Tips for the expat community: How to find your place in Australia

Go Global By Kristie Kwok December 10, 2019

This article was created in partnership with Western Union.

Australia is often seen as a land of opportunity for migrants. With more than 200 languages and dialects spoken, as well as a large expat community thriving in each major city, it’s a true cultural melting pot where diversity is part of everyday life.

If you’re lucky enough to be considering a move to Australia, make sure to consider the following tips, so you can start this new chapter with full confidence.

Living and paying for the high life

As reported by Bloomberg, the Economist Intelligence Unit rates three major Australian cities — Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide — among the top 10 most liveable cities in the world.

Beautiful parks and beaches certainly make Australia liveable, but the warm, sunny climate helps quite a bit, too. Bear in mind that the comfortable lifestyle in Australia comes at a price, as its cost of living — in terms of housing, utility bills, groceries and transport — can be expensive. In fact, research firm Numbeo found Australia to be more expensive to live in than the United States, United Kingdom or Canada.

This means you’ll need to prepare well financially, so you can pay for the essentials while you look for work or settle into your new job.

Opening a bank account and moving money

If you establish a local bank account early on, you make it that much easier for your new employer to pay you. Smaller banks are becoming more popular as of late, but the “big four” banks — ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corp. — still dominate with extensive branch and ATM networks. They often employ customer advisers who speak other languages, too.

When opening your first Australian bank account, remember that your initial deposit is important. Not only will it introduce you to the bank, but it will also get you started in establishing your creditworthiness.

Once you have your account set up, moving your savings from your native country is easy. For an easy way to send money to a bank account in Australia, look no further than Western Union® international money transfer services. You can use the Western Union® app to efficiently send money on the go from virtually anywhere, with full transparency about fees and exchange rates.

Finding work and paying taxes

As you might expect, finding a job soon after arrival will go a long way in helping you settle into your new life. One thing that works in favour of migrants is the locals’ widely held belief that everyone is entitled to a “fair go,” or a chance to prove themselves. However, many employers value skills developed from local work experience (such as learning a trade), and your qualifications from home may not be recognised abroad. Keep this in mind as you try to find employment.

You can look for job openings online, in newspapers, through recruitment agencies and at Centrelink, which provides free government services, including help for job-seekers. Whatever field you’re in, you’ll likely need a Curriculum Vitae to showcase your qualifications and experience to potential employers.

You will also need a Tax File Number when you start work, which is a unique identifier issued to individuals and businesses. Essentially, this number helps the Australian Taxation Office to calculate and collect your taxes.

As a resident, you’re required to pay tax on income from wages, investments and even some work benefits. Basically, the more you earn, the more tax you pay. You will have tax taken out of each paycheque automatically through a system called PAYE (Pay As You Earn). Additionally, part of your earnings will go toward your compulsory retirement savings, called superannuation.

Staying connected through an expat community

Although Australia is often viewed as an easy place to work and live, many take comfort in meeting other migrants to share the various experiences of living abroad and to maintain cultural links with their native country.

Major cities such as Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane all boast thriving expat communities. Because of this, you’ll find that a number of migrant organisations offer to help new arrivals with employment, accommodation, social activities, learning English and more.

With all of this in mind, you’ll be better prepared to find your place in the land down under.