Moving to Australia

Before moving to Australia (preferably at least three months before) start working through a pre-flght travel plan.

This is your checklist of all the things it’s smart to do before leaving the familiarity of your old home for the challenges of the new one. We go into many of the points in more detail in later chapters.


Don’t leave home without the following:

  • Employment readiness
  • Preparing your network
  • Money matters
  • Health and motivation
  • A note on culture shock
  • Make sure any partner or family you have gets a head start in this way too. It will only make the transition easier for everyone.

When moving to Australia – Don’t leave home without…

Copies of essential documents

Never send the original documents. Instead, send scans or photocopies. This includes:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates, including separation or divorce papers, if applicable
  • Adoption papers
  • School records, diplomas or degrees
  • Trade or professional certificates and licences-anything from school level onwards
  • Immunisation, medication, vaccination, dental and other health records
  • Credit references-bank, credit cards, mortgages, etc
  • Insurance records or claims-anything that might need verifying in Australia before insurance or financial approval
  • Driver’s licence, including an International Driver’s Permit, and proof of no-claim bonus or reference from your insurance company for insurance approval
  • All documents related to previous employers, including testimonials, work records and network records

Employment history

  • Get written job descriptions and overviews from previous places of employment. These should describe your responsibilities, notable achievements (preferably measurable, quantifiable ones), reviews, a brief summary of your performance, and length of time in each role.
  • Also keep a copy of any career or aptitude tests. If nothing else, it’s all useful material for jogging your memory when writing resumes.

Testimonials and references

  • Line up your testimonials and referees in advance. Where possible, get written testimonials from people who have known and worked with you-employers, clients, suppliers, volunteers or students to further background your work performance. This is particularly useful if you have worked for a well known multinational company. It creates a familiar reference point for future assessors. If you can, get this documentation on official company letterheads.
  • With people you have asked to be phone referees, run through the types of questions they are likely to be asked. You want to make sure they know what they are talking about and will say nice things about you. Where possible, line up Australian referees.

Local email

  • Create a personal Australian email address (ending as a familiar reference point for potential employers. Preferably base these emails on your name. Avoid using generic ones (eg Check your email daily for job correspondence.

Information folder for Australia

  • Create an Australian research folder for newspaper and magazine articles, information sheets and the like, and a similar facility in your internet Favourites menu for potentially useful websites and pages.
  • Smart move – In an interview, it’s impressive if you can refer to relevant information from the folders and files you have compiled. Point out that that’s where you got it from. It shows you are organised, you plan ahead, you have a good memory, and you know the value of background information and how to find it.

Contact database

  • Create a database of all your networking contacts, including friends and family. You need phone numbers (home, work and mobile), email (work and personal), job titles, workplaces and any other information you think relevant. Always back up your database so you can’t lose it in the event of computer failure, file corruption or theft.
  • Ask the people in your contact database for possible referrals in Australia. Email the referrals before you leave to introduce yourself, then follow up with them when you arrive in Australia. Every contact expands the network of people who may be able to direct you towards a job.
  • Always be courteous and prompt in your reply to any response, even if they can’t help. Even if you have not yet arrived in Australia, you can research the kinds of networks available where you are intending to live-volunteer groups, sports clubs, chambers of commerce, professional bodies, community groups and so on.
  • If you belong to a professional association, let it know your plans and provide your new email address. Ask if it can refer you to any appropriate contacts, and find out what its Australian equivalent is. They may even have special links.
  • Ideally, you are trying to find a mentor or coach for the first few months after your arrival.

Australia Employment readiness

Job and skills review

  • Review your previous work history, experience and training to identify your transferable skills and knowledge. Allow plenty of time for this; it’s well worth the effort. It allows you to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, making it much easier to tailor later applications to emphasise your fit with jobs as they are described in advertisements and job descriptions. Make notes as you go, about how this information can provide you with scenarios that demonstrate your skills, ability and positive attitude.

Qualifications and bridging courses

  • As well as your qualifications being assessed for a visa for entry into Australia, you will need to have them reviewed for employment purposes. This review stage helps you to determine what additional training or bridging courses you need to complete to improve your skills and Australian credentials. It involves having them translated (if applicable), then assessed and converted to an Australian equivalent. Some trades and professions have bridging courses for converting qualifications to Australian standards.
  • If you are required to do bridging qualifications, you will need to research how long they take and what they cost.
  • Before moving to Australia, check with the professional body in your field, in the state you intend living in, about any additional assessment required for local recognition.

Australia Industry review

  • Research as thoroughly as possible your target industry or industries. The best place to start is professional association, corporate and government websites. Industry journals and publications are also good sources of information. Update your contact database to include any useful contact names or information you come across.

Registering your interest

  • When you find companies offering suitable roles for your background and experience, register your interest with the human resources manager or equivalent, indicating when you would be available to start. Even better, call the manager directly responsible for your area of interest.
  • Note that we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. You should always be totally prepared before making advance contact like this. You could find that you have dropped yourself straight into a job interview, and you want to take the right approach and say all the right things-which, in a nutshell, is what the rest of this book is about.
  • You can also register with online employment websites. Reading these sites can give you a better understanding of the Australian employment scene and related industry lingo.
  • Once you are in Australia, you can choose which of a number of free government employment services and job network providers best suit your needs.

English self-assessment in Australia

  • If English is not your first language and you are lacking knowledge of its subtleties, make study arrangements in addition to the training offered by the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP). The AMEP training is offered free of charge to the majority of clients.
  • Don’t kid yourself about how good you are at English and the depth of your vocabulary. It is obviously a huge disadvantage to be misinterpreting what other people are saying while they are misinterpreting what you say-particularly with the Australian accent which can take some time to attune to.
  • Smart move – Actually, this one’s a SMARRT move. It stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Revisable and Timely-your checklist for setting goals and strategies. The key word is realistic. The other vital conditions all serve it.

Money matters

  • Before moving to Australia, take care of your financial commitments such as property, assets, tax, credit cards, will, life and other insurance, and so on. If possible, keep a valid credit card from home as it may be some time before you will be approved for one in Australia.
  • You will need to estimate how much money you are likely to be making in Australia so you will know what to negotiate for and how to budget. Your general research about the job scene should provide plenty of examples and industry information in this respect.

Budgeting for your move to Australia

  • Of course, you will also need to consider the cost of living in your new country-for you and perhaps a partner or family: housing, food, schooling, transport, health insurance, furniture, clothing, training courses, association memberships, perhaps professional career advice, and so on. Be sure to factor in unspecified ˜emergency’ costs, which will no doubt be required at some stage. All figures could vary to a degree between states and territories, and according to the city-country divide.
  • Be sure to factor in unspecified emergency’ costs, which will no doubt be required at some stage.
  • Smart move – As soon as you arrive in Australia, get a pre-paid mobile phone and some business cards. Both can be obtained quite cheaply.

Health and motivation

  • Make sure you have at least a month’s supply of any medical prescriptions or treatments you or family members will continue to need when moving to Australia. Having started to tell you about all the things you need to do, we probably don’t need to tell you to keep active. When you have time, extend that to your personal hobbies, the sports you play and the like, so you quickly meet people with common interests and build your social network as well.
  • Job-hunting in a new country is a task that is bound to tax both your physical and mental reserves. New friends can help you adapt and keep things in perspective. Prepare to accept rejection gracefully and to confront times when you don’t feel like pushing on-even despair-although, with the help of this book, it shouldn’t come to that.
  • Smart move – Allow a week to recover from any jet lag and to get a feel for your accommodation and surroundings. We recommend that you don’t immediately go on extensive sightseeing trips, but get into serious job-hunting in the first month, at least on a part-time basis. The rest of Australia isn’t going anywhere.

Australia – Culture shock

  • Adapting to Australian life and culture should be an exciting, enhancing experience rather than a threatening one, and it helps if you can get into that mindset from the start. Becoming an ‘Aussie’ does not mean you lose your own cultural identity. It’s more a matter of adding to what you already have and widening your cultural map while maintaining your authenticity.
  • There has been a lot of talk about promoting ˜multiculturalism’ in Australia in recent decades and, while it doesn’t translate very easily into government policy, its strengths are personified in millions of Australian citizens with backgrounds similar to yours. Influences from all around the world have had, and are having, a big impact on the ‘Australian’ way of life.
  • No matter how much planning and preparation you do, you may still experience some culture shock. You might feel lonely and lost at times, with a yearning for your old home. It’s only natural, and most people soon begin to adjust to the new environment. Moving to Australia can be challenging but you will adjust in time.
  • The Department of Immigration also has a downloadable booklet on things to do once you arrive like getting an Australian Tax Number.