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Retired?....New Grey Nomads Now Work Their Passage

By Jodie Thomson
The West Australian

In their late 50s, Wayne and Charan Cason are among a new breed of workers whose versatile skills and old-fashioned work ethic are in high demand from WA businesses seeking to capitalise on the growing army of grey nomads across Australia.

The seasoned travellers have set up camp at Wongoondy, in the northern Wheatbelt, as part of the casual workforce manning wheat bins across the State which will collect and store WA’s grain during the next two months of harvest.

They are among the tens of thousands of baby boomers who are semi-retiring and taking off around Australia in caravans, campers and motor homes, and they have had no shortage of work offers as they travel across the countryside.

Wayne ended his 30-year career with Telstra in 2000 and the couple sold their small farming property in northern Victoria to begin their journey around Australia.

He admits it was a big leap of faith. “We were bricks and mortar people,” he said. “I worked for Telstra for 30 years and I really enjoyed what I was doing. But we find plenty of odd jobs now.”

Those odd jobs have ranged from cleaning the Alice Springs court house to renovating caravans for the Shire of Sandstone, about 750km north-east of Perth. “There are just so many things to do out there and people are more than willing to give an older person a go,” Wayne said.

Charan, a bookkeeper, said there was work out there for “anybody who is our age, who has a little bit of nous and a little bit of know-how”. They travel in comfort in a converted 38ft (11.6m) coach, a 1984 model, which they spent two years rebuilding and refitting.

Their message to other prospective grey nomads is not to leave the run too late. “If people want to do it, they should do it as early as they can because fitness is a big thing,” she said. “Around 50 is about the right age.”

Bulk grain handler CBH is among a growing number of employers which have been advertising on online sites targeting grey nomads.

“They are excellent employees,” operations manager Michael Musgrave said. “They tend to care more about their work than some of the younger employees.”