Australia Drivers Licence – Getting a Drivers Licence in Australia

How do I get a drivers licence in Australia?

The rules and regulations for getting a driving licence in Australia vary depending on location.

If you hold a current full driver’s licence from another country you are allowed to drive for your first three months after arrival.

If your licence is not in English you will require an official translation.

The authorities responsible for issuing driving licenses are listed in the table below.

Getting a driving license in Australia – contact details for State/Territory:

New South Wales (NSW) See: Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA)

Victoria (VIC) See: Vic roads

Queensland (QLD) See: Licensing & registration

South Australia (SA) See: Welcome to Transport SA

Western Australia (WA) See: Licensing services

Tasmania (TAS) See: Transport – TAS

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) See: Road transport information management

Northern Territory (NT) See: Driver licensing

NOTE: In Australia, you generally have to carry your driving license (whether Australian or overseas) with you at all times. It is the primary form of identification. When sending parcels internationally from the post office you will require some form of identification, usually your drivers licence.

Exemptions for Recognised countries

Holders of drivers licences from the following recognised countries are exempt from taking the computerised theory test on the road rules and may be also exempt from the requirement to undertake a practical driving assessment. Applicants who hold motorcycle class equivalents are also exempt from the motorcycle theory test. Check each state requirements for further information.

Recognised Country Exemptions:

Applicants from these countries (excluding applicants from external territories of those recognised countries) are not required to take a written road rules or practical driving test when applying for a car or motorcycle licence in most states.

Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guernsey, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Japan. Jersey, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.

Isle of Man is prescribed only in relation to driver licences granted on or after 1 April 1991.Malta is prescribed only in relation to driver licences granted on or after 2 January 2004.

Converting Your Driving Licence to an Australian Driving Licence – State and Territory Information

How to Get a driving licence in New South Wales (NSW)

You may only drive on your overseas licence for a maximum of three months after your arrival in Australia. After this period if you wish to continue driving you must get a NSW licence.

To gain a licence is NSW you must be over the age of 17. If your licence is written in English you must present your licence at a Road Transport Authority (RTA). If your licence is not written in English you must get an official translation from either: The Community Relations Commission for Multicultural NSW; or The Commonwealth Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. You must also:

* Give proof of your NSW address

* Prove your identity

* Pass an eyesight test

* Pass a knowledge test for each class of licence required

* Unless exempt, pass a driving test

You may be exempt from passing a driving test if you have held an Australian Drivers Licence before; hold a current New Zealand Licence, or have a licence from a country considered to have similar driving standards.

NSW – Recognition of licences from certain countries

The recognition of licences from certain countries was agreed nationally and commenced in NSW on 20 May 2002.

When converting your overseas licence to a NSW licence, if you hold an acceptable driver or rider licence from one of the recognised countries below, you will be exempt from:

  • The driver/rider knowledge test, and
  • The practical driving/riding test.

Note: The exemptions only apply to applicants for Class C (car) and Class R (rider) licences.

NSW – recognised countries exemptions

  • Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark,
  • Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guernsey,
  • Ireland, Isle of Man (licences issued since 1 April 1991), Italy, Japan, Jersey, Luxembourg,
  • Malta (licences issued since 2 January 2004), Netherlands, New Zealand (except where a paper licence is presented), Norway, Portugal,
  • Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA.

If you do hold a licence from a recognised country above and are exempt from licensing tests, it is recommended that you read the Road Users’ Handbook and/or the Motorcycle Riders’ Handbook to familiarise yourself with the current road rules in NSW.

The RTA reserves the right to require customers to undertake a knowledge test or driving/riding test, and may not issue a licence until it is satisfied that the overseas licence is valid.

For more information visit:

How to Get a driving licence in Queensland (QLD)

For overseas drivers you will be required to obtain a Queensland Licence if residing for more than three months in Queensland. If your licence is not written in English you will be required to provide a translation. To obtain a QLD licence you will have to fill in an application form and present this and the appropriate identification (including proof of a Queensland address) to a Queensland Transport Centre.

Overseas drivers will then be required to pass a written test. The test is comprised of 30 general questions for a motor car licence with an additional 5 for a motorbike licence. The road rules you will be tested on are contained in the book “Your Keys to Driving in Queensland” which may be brought at any local newsagent. Depending on the country where your licence was issued you may be required to sit a practical test also.

For more information visit:

How to Get a driving licence in Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

International Visitors to the ACT are not required to obtain an ACT licence providing their International Drivers Permit or Overseas Licence is current. International persons who have chosen to reside in the ACT will be required to obtain an ACT licence within 3 months of their arrival to Australia.

When applying for an ACT licence you will be required to present:

* Your overseas licence

* A letter from the overseas licensing authority confirming the licence detail and status

* A letter from a relevant consulate or diplomatic office – based on information received from the overseas licence issuing authority confirming details

In addition you will be required to present the appropriate identification including:

* Proof of Residence

* Pass an eye test

* Pay the required fees

* Pass a drivers knowledge test

* Pass a driving test

People from certain countries may be exempt from the knowledge and practical testing. To see whether you are exempt from testing and for more information visit:

How to Get a driving licence in Northern Territory (NT)

To transfer your interstate licence to a NT licence you will need to prove:

* Your identity

* You are residing in NT

* Your intestate licence is current

* That your licence is not cancelled, suspended or disqualified from obtaining a licence anywhere in the Commonwealth

For more information visit:

How to Get a driving licence in Victoria (VIC)

If arriving from interstate to Victoria you may drive for up to three months if you have a current interstate or New Zealand licence. After this period you will be required to obtain a Victorian licence. To convert your current licence to a Victorian one you must make an appointment either by calling VICRoads Information on 13 11 71 or TTY (for those who are hearing and speech impaired) on 1300 652 321.

Upon arriving to your appointment you must present:

* Your current/expired interstate or NZ licence

* Proof of Identity

* Proof of Victorian residence

* A completed VICRoads Licence/Learner Admission Form

If you have a prior drink driving offence that took place in Victoria you will also have to provide the court order. If you are in Victoria on a Temporary Visa you may drive on your overseas licence for an indefinite period providing your overseas licence or International Drivers Permit is current. However if you are in Victoria on a Permanent Visa you may only drive on your Overseas Licence for three months before you will be required to obtain a Victorian Licence.

You must make an appointment by contacting the bodies mentioned above. You may be required to pass a knowledge test and hazard perception test before you commence the practical driving test. However you may be exempt from any testing depending on the country you licence is from. To see if you are exempt from testing and for more information visit:

How to Get a driving licence in Western Australia (WA)

To be able to drive on WA roads with an interstate licence you must: have a licence that is not suspended, cancelled or disqualified; carry your licence on you at all times and drive only those vehicles that your licence allows comply with any other conditions of your licence.

Visitors may drive on their interstate licence for up to 12 months from your arrival or until you licence expires. If you intend on becoming a permanent resident of WA you will be required to obtain a WA licence within three months of your arrival. To do this you will be required to provide the appropriate identification along with proof of residence in WA.

For overseas visitors the rules are much the same. If just visiting WA you are permitted to drive on your overseas licence for up to 12 months. If your licence is not written in English be sure to carry an official translation whenever driving. In applying for a WA licence you will be required to provide proof of identity and residency in WA; a translation of your licence if not in English; your overseas drivers licence.

When applying for a WA licence you may be required to sit a written rules theory test. However you may be exempt from this testing depending on the country your licence was issued. To see if you are exempt from testing and for additional information visit:

How to Get a driving licence in South Australia (SA)

For interstate residents now residing in South Australia you have three months after arrival to surrender your interstate licence and obtain a SA licence. Applications can be made to your nearest customer service centre (links to this address will follow below). You will need to bring: your interstate licence; proof of identity showing residence, age and your signature and a medical certificate if required.

If you are an overseas visitor looking to reside in SA you also have three months to surrender your overseas licence and obtain one from SA. Due to similar driving standards in some countries you may not have to complete any further testing to obtain the SA licence, there is a list of pre-approved on the second link included below. If the country that issued your licence is not on this list you will be required to sit a written test, after which, you will receive a temporary one month licence. Within this one month period you must book and complete a driving test. The identification requirements for this application are the same as for interstate residents. For more information visit:

How to Get a driving licence in Tasmania (TAS)

Overseas drivers who reside in Tasmania can drive to 3 months after their arrival. After this date if their licence was not issued by New Zealand they will be required to present themselves, the appropriate identification including proof of their Tasmanian residence and completed application form to the locations mentioned above. There they will have to complete and pass a knowledge test and practical test before their TAS licence is issued. (People holding New Zealand licences are exempt from testing).

For more information visit:

Please check each State and Territory Requirements on How to Get Your Australian Driving Licence.

Where to Live in Australia

Where to Live in Australia…
We get a lot of intending migrants asking us to help them decide where to live in Australia. It can be a very exciting time when you make the decision to move to Australia but how do you determine the right place to live in Australia?

We recommend that you answer this question about where to live in Australia by determining the most important factor for success and that is getting a job as quickly as possible. If you are in banking and finance, you need to consider whether Sydney or Melbourne offer the best opportunities in your field. If you have a specialist professional background, for example as a mining engineer you need to research locations like Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Far North Queensland. An excellent government website breakdowns the Australian labour market by State and city and offers specific information for migrants

Australian Government Workplace

Planning ahead and thinking about where you are best placed to kick start your career in Australia is the most important factor for a successful life in Australia.

Migrants coming on a regional visa need to research carefully whether their location has job and future career opportunities. Use the internet to research the labour market by location – we cannot emphasise planning ahead enough!

So say your skills are in demand in many of Australia cities, then how do you decide where to live in Australia?

There are lots of debates about the best cities in Australia. What’s right for you depends on what you like. It’s essential to do research on locations in Australia where you think you might like to live. Each of the cities can be quite different but they all have a lot to offer and are located by the water.

What’s great about each city?

Sydney РSydney includes icons like Bondi beach, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge. Beach culture and caf̩ society.

  • Population: 3.5 million
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer: 7 to 26°C

Sydney (New South Wales)

Melbourne – The European capital of Australia, arts culture and café society. Multicultural with a well laid out city. Melbourne boasts the headquarters of some of Australia’s largest companies.

  • Population: 3.8 million
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer: 5 to 27°C

Melbourne (Victoria)

Brisbane – warm most of the year, growing rapidly, beach culture and eating out. The Sunshine State of surf and fun. Queensland boasts one of the most famous natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Population: 4 million
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer: 10 to 29°C

Brisbane (Queensland)

Perth – Warmer than Adelaide or Melbourne, small town on the water. Beautiful Coastlines. Rich mineral resources which

drive the state’s economic growth.

Key facts about Perth

  • Population: 2 million
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer: 8 to 32°C

Perth (Western Australia)

Adelaide – also referred to as the “20 minute city” as this is how long it takes to drive from the home to work, laid back, pretty city, well laid out, a country town. South Australia is famous for its scenic coastlines and the Barossa Valley vineyards.

· Population: 1.6 million

· Climate :Average temperatures winter to summer: 20 to 28°C

Adelaide (South Australia)

Hobart – Has a climate colder than most cities, is based on the river and harbour. Small city. Hobart is famed for ancient aboriginal art and early European settlements.

  • Population: 500,000
  • Climate:Average temperatures winter to summer: 4 to 22°C

Hobart (Tasmania)

Darwin Multicultural, small population, tropical with wet and dry seasons.

The World Heritage Kakadu National Park, famed for its unique bird life, rugged beauty and Aboriginal art is near the state capital Darwin with over 3.2 million acres of natural beauty.

  • Population 220,000
  • Climate Average temperatures winter to summer: 19 to 33°C

Darwin (Northern Territory)

Canberra – capital city, planned city for the government centre of Australia. A lot of people are employed in government jobs here. The city was designed by the American architect Walter Burley Griffin and has wide streets and boulevards.

  • Population: 322,000
  • Climate: Average temperatures winter to summer: O to 27°C.

Canberra (Australian Capital Territory)

Other topics

Read About…

Australia CV

Australian Work Culture

Cost of living in Australia

Cost of living in Australia

Choosing where to live in Australia

Australian Economy

There are lots of reasons to live in Australia, with the attractions being many-sun, space, surfing, lifestyle and low cost of living in Australia as well as a growing modern economy which has been one of the strongest in the world over the past decade.

This is due to a combination of things: a skilled and flexible workforce, strong economic management and a competitive dynamic private sector that has enabled Australia to demonstrate great resilience in a time of huge global economic slowdown.
Australia has been able to maintain a low inflation rate, which in turn means low interest rates. Australia’s government net debt is also significantly lower than that in Europe, Japan and the United States a well as being amongst the lowest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Australian Workforce

There are approximately 38% of Australians who work in professional or technical jobs, as a manager or administrator. Around 42% of the workforce has a university degree, diploma or trade qualification. Australia’s higher education enrolment rate, at around 80%, is one of the highest in the world-third behind only Canada and the United States.

Australian Currency

Australia’s currency is decimal, with the dollar as the basic unit. There are 100 cents in one dollar ($1). Notes come in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations and coins in 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. All major credit cards and traveller’s cheques are widely accepted around Australia.

Generally banks are open Monday to Thursday from 9.30am to 4.30pm, Friday from 9.30am to 5.00pm. Some banks now are open Saturday mornings until 12pm

Cost of living in Australia Surveys

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Worldwide Cost of Living Survey This survey enables human resource line managers and expatriate executives to compare the cost of living in over 130 cities in nearly 90 countries and calculate fair compensation policies for relocating employees. In 2005 and 2006 cost of living in Australian cities ranked as follows:

Source: Economist Intelligence Unit – Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, 2005-2006.

Sydney remained the highest cost of living in Australia and its rank jumped from 25th in Mar 2005 to 16th in Jan 2006. Similarly, Melbourne’s cost of living has risen from 28th to 19th during the same period followed by cost of living in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide with similar trends.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting – Cost of Living Survey annually ranks 144 cities using their cost of living index. The index is calculated by comparing the cost of more than 200 items including housing, food, clothing, transport and entertainment.

The 2006 index indicates that Australian cities are still among the cheapest, yet with the highest quality of living.

Source: Mercer Human Resource Consulting – Cost of Living Survey, 2001-2006
(March survey comparisons).

Cost of Living – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane

Source: Mercer Human Resource Consulting – Cost of Living Survey, 2001-2006
(March survey comparisons).

Mercer’s Australia and New Zealand Regional Differentials Mercer’s Australia and New Zealand Regional Differentials 2006/2007 compares both State Salary Differentials and Cost of Living in Australian State and Territory Capital Cities.

The report shows NSW as the state with the highest paying salaries with Western Australia following in second place, behind NSW.

Queensland and South Australia are hot on the heels of Western Australia, also increasing their position against the general market with South Australia being last with the lowest base salary.

Victoria has seen a decline in its relative salary position: in 2005 Victorian wages were in line with the NGM median and are now 1% below the national general market.

Rob Knox, Head of Human Capital Product Solutions at Mercer stated that “The resources boom and resulting skills shortage have had a direct impact on wages in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia. We’re seeing many organisations offer premium rates plus above national average salary increases, in particular to senior and specialist staff.”

State Salary Differentials and Cost of Living – Australian State Capital Cities

Source: Mercer’s Australia and New Zealand Regional Differentials 2006/2007.

Example of State Salary Differential:

Barnabas Ltd, a manufacturing company, has a warehouse manager position. If this position attracted a base salary of $68,000 nationally, Barnabas could expect to pay $67,320 in base salary if this position was located in Victoria ($68,000 – [$68,000 x 1%]) = $67,320) and $70,040 ($68,000 + [$68,000 x 3%]) = $70,040) if this position was advertised in NSW.

As well as commanding increased wages, employees in Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide currently have the added bonus of lower costs of living than in Sydney and Melbourne.

Mercer’s report compares the cost of Living across Australia’s major cities, using Sydney, the most expensive city, as the base point. The study shows that it is cheaper to live in Perth than it is in Sydney with the cost of living estimated to be 6% lower. In Melbourne the cost of living is estimated to be 3% lower than Sydney.

“Rental rates in both Perth and Brisbane have been catching up dramatically to those in Sydney in the past four years, indicating the resources boom is also driving living costs higher,” Knox says. “We should soon begin to see the disparity between costs of living and wages in the high paying states such as Western Australia even out, particularly as the states look for strategies to manage rapid salary growth.”

Australia’s Housing Market

Demographia – International Housing Affordability Survey

Demographia, a U.S.-based market research company regularly reviews housing markets in six major industrialised countries. Their latest housing affordability study, the 3rd Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey covers 159 major markets in six nations which include Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The report suggests that housing affordability in Australian cities is now amongst the worst in the world. Demographia found that seven (Sydney, Perth, Hobart, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin) of the eight housing markets in Australia are rated as “severely unaffordable”, which means that their median multiples were in excess of 5.1. Canberra was rated as “seriously unaffordable” with a rating of 4.9.

Demographia: Housing Affordability Ratings

Source: Demographia – 3rd Annual International Housing Affordability Survey 2007
(Data for 3rd Qtr 2006).

Demographia: Most Unaffordable Housing Markets – City Level (out of 159 cities)

Sources: Demographia – 3rd Annual International Housing Affordability Survey 2007
(Data for 3rd Qtr 2006).

For Australian cost of living property prices and rental costs throughout Australia go to:
Real Estate Institute of Australia


Australia is famous for its high-quality fresh locally produced food products.

To give you an idea of cost of living food prices in Australia visit the two biggest nationwide food retailers online grocery:

Woolworths or Coles.

Department stores

To get an idea of the cost of items such as towels, sheets, kitchenware, toiletries and clothing visit the websites of department stores David Jones or Myer, Kmart and Target.

Petrol (Gasoline)

The Australian Automobile Association compiles figures on petrol prices and updates them regularly.

For information on new and second-hand car prices and to see the range of manufacturers who sell in the Australian market look at


Use or calculators to get an idea of the cost living in Australia mortgage costs and currency exchange rates.

Source: Melbourne City Research City Benchmarking and Liveability May 2007

Moving to Australia

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.

In this chapter:

• Don’t leave home without…

• 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 résumés.

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 (see Chapter 6).

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. For more information visit

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 such as 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 (see Chapter 9). 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.

Excerpted from Land That Job in Australia: Successful job-hunting for Migrants

Learn more …

©Tribus Lingua 2007   All rights reserved.

This excerpt may not be copied without the permission of the publishers. Please contact us for permission rights

GDay Boss!

Businesses Applaud GDay Boss!

GDay Boss! Australian Culture and the workplace by Barbara West and Frances Murphy

GDay Boss! heralds a new era in understanding the mosaic of cultures and customs engrained in the Australian workplace. It’s the first study of its kind into the enormously diverse mixture of personalities and beliefs in our unique nation, revolutionising the help available for anyone working, employing or exporting here. Gone is the notion that Australia is “just another Western society”.

Authors Barbara West and Frances Murphy – two well-travelled academics of the working world – talked to hundreds of workers based in Australia from all corners of the globe and some of the country’s most experienced management specialists. Listening to their illustrative stories and delving deep into their attitudes, perceptions, hearts and minds. Analysis of these interviews, in conjunction with numerous research studies, dissects the Australian culture, values, behaviour and communication like never before.

Underlying the multitude of multicultural issues and conflicts in custom that are highlighted, is the undeniable fact our diversity makes us like no other place in the world. “We are an incredibly multicultural society, with a patchwork past”, explains co-author and American ex-pat, Barbara West. “Currently in Australia there are 52% of us who were born elsewhere, or have a parent who was. The combination of our different heritages, cultures, customs and values result in a unique DNA footprint in terms of our workplace ethics and processes. “G’Day Boss holds a mirror up to the Australian workplace”, says Australian born co-author of G’day Boss, Frances Murphy, “so that we can better understand our own behaviour and communication style in relation to those around us who are culturally different.”

“And by understanding these differences, we can adapt when we come across them. In turn we can improve in all areas of business, offering a much more attractive option for high calibre overseas candidates and seeing much more success in our dealings with clients, partners and suppliers”.

“Far more than an academic meditation on cultural dissonance, G’day Boss! heads straight for the nucleus of the Australian experience, plucks it from its membrane and holds it to the light. This book will profoundly challenge the assumptions and actions of all Australian professionals, whatever their background or ambition.”

Australian Anthill Magazine

Read GDay Boss Review in Mosaic Magazine by Dr Sara Wills of the University of Melbourne

GDay Boss Review Mosiac Magazine

Radio Interview Audio – ABC Radio Australia Breakfast Club Interview- GDay Boss

Check out Phil Kafcaloudes interview with authors Barbara West and Frances Murphy

About The Authors – Barbara West and Frances Murphy

Barbara West received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology in 1995 and has spent more than fifteen years lecturing, writing and consulting in the areas of culture, international studies and intercultural communications. She also has the most up to date Australian Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, fifty hours of training at the Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication and is a qualified administrator of both the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and Intercultural Conflict Styles Inventory (ICSI). Prior to co-founding Culture Works, Barbara was an associate professor of international studies at the University of the Pacific and primary trainer for the Pacific Institute of Cross Cultural Training. During her ten years at Pacific she received nine different awards for teaching excellence, concern for student learning and public speaking. She has provided extensive cross cultural and intercultural communication training for domestic and overseas university students, faculty and staff members, as well as secondary and primary teachers, middle and upper management teams and immigrant and local ethnic community groups. She has also recently been interviewed for the S.H.A.R.C. e-newsletter on Cross Border Business, on West End Business’s radio programme, and in Australian Anthill Magazine.

Frances Murphy is an Australian citizen but has spent more than a quarter of her life living and working abroad in Germany, Africa, the U.K., Turkey and the U.S. She received her M.A. in psychology in 1999 and spent ten years working in various settings in the United States to provide psychological, cultural and educational counselling to families, children and tertiary level students. Additionally, she has three hundred hours of training through the Intercultural Communication Institute in Portland, Oregon, and is a qualified administrator of both the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and Intercultural Conflict Styles Inventory (ICSI). Before co-founding Culture Works, Frances was an international student advisor at the University of the Pacific, for which she served as an ombudsman for international students. She also had in her portfolio the task to internationalise the campus, for which she designed and implemented dozens of international and intercultural programs. Her extensive and varied experiences as an expatriate, her academic work and her counselling experience have given Frances a unique understanding of intercultural competencies and outstanding skills in teaching them to others. She has returned to Melbourne in order to use her international and intercultural experience to help facilitate culture learning in her home city.

Learn More about GDay Boss Right Now…

G’Day Boss! Australian Culture and the Workplace

Australia-Culture in the Workplace

Excerpt from:

G’Day Boss! Australian Culture and the workplace

by Barbara West and Frances Murphy


Understanding Relationships


Equality versus Recognised hierarchy

Australia: Equality is to be honoured (including gender, race, class, etc).

Contrast: Society is better organised if status and hierarchy are recognised.

Perhaps the most important value orientation for a newcomer to Australia to understand is the overall importance placed on equality. In contrast with most of the rest of the world, Australians generally favour equality over recognised hierarchy. In his book Cross-Cultural Business Behavior (1999), Richard Gesteland writes that Australia is ‘a deal focused, extremely egalitarian and informal’ society (p 263) and that this egalitarianism leads Australians to look very negatively on anyone, especially newcomers, who express anything that even approaches boastfulness or showing off.

In our research we have found that migrants from Asia almost immediately notice the relative absence of recognition of hierarchy and status in Australia. In addition, most migrants from North America and Europe likewise realise very quickly that their own societies have taught them to value hierarchy considerably more than does the average Australian. Attitudes and behaviours that in North America or Europe seem acceptable or even a requirement for securing employment, such as discussing one’s tertiary degrees, are often seen by Australians as pretentious. It is certainly important to let potential employers know your skills and background, but this must be done carefully to avoid the impression that you are ‘putting on airs’.

Australian’s perspective repatriated after eight years in Hong Kong

I find that getting served in a restaurant or shop is very difficult in Australia. I think the service staff see themselves as equal to their customers, which is fine but they refuse to cater to customer needs. You almost have to make an effort to get them to serve you and if you complain about anything the attitude is ‘Whatever’.

The particular form the value of equality takes in Australia is general rather than specific. At least at the level of ideas, hierarchies are seen by Australians as disruptive of positive and productive social relations. This results in a situation in which women and men, at least on the surface, are supposed to be equal and equally able to interact with each other and serve as group leaders or managers. Women and men actively engage in discussion and even argument with each other. They may greet each other with a handshake and spend time together both inside and outside the workplace. Newcomers to Australia from more hierarchical societies may have to adapt their behaviour when interacting with the opposite sex, from being deferential or domineering to more familiar and equal.

In Australia the differences between people in terms of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality and socio economic level are likewise believed to be merely differences, not hierarchies. Workplaces in Australia are expected to be free of language and behaviours that denigrate or degrade any individual or group, and there are even laws that protect people from this kind of thing. The very word ‘class’ to refer to socio economic differences is not generally recognised as valid in Australia, despite the obvious differences in wealth.

Australian management consultant’s perspective

I often see Australian employees taking the time to talk to the security guard, the cleaner and the tea lady more than you would in a more hierarchical culture. Even top management will make sure they ask about the families of these workers and will personally get involved if there is an issue. In both individual and group interactions, Australians tend to ‘level’ or downplay superior skills and talents in order to bolster the illusion of equality. The Australian phrase ‘the tall poppy’ refers to this kind of levelling. The poppy that grows taller than the others in the field gets its head knocked off first, in the same way that a person who attempts to portray him or herself as above others will be brought down through joking or even gentle (or serious) mockery of his or her accomplishments. US-Americans, who are taught from a very young age to value individual accomplishments in themselves and others, are particularly vulnerable to this kind of levelling mechanism in Australia. Australian politicians are also common victims, as anyone who has watched Australian television comedy can attest. Comedians often infiltrate press conferences and other public gatherings to ask impertinent questions. If the politicians refuse to play along with the mockery or try to have the ‘stirrers’ thrown out, they are seen as bad sports. Doing the latter would also be considered an abuse of authority.

Switzerland to Australia perspective

What I would say to a new migrant: ‘The tall poppy syndrome must be understood.’ This means that on a daily basis nobody wants to stand out. And, at least where I work [which is currently undergoing major restructuring] there are very few people who provide any leadership or decision-making. Everybody is waiting for the big boss to do everything because they don’t want to take responsibility and thus stand out from the crowd themselves. Yet, at the same time, having titles is really important and you should put all of them on your business card. I don’t really understand the contradiction.

Of course, Australia is a hierarchical society. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, on average Australian men earn 10 r cent more than Australian women (see They also garner more respect in the workplace and dominate the upper levels of corporate, academic and political life (see While government policy has made significant contributions to the status of women, there is still a huge boys’ network and deliberate actions have to be taken to continue to improve the position of women. In addition, racial, religious, ethnic and national groups that fall outside the dominant Anglo-European sphere in Australia can face racism and discrimination of various kinds. In the workplace, there are bosses and subordinates. Nevertheless, the value of equality means that bosses are not automatically believed to be superior, and vice versa. Bosses must earn the respect of their employees. If you enter a workplace as a manager, your Australian employees will use your first name and expect you to use theirs. They are more likely to follow your directions if you earn their respect rather than try to rely entirely on your title or position.

Brazil to Australia perspective

It certainly depends on your workplace, but in general hierarchy is more subtle here than in Brazil. People have a more consultative style than a hierarchical one. Managers have to be seen to communicate with all levels of the organisation, not just those immediately around them. It’s also not uncommon to see managers having lunch on the shop floor with the employees because they are trying to mix with everybody. Everybody here uses only first names as well. I really appreciate this mixing between levels because I think it’s good for an organisation. However, it can also be hard because you can forget your position when out socialising and make a mistake. Hierarchy is subtle, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

India to Australia perspective

I was raised in India, where it was unacceptable to question the directions that someone of a higher rank has given you. It was normal to follow directions without question. When I came to Australia I joined the Australian army and was amazed to see that the orders we received came with explanations. I could not understand why my superiors were justifying their orders. In India, respect was a given if you were in a higher-ranked position and approval did not need to be sought.

Don’t expect to get any kudos in Australia for your status alone. Borrowing from Trompenaars’ notion of the relative importance of ascribed or achieved status, Australians are solidly of the opinion that only achieved status needs to be acknowledged and even that is done in an understated way. Status that comes to you through your position in an organisation will generally go unrecognised, whereas if you earn people’s respect through your mentoring or support of their efforts you will be held in high esteem. Of course, this esteem will play itself out in terms of relationships, rather than outward displays of honour and respect.

France and Britain to Australia perspective

Hierarchy is so much stronger in France and Britain than it is here. I am used to having to use quite formal language with my superiors such as Mr or the formal French word for you, vous. I also had to go through many steps to get to the big boss. I love it in Australia where you can go straight to your CEO and address him by his first name! I find that using people’s surnames in Australia puts a glass between you and them that is very uncomfortable for everybody. Here there is great openness and more opportunities to network across levels of the organisation. People are seen more on the same level as human beings rather than as holders of titles or positions. This is not so in France because of all the structures and procedures that people have to follow. In Britain as well, work is more structured; there’s always a sense of ‘I am the boss and you are the worker’. As an exporter the lack of hierarchy in Australia can unfortunately work against you because hierarchy is so important in places like China and the rest of Asia. Australians can be too forward, too intimate for many Asian people’s comfort levels.

United States to Australia perspective

In the US I was occasionally invited to my boss’s house with other staff members for parties, to celebrate Thanksgiving or to welcome new staff members. In these situations my boss was the host and to some extent it felt like an extension of work. I thought nothing of being asked to perform little tasks for my boss, even though it was at a party. Here in Australia I have never been invited to my boss’s house. I don’t think he has ever hosted a party for his staff . He does go to the pub for drinks on Friday nights and will occasionally be involved in weekend activities but only as one of the group; usually someone else has organised it. Socially everyone seems very relaxed around each other and work is the last thing on their minds. Socialising outside of work is separate from work and no one is going to ‘pull rank’ on you at the pub or at a barbecue. You’re expected to be more relaxed and informal and not fall into work roles outside of the office; that makes people uneasy.

South Africa to Australia perspective

South African work culture is very hierarchical. It’s always ‘Yes, Sir’ to the boss, while in Australia it’s much more on a first-name basis. At home, people give orders and others accept them; it’s a very top-down, directive discussion style. But Australians don’t like anything that sounds like an order. They don’t give them and they certainly don’t take them well. It’s not that there isn’t hierarchy in Australia, but it’s insinuated and maybe flatter.


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G’Day Boss! Australian Culture and the Workplace

©Tribus Lingua 2007

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Australian Job Vacancies, Australian Workplace Culture and the Role of the OQP

Filling Australian Job Vacancies and the role of Overseas Qualified Professionals Program

Government policy-makers and immigration officials seem to assume that, in an open job market, all we need to do is to link suitably skilled people with Australian job vacancies in an identified skill-shortage area and the gap will be filled. Holders of recognised qualifications in “in-demand” professions are fairly easily granted permanent residency to Australia and encouraged to take up one of the many Australian job vacancies in their fields. The strong message is that this will be a fairly straightforward affair.

But we have seen that this is rarely so, and that we need special post-settlement programs to induct even highly skilled and literate professionals in the complicated art of landing a job. The OQP program (Overseas Qualified Professionals Program) was born of the failure of many migrants to:

  1. Locate a job that was in their field but that they also had a reasonable chance of getting
  2. Construct job applications that are acceptable, according to Australia’s peculiar conventions
  3. Present themselves reasonably well to recruiters, in phone calls or interviews, as viable candidates

It is this last barrier that presents the biggest obstacle. On top of the expected requirements of qualification, skill-level and language competence, acceptance involves what recruiters and managers often call “cultural fit”. This is easier to name than to define and often seems to involve criteria that the recruiter is not fully aware of, let alone the job candidate. Talk of cultural diversity, a multicultural workforce or even culture shock has done little to clarify for overseas job seekers what it actually means. And it doesn’t help at all that it means different things to different people.

Defining Australian Workplace Culture

Most skilled migrants soon learn that to be successful they must absorb the values of something called “Australian workplace culture“. But what is this exactly? If they are lucky, someone will instruct them that, on the surface, the Australian workplace culture is:

  • More egalitarian and informal, less hierarchical and authoritarian, than the one they may be coming from
  • Yet, somewhat confusingly, demands a strict adherence to a strong “work ethic” (whatever that is)
  • An environment where “selling yourself” and being assertive is highly valued
  • Where qualities of initiative, leadership and independence are expected of professionals
  • But, again conversely, where an apparently collective culture of “teamwork”, communication, reliability and punctuality is required

Unfortunately, when this rather unspecific set of prerequisites is listed in a résumé (however correctly) or recited at an interview (however sincerely) it often gets the candidate nowhere at all, and even elicits distinct impatience from a recruiter. Even if a candidate is able to relate by convincing anecdote where and when they have demonstrated these qualities, the response is still often not enthusiastic.

This is because the recruiter is looking for something further, something less easy to explain. They sometimes talk about a “fit” with the “company culture”, and a lot has been said under this banner about the need for recruiters to investigate and define the “culture” of a company before they recruit for it. The trouble is, it is a far different thing from what has been identified above as “Australian workplace culture”. How is the newcomer to negotiate this mystifying barrier?

Walking the “Cultural Fit” Tightrope

Clearly, “cultural fit” is much more personality-based than the former, and is now measured more and more (in a “professional” or an amateur way) by psychological or “psychometric” interview techniques. But knowing this won’t help the candidate much. The real “measurement”, quite apart from whatever facts and figures may be indicated from these tests and questions, usually takes the form of informal, unstructured and often fairly unselfconscious opinion-sharing by the recruiting panel, after the candidate has left, as to his or her ability to “fit in”.

An ability to “fit in” is often judged by impressions and “gut-feelings”. The more drawn-out, convoluted and process-driven our interview and selection methods become, the more scope there seems to be for nebulous, personal, “cultural” judgements to come into play. This is especially so when many interviewers are not specifically trained for the purpose.

One major Australian cultural tension is that between egalitarianism and individualism. Displays of equality and personal familiarity, even between people who occupy vastly different positions in the workplace power structure, are important in Australia. Understatement, not “blowing your own trumpet”, the rejection of all presumptions of superiority, suspicion of intellectual achievement (or even education itself in some quarters), the cutting down of tall poppies – these are prominent in the Australian popular identity.

Yet, on the other hand, locally-grown aspirants learn that to impress a prospective employer you must stand out, show individuality, initiative, self-reliance, great confidence in your own ability, even outspokenness. We admire the larrikin achiever, the one who goes against convention, the “self-made man”.

“Fitting in” as a professional in Australia is very much a balancing act between these two opposites. It is nearly impossible to express this mix in an interview unless it comes naturally, without self-consciousness. Yet, often unwittingly, recruiters apply this rule of thumb to local and international interviewees alike. Overseas-qualified applicants can all too easily fall down on one side of the knife-edge or the other. Trying the individualistic achiever approach, many applicants appear aggressive or even arrogant, offering a boring recitation of their qualifications and achievements, showing as trying too be too clever, lacking humour or even causing the negative suspicion that “self-promoters” provoke here. Yet if they try the other approach it often comes out as too passive, weak, lacking in energy, the recruiters noticing only too much anxiety to please and defer to all statements. It is hard to know which self-presentation affects Australian interviewers worse.

The Right Balance

Those who succeed in this balancing act have either been exposed to an Australian cultural experience (natives or long-term residents) or they have been instructed in our self-presentation conventions and have practiced them in a critically supervised environment. The OQP program (Overseas Qualified Professionals Program) attempts to give our participants a little experience of both of these situations before they actually submit themselves to the interview process. Firstly, by involving them in exploratory and critical examinations, in workshop environments, of their interactions with the Australian job-market so far. Secondly, by putting them through interviews that are as close as possible to the real thing. Thirdly, by placing them full-time in an Australian workplace cutlure, so they experience, albeit in a limited and somewhat protected way, an “immersion” of sorts in the “target” culture.

When instructed to “speak up for themselves”, we notice raw newcomer professionals tend to err on the overbearing side. This is perhaps reinforced by their position in their original societies, being esteemed as one of a small educated elite, belonging in the top 5% of the population in status and usually income. In Australia the class indicators are different. Education and privilege are nothing to be flashed around and our management and professional elite learns to adopt a ‘one of the common people’ approach when dealing with employees. People who exhibit self-satisfaction have ‘poor people skills’. I have seen several otherwise capable overseas professionals destroy certain job chances during an industry placement because they inadvertently drew too much attention to their high level of qualification.

With professionals who have been here longer, however, the opposite tends to be true. Imagine it. You are disappointed, even confused, by hundreds of rejections (or no replies) for jobs that appear below your real skill level, and by one or two years of unemployment mixed with low-paid casual work. You adopt a desperate, but somehow passive approach, either pleading or resigned, that cries out: “I’ll take any job.” This usually brings the recruiter’s comment “lacks get-up-and-go” and means certain rejection before the interview has even begun.

What have been the implications of this rather depressing reality on the evolution of the OQP program (Overseas Qualified Professionals Program)? One noticeable result has been a toughening of our attitude to any strategic shortcomings or inflexibility in our participants. In their position in a buyer’s market we have perceived that it is they who most have to change: “Diversity and multiculturalism is all very well, but that won’t help you where you’re going.”

The program has developed more and more into a series of revelations of harsh realities, each bringing with it a new counter-strategy to be considered, yet more work to be done, more barriers to be crossed. We tell them “Get real!” We urge them to develop thick skins. We tell them this is a competitive job-market and part of the test is to prove your endurance.

Getting Past the Recruitment Gatekeepers to fill the Australian Job Vacancies

Yet there have been other results and revelations as well. The interviewing “gatekeepers” are not the full story. We have sometimes seen potential interview failures blossom and gain confidence after “cold calling” directly to employers and being able to meet colleagues with their own technical background instead of recruiters.

We have learned that very often the application and interview process is a cultural ritual, a shortlisting and elimination tool (which pays lip-service to “equal opportunity”) of little relevance to performance on the job. So often our participants, in time and in a setting where they can complete a task and overcome nervousness, interact well with supportive and helpful colleagues and shed the “outsider” personae they presented at first. Supervisors and managers are also able to shake of the “risk factor” that haunts them when presented with somebody unfamiliar.

This process of managers and supervisors quickly accepting slightly different ways of “fitting in” has been helped along quite a bit by the increasing talk, and the reality, of the great Australian “skills shortage”. The increasing exposure of senior executives to international, multicultural professional expertise has also helped. We even find willingness at senior levels to reconsider the very rationale of recruitment gate-keeping and envisage new ways of assessing applicants of all types.

This article which looks at the realities of filling Australian job vacancies, understanding “Australian workplace culture” and the role of the OQU in regard to getting past the recruitment gatekeepers is taken from “Getting Past the Recruitment Gatekeepers” by Peter Hosford, Industry Liaison, Overseas Qualified Professionals Victoria, Northern Institute of TAFE (NMIT). Overseas Qualified Professionals (OQP) Victoria provides overseas qualified professionals with an introduction to the Australian workplace and labour market and the opportunity to undertake practical industry placements.

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G'day Boss

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