Things you need to know

If you're interested in knowing more about Australia, click on the various topics below to learn in further detail

Employment

The Australian economy provides abundant opportunities for employment and business in it's major metropolitan cities. The service industry mainly comprising of Health Services, Information Technology, Retail, Education etc. is one of the major industries in Australia followed closely by finance and insurance. Civil projects both private and government operated also provide ample opportunities for Engineers and Architects. The mining and agriculture industries are also key industries in the Australian economy.


Employment assistance

The job market in Australia can get very competitive. The time you need to land a job can depend on various circumstances including availability, economic factors, the type of work your are looking for and of course your qualifications and skills. The daily newspapers contain a section on 'Job Vacancies'. These can also be found on the internet on various job boards.

Centrelink and Job Search Australia are two government bodies that can assist you in your job search. The services that these institutions provide depend on the type of visa you hold. These services can provide counselling in your job search in terms of updating your resume, suggestion of any particular skills that you may require to acquire and keep a job etc. Information on these centres can be found on the internet.


Qualifications

The most important thing you should before or as soon as you enter Australia is to get your qualifications formally recognised by a relevant Authority in Australia which can greatly improve your opportunities to work in your desired profession.


Rights and Protection in Australian workplace

All workers in Australia are entitled to their basic rights and protections in their respective workplaces. If you wish to receive advice on these rights and protections, Fair Work Australia is central point of contact for these enquiries.

Australians are entitled to a minimum pay depending on their state or territory, age and details of their employment contract. Your employer must regularly pay you and must not make deductions from you pay without your permission. This is apart from the compulsory tax deductions.


Worker's Union

All workers in Australia have the right to join and be represented by a worker's union. Unions provide their members with advice on wages, their rights in the work place and can help you with problems and can bargain with your employers in terms of pay and employment conditions.

Mentioning union membership to an employer is not necessary and in no situation can an employer remove you from your job owing to the fact that you are part of a particular worker's union. If you need more information on which type of union to join, Unions Australia can provide you with this information.


Superannuation

This is a long term investment for your retirement and hence is also sometimes referred to as 'retirement savings' or 'pension income' in other countries. It is more commonly known as 'super' in Australia. Nearly every Australian is part of a superannuation fund.

In most cases, your employer by law has to pay a minimum amount equivalent to nine percent of your earnings to a superannuation fund which can be of your choice. You may also choose to put more money in your super if you wish.

Social Security

The Australian government has a strong dedication to assisting and supporting people in financial and social needs through their own agency called Centrelink. Through their various programs and benefits, Centrelink can provide assistance to new migrants in need of financial and social support.


Centrelink

Centrelink provides social security payments to families and individuals living in Australia. The type of Centrelink payment depends on your visa class whether it's temporary or permanent, residency and your circumstances including income and assets. A waiting period applies even for the permanent visa holders for most of the payment options. This is explained in detail in Waiting periods.

Centrepay, a voluntary bill paying service allows you to pay your household bills by having a regular amount deducted from your Centrelink payments making it easier to manage your money. NB: This service is only available to those receiving Centrelink payments.


Waiting periods

One has to be living in Australia for a period of two years before he or she can start receiving most of the social security payment benefits from Centrelink. There are however certain exceptions to this rule. The waiting period for age and disability pensions is 10 years. Waiting period for Family Assistance payments is none.

As mentioned in the above paragraph, there are certain exemptions to the waiting period. Partners of permanent residents who have been residing in Australia for at least two years are entitled to the Centrelink benefits. Special Benefit is another type of payment available within the waiting period. This applies to people who are in hardship due to a uncontrollable and substantial change of circumstances. But not being able to find a job and running out of money are not sufficient reasons.

Waiting periods are also exempted for people who are caring for people who are Australian permanent residents and can receive Carer payments. A carer allowance is also available which is also without a waiting period. Australia also has international social security agreements with 23 countries, which may allow one to get a pension without having resided in Australia for the waiting period of 10 years.


Types of payments

Youth Allowance or Austudy
This social security payment is for australian permanent residents who are students. This requires one to have stayed in Australia for at least 2 years

Assurance of Support
This type of payment requires an Australian citizen to be responsible for any sort of social security payment made to you. In essence, your visa application may sometimes require you to have an Assurance of support with or without a security bond before your application can be approved, so that once you arrive in Australia and land into some financial difficulties, the Australian government can provide you some financial social security either from the bond if it exists or charge the nominated Australian citizen for any payments made to you exceeding the bond.

Family Assistance Payments
If you are migrating to Australia and have dependent children or infants, the family Assistance office can support these new families. But it is important to understand that these payments are not sufficient enough to live on but are intended to help a family with the added costs of supporting children and infants. Also this benefit is only available if your income is below a certain limit. A one time baby bonus payment also exists which helps families cope with the added costs of a new baby.


Your rights and responsibilities

You as an Australian permanent resident have the right to receive social security benefits if you fit the criteria for a payment and are really in financial need. But it also then becomes your responsibility to report back to Centrelink regarding your circumstances to ensure you are being paid the right amount. These include you income, living arrangements, your marital status. All communication from Centrelink has to be responded to within the required time.

Money

Banking

There are four major banks in Australia, namely Westpac, Australia and New Zealand Banking Corp more commonly called ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the National Australia Bank. These banks provide the basic banking services.


Taxation

In Australia, tax is directly deducted from your pay, business earnings or investments and paid to the government. These taxes are collected by the Australian Taxation Office ( ATO ). These funds are used for important community services like hospitals, schools, roads and railways.


Tax File Number

The TFN or Tax File number is a unique number which is given to an individual or an organisation by the ATO for identification and record keeping. Acquiring a TFN should be your priority before or on arrival in Australia as employers can otherwise take the maximum amount of tax from your payments. The fastest way to acquire your TFN is over the internet, the only requirement being your passport details and Australian address after which you receive your TFN in 10 working days.


GST

In Australia you are charged a Goods and Service tax of 10 percent on most items and services that you purchase. Basic items such as basic food, most education and health services etc. are GST-free.


Loans and credit

There are various lending agents in Australia that can offer loan or credit to an individual. But these financial products can only be provided by licensed businesses or institutions recognised by the government. Ensure that your lender in case you do apply for a loan falls in this category. For more information, you can contact the Australian Securities and Investment Commission(ASIC).


Insurance

Insurance companies are also one of the largest financial institutions in Australia and provide a wide range of insurance products catered to your needs and budget. Common types of insurance products are home building insurance, home contents insurance, travel, life and car insurance amongst many others. There are a number of competitors and hence it is important to view the policies in details before committing to an insurance agreement.


Financial Advice

The Financial Information Service is a Centrelink service that provides expert information about financial issues. This information can be found on the Centrelink website. This information is also available in the form of seminars that are conducted regularly free of cost.

Housing

Housing in Australia can be difficult at times in situations where you can't find the right place and within your budget. Renting in Australia can be expensive mainly in the major metropolitan areas. It is important to gain some basic knowledge of rates in the city that you will be living in.


Renting a house or flat

The Australian rental property market is in vast majority done through dealing with a real estate agent who will act on behalf of the landlord. Rental property advertisements can be found in various newspapers and on the internet. There is also at least one real-estate office in all major residential suburbs who can also contacted in regards to finding a rental property.

It is preferable in Australia to have a written agreement between the tenant and the landlord so all the terms and conditions are documented. The contract period is between six to twelve months and can be renewed after the end of a fixed term period. But ensure that you do not intend to vacate a property before the lease period as significant costs may be involved. Make sure you read the terms and conditions of the agreement before signing any of these documents, as they are legally bound once signed.

Ensure you check the condition of the property before you agree to rent. A condition report is also taken by the real estate agent which documents any irregularities and damages that were present before you moved in, which can assist you while vacating the property. Usually you are required to pay a bond, which is an advance sum of money which should not be more than the monthly rental amount. This bond is not kept by the landlord or the real estate agent but will be lodged with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority.


Public housing and Emergency housing

If you are on a centrelink payment or receive low income, you can apply for a public renting service. This allows you to occupy properties owned by the government for rent a lower than market price. But the waiting period for these services can be very long depending on the household size, urgency and the area you wish to live in.


Buying a house or a flat

The buying property market in Australia as like the rental property market in Australia is also mostly operated by real estate agents acting on behalf of the owners. First time home buyers are eligible for an Australian Government 'First Home Owner's Grant' which usually covers the stamp duty costs.

Borrowing money to buy a house or flat can be done through a bank or a financial institution. A solicitor is usually hired to look over the title deeds and manage the paperwork with the lending authorities. There are various ads in newspapers and on the internet, for contacts and other information. Once again it is very important to first understand the terms and conditions of a contract before you sign the document.




Household essential services

Whether you're renting or living in your own property, you will require access to essential household services like electricity, gas, water, telephone and internet. These providers can be government agencies or private companies depending on the service and your locality. This information can be found in the local directory. Providers for these services need to be given prior notice before occupying a certain property so these services can be initiated before your arrival. These services are also offered under contracts so make sure you ensure the length of the contract is no more than your intended duration of stay if you are renting.


Garbage collection and recycling

Garbage collection and recyclable materials from the household are collected by the local councils. Each household are given a set of bins of different colours based on the type of waste they collect. Garbage collection vehicles operate on certain days of the week in your area. Ask your neighbours to know the days on which garbage is collected so you can take the bins out for collection. This information can also be found with the local councils.

Education and Child Care

Australia has an adult literacy rate that is as high as 99%. Approximately 58% of Australians aged from 25 to 64 have vocational or tertiary qualifications, and the tertiary graduation rate of 49% is the higest among the thirty major developed countries in the world. Australia has 37 government-funded universities which provide quality education ( up to PhD level ) free or at a nominal cost or through study loan. School educational in Government schools is entirely free of cost for Australian permanent residents and citizens.

Schooling and child care

Children who are not old enough to attend school or who need to be looked after following school hours can be kept under care in Day care or child care centres and Family Day Care. There are also pre-schools which prepare children for school. These centres and their contacts can be found in the local directory.

Government schools offer free education to permanent residents and Australian citizens. There does exist a small fee which the school uses to enhance it's facilities and sporting programs which parents have to pay to the school upfront. Students holding temporary visas will be required to pay full school fees. These details have to be checked with the individual schools.

Non-government schools charge fees, which are in most cases quite expensive. These schools are also have a religious affiliation of some sort or a different educational philosophy. This information can also be found in the local directories and on the internet.

Enrolment in schools has to be done at the school premises. Some of the common and important documents required will be your visa or entry to Australia documents, birth certificate, documents relating to any previous education and immunisation documents. Please refer to Immunisation in the health section.


Vocational Education and Training

These courses are for people who are in search for technical skills, trade skills or skills that are specific to a job. These are provided at many vocational training institutes in the areas of information technology, business services, art and media, tourism and hospitality, child care, transport and logistics, construction and many more. These courses are conducted in the Technical and Further Education ( TAFE ) Institutes. The courses and fees differ from state to state. This information can also be found in local directories or on the internet.





Universites

Australian universities are amongst the best in the world and have a high reputation and respect in the international academic circuit. An undergraduate degree in Australia usually takes three years, but one can also enrol in double degrees and post graduate studies which can take longer. Distance learning and part time courses are also an option. These options depend on the university and this information can be found on the university websites.

Prior to attending university, students are required to show competence in English through recognised English tests ( eg. TOEFEL, IELTS ) which ensures the students have the adequate skills to cope with the university requirements.




International Student support

The Australian government has taken a great effort in ensuring that International students receive the best quality of education and studying environments. They are also committed to assisting students in other areas of difficulty like social mixing, discrimination, safety and accommodation amongst other problems that may arise while studying in Australia. Each University has a dedicated staff which deals with International student affairs. Their contacts and details can also be found on the university websites.

Health System

Australia has an extensive and complex health system which comprises of various entities which participate in your health and well being. The Australian government spends 9.8% of it's GDP on health care alone. The country introduced the universal health care ( health care for all ) in 1975 which entitles free medical care in state-of-the-art hospitals managed by each of the states. In an international study of health care systems in the six highly developed countries ( Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the US ) it was found that Australia ranks the highest on healthy lives, scoring first or second on all of the indicators.


Medicare

The most important entity of the Australian health system if the Medicare system. This is an Australian government service that provides all eligible Australians free medical services from all public hospitals and participating general practitioners and offers reduced treatment costs by doctors and specialists. Along with these benefits in treatment, Medicare also provides reduced cost medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme(PBS).

But Medicare does not pay for all types of medical services like dental care, optometry, ambulance services, physiotherapy, podiatry, chiropractic services and private hospital accommodation.


Private health funds and insurance

In situations where Medicare does not provide benefits, one can look into joining a private health fund or getting private health insurance. There are many funds and insurance companies providing these services which vary with different competitors depending on the services they provide. So make sure you read the policy details carefully.






General Practitioner

For most of our medical needs, a general practitioner is the first person you should meet if you do not think your medical concern is not an emergency. General practitioners can be found in medical centres or their own practices which can be found in the local directories and newspapers. Make sure you find your local general practitioner. With medicare, your doctor may not charge you at all if he provides bulk billing, where Medicare will pay for your treatment. Some general practitioners do not provide bulk billing and will ask for payment upfront. This payment will then be reimbursed by Medicare.


Specialists

A specialist cannot be visited before you have visited your family doctor or a general practitioner. Once you have been examined by a GP, you will then be referred to a specialist who will then treat you further.


Doctor's interpreting priority line

A very useful service in place in Australia is the TIS National priority telephone line to have a TIS National interpreter assist in the medical consultation, if you are unable to or have difficulty communicating with your doctor. This service does not come as a cost to you or your doctor if this service is covered by Medicare.


Community Health Care Services

Local communities and non-government organisations run programs and other community health care services. The range of these services may vary with different organisations. These services come at no or very little cost as they are run by volunteers. These services often include nursing, health education, dental care, counselling and social welfare amongst many others.


Other Medical services

Australia also has a range of services catering to disability services, women's health services, mental health services and health services for families with young children. These services are sometimes run privately or are run by local communities and NGOs at reduced costs if not any.


Immunisation

Immunisation services in Australia can be obtained from family doctors or community health centres. Immunisation is not compulsory but it is recommended for your children as schools and child care centres will require documents and proofs regarding your child's immunisation.


Dental Care Services

Dental care is carried out by private practitioners and can be found in your local directory. Services from these centres is in most situations not covered by Medicare but can be done through private health funds and health insurance.


Aged Care Services

Residential aged care services are also available in Australia in the form of community care services for caring of people living in their own home or nursing homes and retirement villages are also available for older people. These services and centres can also be found in the local directory and on the internet.

Australian Law

Every Australian is required to the follow the laws of Australia and failure to do so can result in severe penalties and punishment. So to be familiar with these laws should be a priority before or soon after you reach Australia.


Bribery and criminal offences

It is a serious offence in Australia to offer a bribe or attempt to offer a bribe to an official like a police officer, licensing officer etc. The punishments in these matters are severe. Violence towards another person or property is illegal and also viewed very seriously in Australia. Violence within the home and within marriage is also a criminal act and falls under domestic and family violence which is also punishable by law.


Driving

Every driver or motorcycle rider in Australia is required to have the appropriate license and furthermore have it with him or her at all times while in control of a motor vehicle or motor cycle. Driving without a license is a serious offence and can lead to misconduct procedures which are both expensive and can lead to the loss of your license and also prosecution and conviction of a serious offence.

The license from your home country can be used for three months, but must be verified by the Roads and Transport Authority. But it is best to book a driver's license test as soon as you enter Australia. This test is a difficult test and requires you to understand that various road rules and driving techniques on Australian roads.

The police conducts random breath tests and have speeding cameras in place on nearly all major roads. Australia is very strict when it comes to driving offences like speeding, hazardous driving, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving without a seatbelt ( both in the front and rear ).

Ensuring child safety in a motor vehicle is also a serious affair in Australia. The law requires all children up to the age of seven to be restrained in approved child restraint seats. If you have children below or at the age of seven, and will be driving a motor vehicle, you will be required to purchase the child restrain seats. They can be easily fitted to the car by oneself. Children are not permitted to sit in the front seat of the vehicle.


Drugs, smoking and drinking

Australia has many laws regarding the use and possession of drugs. Breaking these laws can result in the most serious of penalties. These penalties are separated on terms of drug use or drug production, supply and sale.

Smoking is now prohibited in a number of places in Australia. These areas are usually indicated with a 'no-smoking' sign.

Drinking alcohol in Australia is legal in Australia, but only in certain places at certain times. A person under the age of 18 cannot be legally sold alcohol. The consumption of alcohol by someone under the age of 18 is also prohibited except on private property like a home.


Legal Aid

There are a number of legal institutions and organisations in Australia that have the information to inform people of the legal rights and obligations and ease their access to the judicial and justice system. These organisations provide legal aid on criminal matters, family breakdowns, mental health, migration, social security, traffic offences and debt.


Child protection

Australia has a very strong commitment to the protection of human rights for children. By law children should be at all times protected from physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect and violence, both at home and at school. Physical discipline e.g hitting is not allowed in schools. A teacher or doctor can report to state and territory child protection authorities if they have concerned of a child being harmed.

Australian Society

Australia is a multicultural nation and has people from all over the world living in harmony and peace. Nearly 45 percent of the people living in Australia were either born overseas or have parents who were born overseas.Everyone is Australia is free to follow and celebrate their festivals and religious traditions, only ensuring that they don't cross the borders of the Australian law. Australian culture is very open and diverse. At first it may be hard for some to get used to this diversity and social inclusion. But being respectful towards other people, their ideas and traditions can go a long way in ensuring your place in the Australian society.


Australian culture

Australian culture is colourful, vibrant and lively. Due to Australia's multi-ethnic population, the country enjoys a true cosmopolitan culture. Through a wide vareity of sports, various arts and multitude or religious festivals, life in Australia never offers a dull moment.

Respect for others

Each Australian is allowed to enjoy the rights that they are given provided that they fulfil their responsibilities like the rule of law, living peacefully and respecting all individuals regardless of their background and many more.

Each Australian has the right to be respected and to have his or her needs considered fairly like everyone else. But similarly, you should respect other people, whether they were born in Australia or have migrated from overseas. Racism is forbidden in Australia and under federal, state and territorial laws, no person should be treated less favourably than others because of their age, race, country of origin, gender, political or religious beliefs amongst many others. Men and women also have equal rights under law and for all other purposes.

Australia encourages the notion of free speech. But under no circumstances should an individual feel humiliated, offended or intimidated under this notion and is punishable by law.


Census

Another important aspect about living in the Australian society is the census. The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducts a nationwide census every five years. The most recent one was in August 2010/2011. Every family, individual living in Australia has a responsibility to take part in this census. This helps plan a better future for all Australians in terms of housing, schooling, community centres and health services


Volunteering

Another important and communal part of the Australian society is volunteering. A volunteer will give his or her time and skills for the benefit of the community and of course themselves without expecting any gains in return. Volunteering is not an alternative to paid work, but can provide you with the skills and most importantly local experience in terms of communication, social networks etc. that will enhance your chances when you enter the Australian work force.


Being well mannered and polite

Being well mannered and polite is also an integral part of the Australian culture. Australians usually refer to someone saying 'Excuse me' or 'Pardon me' if they wish to gain their attention. Also saying 'Thank you' after someone has offered you assistance or offers you something. Not saying so can be considered impolite. Sneezing and blowing your nose should always be done using a handkerchief and not onto the pavement. So it is important to understand these values which are not that hard to follow. You can also learn a lot of other similar values by observing how others behave.

Transport

Australia has a wide variety of transport mediums that assist you in getting to your destinations and back. One can choose to use a public form of transport which is available in the form of buses, trains, trams and ferries where one has to pay a small fee for a set route, or can use one's own private vehicle.


Public Transport

Australia's public transport network mainly consist of suburban, intercity and national trains and buses, ferries and trams(only in certain cities) and taxis. Passengers are required to pay a small fare charge for a set distance. Taxis operate 24 hours a day in Australia but are expensive.


Concessions on the travel fare is generally available for students and aged travellers. A valid ID is required while purchasing tickets on concession. Student concessions can be received from the educational Institutes they are enrolled in. The concession may not be available for part time and night time students and are not available for International students. These concessions are not available on taxis.

Timetables for these services are available on the government websites for those services or can be found at train and bus stations, or in libraries and certain news agencies.


Private Vehicles

Owning and driving one's own vehicle is the preferred mode of transportation for most people in Australia. Since Australia and it's cities are vast and important places are separated by long distances, travelling by public transport can be difficult with factors of reach and availability. Hence travelling by a private vehicle in most situations becomes the most convenient option.

There are two ways to purchase cars in Australia. Either they can be bought from a dealer or directly from a private owner. While purchasing a car from a private owner, one must ensure that there are no outstanding debts with the previous owner on the car, otherwise the lending authority that holds the debt can legally repossess the vehicle. The Registrar of Encumbered Vehicles (REVS) holds these records. These records can also tell you if the vehicle was stolen, de-registered due to unpaid traffic fines, recorded as a write-off by the Road and Transport Authority or if the odometer has been tampered with.

Buying cars from dealers generally do not have these problems, but nonetheless should be checked. Dealers also deal in brand-new or showroom cars, but can be expensive for a new migrant.

Recreation and other activities

Australia plays host to a wide range of outdoor and indoor activities for individuals and families. These activities also allow people to interact with the community and take part in various community programs.


Outdoor activities

Australia has a large number of public children's parks, cricket grounds, basketball and tennis courts etc. to enjoy your favourite sports. Most of these facilities are free, while some may charge a small fee for use.

Australia also has a beautiful coastline with plenty of beaches. These are very popular outdoor destinations for the whole family. There are also a large number of managed bush walks and treks ranging from easy to challenging that one can enjoy as well.

Apart from the activities mentioned above, there are a vast number of other outdoor activities available which can also be enjoyed in Australia.


Indoor activities

Australia's indoor activities are also in abundance where you can choose from tenpin bowling, swimming, rock-climbing, laser-tag etc. Most of these activities require a small fee for entry and use.


Internet and Media

Australia provides free to air television broadcasting in both the digital and the analog. There are also television services that require paid subscription as well. These services are usually contract based, and hence you must check if you first can afford the monthly fee and will be using the same for the contract period. The Special Broadcasting Service channel(SBS), provides programs in many different community languages. This channel is part of the 'free to air' broadcasting service.

You can receive an internet connection at home either through your phone or an internet cable depending on the services reaching your home. The connection comes under a contract with the Internet service provider and hence you should ensure that you will be using the service for the contract period before signing up for it. Public libraries have free access to the internet.


Public Libraries

There are a number of public libraries in the various cities of Australia that are available to use at no cost to the public. These libraries also have useful community information like job openings, activities and events.