Life Working as a Brickie in Australia with Rhys Linett

In this Interview In Depth lesson, we’re going to study a portion of the AE 412 interview with Rhys Linnett who talks about life working as a brickie in Australia.

Read and listen to the full interview here.

How to complete this lesson:

  1. Listen & read
  2. Complete the quizzes

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

Difficulty: Intermediate

Red text – Aussie slang

Blue text – Lesson vocab

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 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 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 to 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… a 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, your piers 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 onto 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 brickie, bricklayer, chippie, 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 chippie 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 labour.

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 in a tool belt 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.


ST = something

SW = somewhere

SO = someone

A backup – ST or SO that can be called on if necessary; a reserve

  • I always take two bottles of wine to parties so I have a backup.

A bloke – a man

  • That bloke’s a friend of mine.

A bonus – extra money you are paid as a reward for good work on top of your wage

  • My boss gave me a bonus this week.

A brickie – a bricklayer

  • Rhys works as a brickie.

A bricklayer – someone who lays bricks as their trade for work

  • That bloke’s working as a bricklayer at the moment.

A chippie – a carpenter

  • He used to be a chippie.

A dunnie diver – a plumber

  • Being a dunnie diver isn’t the most glamorous job.

A few housekeeping things – a few quick and important things to get through before we continue – metaphor for housekeeping duties or chores that need to be done around the house on a regular basis

  • I always address the housekeeping things before I start the podcast episode.

A first year – an apprentice in their first year

  • Is he a first year apprentice?

A frame – a rigid structure that surrounds ST such as a picture, door, or windowpane

  • The chippie lifted up the frame that would make the wall.

A hidden clause – a vaguely worded contract term that may create an unexpected cost or risk

  • This contract has a hidden clause in it.

A kilo – a kilogram

  • A brick usually weighs about 1 kilo.

A pay rise – an increase in one’s wage

  • I think I deserve a pay rise.

A plan B – an alternative strategy or plan

  • Do you have a plan B if things fail?

A screwdriver – a tool with a flattened or cross-shaped tip that fits into the head of a screw to turn it

  • I need a screwdriver to hang the painting up.

A second year – an apprentice in their second year

  • He’s a second year brickie now.

A shit job – an unpleasant or horrible job

  • I quit because I thought it was a shit job.

A sparkie – an electrician

  • He’s always wanted to work as a sparkie.

A subcontractor – a firm or person that carries out work for a company as part of a larger project

  • I’m a chippie, but I don’t have a boss because I’m a subcontractor.

A tool – a device or implement, especially one held in the hand used to carry out a particular function

  • Sparkies usually have a lot of tools.

A tool belt – a belt on which a tradie can place their tools to easily transport them around the work site

  • The sparkie lost his tool belt.

A trade – a job requiring manual skills and special training

  • Do you think you’ll get a job in a trade?

A tradie – a tradesman; SO who works in a trade

  • She wants to be a tradie when she grows up.

A trial – a test of performance, qualities, or suitability of SO

  • He’s starting his job, but he’s on a trial.

A wage – a fixed regular payment earned for work or services, typically paid on a daily or weekly basis

  • What’s the wage they’ve put you on as a first-year apprentice?

A week’s notice – notification or warning of ST, especially to allow preparations to be made a week in advance.

  • They gave me a week’s notice before the work ran out.

An expectation – a strong belief that ST will happen or be the case

  • My boss has high expectations of me.

Annual leave – paid time off work granted by employers to employees to be used for whatever the employee wishes

  • I usually get 4 weeks annual leave each year.

As opposed to – distinguished from or in contrast with

  • I think I’d prefer being a sparkie as opposed to a dunny diver.

Be a bit dicey – carrying a certain degree of risk or danger; uncertain of a favourable outcome

  • Conditions at the job site looked a bit dicey.

Be at (SW) – be in a current situation or location

  • Where are you currently at with writing your book?

Be caught with your pants down – be caught in a very awkward or embarrassing situation

  • When my boss showed up to work and I was watching YouTube, I was caught with my pants down.

Be covered under the boss – be protected by your boss’s insurance; under your boss’s responsibility

  • I’m covered under my boss’s insurance plan.

Be in a bit of a pickle – be in a bit of a difficult situation

  • When the car broke down on the side of the road, I knew I was in a bit of a pickle.

Be taken advantage of ST/SO – make use of ST/SO for gain

  • Don’t let your boss take advantage of you if you get paid cash-in-hand

Chuck ST – put ST; place ST

  • I’m going to chuck the beer on the table.

Classifieds – small advertisements placed in a newspaper and organised in categories

  • You might be able to find a few tradie jobs in the classifieds.

Commercial – involving commerce/business

  • Is it a commercial plumbing job or a domestic one?

Competent – having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do ST successfully

  • She’s a really competent sparkie.

Consistent – acting or done in the same way over time, especially so as to be fair or accurate

  • His work laying bricks is very consistent.

Convey it back to SO – make (an idea, impression, or feeling) known or understandable to SO

  • Can you convey the message back to my boss for me?

Demand ST – insist on having ST

  • You should never demand a pay rise from you boss, but ask for one instead.

Domestic – relating to people’s homes

  • I prefer working in domestic jobs as they are more relaxed.

Don’t go in there – Enter a place – here he means “go into a conversation” or “into an office”, which is why he’s used “in”.

  • You should never go in there looking for trouble.

Few and far between – uncommon; rare

  • Jobs are few and far between at the moment.

For one – firstly

  • For one, I think it’s a bad idea.

Get from job to job – go from work place to work place as a tradie

  • I use my ute to get from job to job.

Get the flick – get fired; get rejected in a casual or offhand way

  • She made a big error at work and so they gave her the flick.

Get zapped – get electrocuted

  • He got zapped at work but it wasn’t serious.

Go about ST – begin or carry on with (an activity)

  • How do brickies usually go about building brick walls?

Gumtree – the website www.gumtree.com.au which is used for selling second-hand goods

  • You can buy some great stuff on Gumtree.

Have it best – experience ST in the best way

  • Who has it the best, sparkies or dunny divers?

In the long run – over or after a long period of time; eventually

  • Where you do want to end up working in the long run?

Insurances – an arrangement by which a company or the state undertakes to provide a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for payment of a specified premium

  • If you work as a tradie you should definitely have insurance.

It’s just quote not up to scratch – it’s not quite up to the required standard; not quite satisfactory

  • The brickie build a brick wall, but his boss said he’d have to redo it, because it wasn’t quite up to scratch.

Keep in touch with SO – stay in contact with SO

  • I might be going overseas, but we can keep in touch using Facebook.

Labour – physical work

  • Trade jobs usually involve a lot of labour.

Land the bricks straight – place the bricks down in a direct line

  • The brickie lands the bricks straight every time.

Live within your meansusually it means “not spend more money than you earn”, but here he means “don’t lie about what you can really do related to work”

  • Don’t overexaggerate what you can do. Live within your means.

Look out for ST – be vigilant and take notive of ST

  • Look out for dangerous work conditions when you become a chippie.

Look,…used to call attention to what you’re going to say

  • Look, I don’t want to upset you, but your work isn’t quite up to scratch.

Making him more money – earning him more money

  • I’m always making my boss a lot of money.

Manage ST – be able to do ST

  • How did you manage to get that job?

Nowadays – presently

  • Nowadays, I work as a dunny diver.

On their books – be officially employed with a contract (i.e. written in a book) as opposed to being paid cash-in-hand

  • It’s much better to be on someone’s books than getting paid cash-in-hand

Paid cash-in-hand – paid in cash directly from your boss as opposed to being on the books (having an official contract)

  • Getting paid cash-in-hand is illegal because you don’t pay tax.

Pardon the punused to show you know you’re making a pun

  • Pardon the pun, but that isn’t a very “punny” joke.

Pay – one’s wage from work

  • How much is your pay?

Piers – columns used in bricklaying

  • Are the brickie’s piers up to scratch?

Pliers – pincers with parallel, flat, and typically serrated surfaces, used chiefly for gripping small objects or bending wire

  • I need some pliers to finish the job.

Prove yourself – show one’s ability or courage

  • The second-year apprentice worked hard to prove himself.

Put a lot of trust in SO – really trust SO

  • She put a lot of trust in her employer.

Put ST away – save money for future use

  • I put a little money away every time I get my pay cheque.

Sorryused following saying something incorrect, and then correcting it after

  • I think he’s 11 years old, sorry, 12 years old.

Sort ST out – organise ST

  • How did you sort out getting this job?

Start off – begin

  • She started off as a plumber, but now runs an entire company.

Start on about $360 a week – Begin getting paid $360 each week as a wage

  • He started on a wage of only $500 a week.

Start out (SW) – begin (SW)

  • Where did you start out?

Start ST from scratch – begin from the very beginning

  • The job was ruined and we had to start again from scratch.

Super – superannuation

  • Have you been putting away your super each year?

Switch onto ST – change topic onto ST

  • Let’s switch onto a more interesting topic.

The downside to ST – the negative aspect of ST otherwise regarded as good or desirable

  • The downside to working as a brickie is all the labour that’s involved.

The jump was big – the change or increase was big

  • The wage you get in second-year is a big jump from first-year.

The more technical side (of ST) – the aspect of ST that requires special knowledge to be understood

  • I’d love to know much more about the technical side of laying bricks.

The pros and cons of ST – the advantages and disadvantages of ST

  • What are the pros and cons of being a tradie?

What steps can we do? – what actions can we take?

  • What steps can we do to earn more money?