them like, you know, a person. Don’t go in there saying you want more money, sort of demanding it. You just sort of ask, “look, I want more money. What can I be doing?”, and then, they’ll have a few list of things that they would want you to be doing, or they might have a few things they want you to be doing better. Maybe you’re doing all the work, but it’s just quite not up to scratch. So, it’s just a couple of those things that you could do to, you know, increase your chance of getting a pay rise or getting more money, but in the terms of bricklaying, as long as you land the bricks straight and everything is good, it’s just about the quantity you’re putting in per day, depending on whether, you know, you peers and stuff like that, there’s all sorts of different variations to the way you get paid. But generally, yeah I would just say talk to your boss, you know. If you’ve done three months and you saw in the same wage and you’re qualified, just ask them, “Look, I… you know, I want to get more money. What can I… what steps can we do to make this happen?” sort of thing, because if you getting paid more money, you’re obviously making him more money. So, it’s better for him in the long run anyway.

And so what kind of things do people need to look out for too so that they’re not taken advantage of? If they’re… if they come over here to Australia and get a job as a bricklayer and say, instead of being given a wage or on a contract, they’re being paid cash-in-hand. Are there any things that you would say, “Make sure that this isn’t happening” or “Make sure that you’re getting this”?

I think if you… for one, if you get a contract, read it. And, you know, go through it and if you don’t understand, get somebody who is, you know, competent in English, and who can read it and understand it. Maybe they speak your language and then they can convey it back to you, because you don’t want to sort of get any hidden clauses or anything like that, or something they might say, you know, if you make a mistake once, you’re gone, and they don’t have to give you any notice. So, if you got a contract there, just make sure you read it and understand it. If you don’t have a contract and you’re getting paid cash, it’s a bit dicey, because you’re not in… You don’t have a contract and you don’t…you’re not on their books, so they can pretty much… the work’s going to be very…. if there’s no work on, you’re not going to be getting a day’s work. So, if you’re getting paid cash, I’d be prepared that I’ll maybe have a backup, a plan B. So, if you’re getting paid cash and the job’s good, even just, you know, keep in touch with your boss and just say “Look, can you just let me know if work’s going to go quiet and give me like a week’s notice, so I can, you know, sort something out?”, rather than him just saying, “Look, tomorrow, there’s nothing on you for the next four weeks.”.

And you’re caught with your pants down.

Yeah, and you just, you know, you’re in a bit of a pickle. So, I would have had to have a plan B. So, you know, I’d always be sort of looking out and seeing if there’s anybody… especially, if you’re getting paid cash. If you’re getting paid cash and you can have a look on, you know, things like Gumtree or, you know, any sort of classifieds, and see if there is anybody who needs brickies. And just call them, you know? You just call them and say, “Look, I’m a brickie at the moment, what are you offering? I’m put in this many per day”, and most blokes will give you a trial, a day trial. If you live up to what your expectations are or, you know, what you’ve said you’re going to do. So, if you say “Look, I’m going to put in 400 a day on the straight wall”, you know, every day. If you’re doing it, then you know you can pretty much make sure if you’re saying, “Look, I want 350 a day” or whatever it might be, you’re probably going to get it. So long as you’re not going to say “Look I’ll put 600 in a day” and you know, you only getting 300. Then you need to live within your means. So, if you can do this every day and, you know, you’re… he’s happy with you doing that, he’s happy to pay you that, then, you know, you’re going to be able to do that easier, I suppose, rather than if you just sort of work with one bloke and sort of put a lot of trust in them, especially, if you’re getting paid cash, it’s very likely that they’ll just…as soon as… basically, as soon as they… it’s costing them money to have you, you’re gonna get the flick.


And so, I guess before we switch on karate, out of all the trades, what would you say are the benefits and the cons, I guess, the pros and the cons of doing each one of these, and which one, if you could start from scratch, would you pick? You’ve got being a bricky, bricklayer, chippy, carpenter, dunny diver, plumber, and then I say, a sparkie, an electrician. Out of all of those which have it best?

I think it sort of depends on whether you’re talking about domestic or commercial. I think brickies, physically, have it the hardest, just because it’s not always, you know… other trades have to do really physically parts of their job, whereas ours consistently every day you’re going to be doing a hard job. It might not be the hardest, you know, you might not have to be lifting up, you know, 200 kilo beams as a, you know, a chippy or something like that help out to, you know, do a second level floor, but every day is going to be putting in at least, you know, 300 to 400 bricks a day. So, every day you gonna come home and you’ll be tired.

Just this consistent labor.

Consistent labor, yeah, exactly. Chippies, I think, it’s quite good. If you’re…you know, some days you might be doing a lot of finishing off. So, it’s not as physically demanding. It’s the more technical side. But then other days, you know, you might be putting up frames and lifting up whole walls and stuff like that. So, it’s physically demanding. Plumbing, I mean, yeah, it’s, you know, dunny divers. It’s a bit of a… pardon the pun, “shit job”.

But, that’s for me, I mean, there’s so many different aspects of plumbing, and all trades really, that you got to look for… but, if you’re doing a domestic trade, you’re going to be dealing with toilets and stuff like that. So, if you’re not a big fan of bad smells and things like that, there’s obviously a downside to that. I think, in my opinion, probably sparkies are the best, just because of one: you don’t have to carry around a lot of tools. So, getting from job to job, it’s not as physically demanding just having to pick up all your stuff. You know, you can carry a bag around with screwdrivers, your pliers, you know, and various other things like that. You can chuck it all and toolbelt and you’re ready to go. And also, I mean, the only real downside is if you’re going to get zapped. But I mean, generally nowadays the safety standards are quite high. So, it’s very few and far between.

Awesome, awesome, man. We should just quickly switch onto Karate, I guess.


Alright, guys, so I hope you enjoyed that episode. Remember, get the free download via You should be able to find the link in the description for today’s episode to this episode where you can get the transcript and you can get the MP3. You can download them both, and you can read and you can study this episode.

Remember, listen a few times if you’re having a little bit of trouble catching everything that Rhys says. It’s good practice, because there are a lot of Australians who speak like this especially blokes who work as tradies. Okay? Your rougher Australians.

So, also remember, if you would like to study today’s episode in more depth, sign up to The Aussie English Classroom where you get all the bonus content for today’s interview episode, and you also get all the bonus content for all the previous interviews. So, the whole point of that section, that course, in The Aussie English Classroom is to give you access to different accents in Australian English. You have a listening comprehension quiz that you go through as you listen to an excerpt for about 5 to 10 minutes from this interview, and have to answer those questions, and you get a mark at the end for that quiz to see how well you were able to understand what was being said. And then also, you get to study in depth the different vocab, the different expressions, and the little bits of English like, “you know”, “like”, “um”, those sorts of interesting parts of the English language that aren’t often focused on. I love talking about why and when they are used by native speakers. So, if you want to study this interview in depth, make sure you sign up to The Aussie English Classroom, and remember, it’s just $1 for the first 30 days. I’ll see you in there, guys.

Once again, big thanks to my little cousin Rhys for chatting to me about being a brickie and what it’s like in Australia working as a tradie.

Remember guys, there will be another episode in the near future where Rhys continues chatting to me about what it’s like doing karate, what it’s like being a world champion in karate, and how he ended up doing that, and where it’s taken him today. So, he’s actually just left Australia to live overseas and follow his career teaching karate. So, he’s actually left being a bricklayer behind and he’s now teaching karate full-time.

Anyway, I look forward to giving you that episode in the future, guys. Stay tuned and I’ll see you next Wednesday for another interview episode. Catch you later, guys.

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