8 Steps For A Smooth Life Working In Australia

by Kelli Mutchler

Red tape and regulations are as easy to get through as an afternoon bbq in Australia. It is a country of immigrants, so most of the settling-in chores you need to accomplish work in Australia are simplified for foreigners. The most basic actions, like buying a cell phone, to the more complicated, like setting up weekly direct deposit, can be handled with a calm “No worries.”  These eight pieces of information will help make your steps to employment down under smooth and your life in Australia stress free.

A view of the Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.
A view of the Sydney Harbour and the Opera House. Photo by Kayla Patterson

1. Bank Account

Each of Australia’s national banks will allow international workers to open up a checking (debit) and savings account for their term of employment. They require proof of a postal address and ID in order to open any account. Australians do most of their banking online, where they can transfer funds between private accounts, or to a friend’s account at another bank. Checks are used rarely; debit cards are used more frequently than cash, even for small purchases.

2. Superannuation

Acting like a retirement fund, superannuation is supported by the Australian government and allows both you and your employer to put a portion of your wages into a special account.  Superannuation is mandatory for all paid employees working legally, with a tax file number.  Personal superannuation funds can be opened through any bank, at the same time as checking and savings accounts; or, an employer may ask employees to sign up for a fund they arrange for each member of the office. Be aware that, should you change jobs while in Australia, it is necessary to process paperwork linking the new employment with the original superannuation fund. After leaving Australia, you may apply to receive back a majority of the withheld superannuation.  

3. Taxes

It may be necessary to file for a Tax File Number. Most employers will help arrange this; if not, it can be done after arrival when it is possible to provide an Australian postal address. Applications can be made online through the Australian Taxation Office or at the local Australian Post retail outlet. Note that most foreign workers employed at a job or internship are eligible for a tax refund once they leave the country; this will not be possible without a Tax File Number.

Melbourne transport lines

Melbourne transport lines

Photo by Victoria Mita

4. Insurance

Australia supports one of the top public healthcare systems in the Western world. However, unless you are from New Zealand, you will be expected to carry some form of international health insurance during a stay in Australia. If you fall ill or suffer an injury, you will be treated accordingly, but at your own cost. Customs officials may not ask for proof of this when upon arrival, but it could come in handy later.

5. Accommodation

While some work placements will provide housing, others will leave the housing decisions up to you.  Accommodation, even in a hostel, will cost heaps. Sites like Gumtree offer a database of rental posts and messages to help find the best location. Sharing a place with co-workers is an option most young professionals choose to split rent and decrease the cost of living.

6. Vehicles and Transportation

If your job requires travel between cities, flying or taking the train are the cheapest options. In the metropolis, parking is a headache, so use the efficient public transport systems: buses, trams, and trains. Should you choose to buy a vehicle while employed, make sure to purchase one with up-to-date registration, or Rego, papers. Anyone holding a valid driver’s license in their country of residence should be able to drive legally in Australia for up to three months after their date of entry.

7. Packing

While the Australian business environment has a reputation for being more casual than its counterparts in other countries, it is best to confirm the dress code for the office or place of employment prior to arrival. Clothing is comparatively expensive in Australia, so it more budget friendly to pack as much as possible. If there’s space for something posh (fancy), throw it in – the Aussies love a chance to dress up and party!

Gold coast beach

Gold coast beach

8. Cell Phones and Wi-Fi  

Before purchasing an international data or call package from the local mobile phone provider, know that Australia has a range of network providers that will likely be cheaper to utilize than bringing a phone and incurring roaming charges from home. Australia uses a SIM card compatible in size for phones from Europe, Asia, and Oceania. Unfortunately, these will not fit in phones from the United States and Canada. They can be purchased online, or through assorted retail outlets in Australia (even at the airport arrivals gate). Wi-Fi is quite accessible, though not always free and unlimited like it is in other countries. If working in a remote location, mobile providers offer a data stick – which can be topped up with prepaid minutes, or megabytes, like a mobile phone – that should receive reception over most of the country.

Start looking for jobs in Australia now and immerse in the laid-back culture of the land down under!