Jump to content

Newbie, looking for honest / open advice re migrating to Canberra


Zoegilly

Recommended Posts

Hiya!!

 

im a 29 year old, married with 2 children (a girl of 3years and a boy of 6 months) I'm just about to go back to work after maternity and my current employer have sent me an email with a potential opportunity to do the job i do now in the Uk over in Canberra (relocation package included / sponsorship with visas etc). The opportunity would be for a minimum of 18months. I'm going to start discussions with my employer regarding the role, what comes with the relocation package and all the other Job / finance related info but I am looking for some help and info on housing / schools etc in Canberra. I'd really just love someone to chat to who may have been in the same situation as myself who is willing to be open and honest about what they've experienced.

 

Some more info about me too: I've personally never been to Australia but my husband has and he has nothing but praise for the Country. We are a couple who have always loved our holidays in the sun and the kids seem fond of it too, especially my little girl who is a real outdoors child, I realise this will not be a holiday as we will be working / schooling / living but the warmer climate and longer evenings really entice us. We are assuming we would have a better work life balance and this is the man driver behind us even thinking about a move. Both my husband and I work really hard in our jobs, my husband is often working 6 days a week at present and we want the ability to spend more time with the kids.

I am super super close to my family (parents and 2 sisters plus niece and nephew) and this is my one MASSIVE at present but my parents have expressed they think this is a real opportunity for us as a family and would support our decision. (They too looked into migrating when I was little and their parents talked them out of it so maybe they are thinking "what if")

 

anyway i I will stop rambling, if you live in Canberra or have any experience if emigrating as a 30 ish year old with children I would love to hear your thoughts, warts and all!! Many thanks xxxxxxx

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If it were me presented with this opportunity I would say go for it. Nothing ventured nothing gained. However its is a min 18 months just short of the 2 year mark to apply for pr if coming over on a 457 and not direct entry. Having children also makes it difficult but not impossable but I belive that school fees are expensive on a 457 around $4k.

 

Loads of times I was told you can't do this you can't do that and was beat down more times than you can shake a stick at but we did it we have pr and am happy. I think the trick is to intergrate and not compare.

 

J

Edited by blossom
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Zoe,

 

Back in Feb 2011 I was fortunate enough to have two offers to rejoin my old company, one in London and one in Canberra with a full relocation package attached so my wife, (then) 5-year old daughter, two cats and I opted for Canberra. So, open and honest feedback, hmmm....

 

- don't under estimate the value of a relocation package as there are reams of posts on this site about the costs and problems people have completing and processing visa requests. If you want see what Australia's like might as well do it the easy way and such opportunities don't come often and it would be much harder doing it all yourself.

 

General ups and down's on Canberra:

 

- it's a planned City, apart from the centre and 'inner Canberra' all of the 4 satellite towns (i.e. the suburbs) were built from the 1960s on and so are quite new. It's been described as Milton Keynes with sun but as we moved here from Milton Keynes that suited us :-)

 

- it is really easy to get around with few jams except at peak hours. It'll generally only take 25 mins from any part of Canberra to the centre except in the most extreme circumstances (I used to have a three and a half hour round commute into London in rain, snow, sleet).

 

- there's lots and lots of open spaces; there seems to be a sports field every 500 yards so if you want to go an kick a ball with the kids you never have to go far. Many of the more picturesque locations have built in BBQ's and picnic tables.

 

- it's known as the bush capital and nestles in the valley's between the local hills (most of which are also nature reserves) so, living in Woden Valley we can be up on Isaac Ridge in 15 mins or Mount Taylor in 10 mins watching the Kangaroos bouncing around. At night time they often come down into the local streets and main roads.

 

- as the flagship national capital it seems to have more money spent on it keeping everything mown, painted and repaired. Schools, hospitals, doctors and the like are plentiful and the educationstandard is generally amongst the highest in Australia.

 

- the vast majority of the houses sit on their own plots and have been individually designed. There are few mass estates or terraces (although the new builds in the latest developments in Gunghalin are starting to come close).

 

- as a downside it costs the Australian state about $10,000 (about $14,000 pre-tax) to put a child through infants/primary school and foreigners are expected to pay a percentage of this. In most states it's set at zero per cent (it was 30% for NSW) but in the ACT it's 100% because of the large number of diplomats and overseas personnel here so try and factor that into any salary negotiation (and then take the cash and send the kids to private school as it's no more expensive).

 

- Canberra's climate is generally dry, hot in summer and surprisingly cold in winter (we're 1600-1800ft above sea level) and none of the houses really seemed to be designed to deal with the cold so heating can be expensive in winter. However, many of the local Australians I know have moved here specifically because Canberra is one of the few places to have 4 distinct seasons, or to escape the awful humidity found in Queensland and NSW.

 

- it's the only major Australian city not on a coast but also the only major city in which no-one's ever been attacked by a huge shark. That said it's 2-3 hours east to the coast (an some of Australia's best unspoilt coast at that) and 2 hours to the snow fields of the Australian Alps, just to the west. Perhaps more importantly, it's not like driving in the UK where where driving can be so stressful; we set off early, set the cruise control and there'll be very few other cars on the road (coming back from Bateman's bay after a long weekend is an exception) but generally it's very stress-free motoring so seems to go by far fasterand we often do the coast and back in a day quite comfortably.

 

- on the downside Canberra is quite isolated; there are very few places to visit within an hour's drive and I guess I miss not having local towns and villages to drive out to of a weekend.

 

- it can be quite difficult to break into a social circle here; a lot of the population are public servants and either already have a set group of friends or just see new arrivals as transients like the politicians, diplomats, lobbyists etc.). It took us a good two years to really get a group of friends together.

 

- it is a long-way from the UK; I don't miss my family much as we've always travelled and been independent of each other but my wife does miss hers. however, for eighteen months you could maybe try and see?

 

OVERALL: do we regret it? We still have to get up and go to work to pay the mortgage each day but yes, life is more relaxed, I don't have the grinding commute each morning or the dark icy mornings. Australian employers can be awful but by and large Australian authorities & officials seem much more likely to say 'Yes' to things rather than in the UK where the default inevitably seems to be 'No'. At the behest of our now eight-year old daughter, my wife and I have now both taken up riding so Saturday afternoons are spent in the saddle in out under the NSW sun and I'm note sure we'd have ever found the time or money for that in the UK, so yes, I think we're a lot better off.

 

Just another throught, there's a small but enthusistic community of Canberra PIOz correspondents who follow the posts for the ACT, if you repost there you may get more feedback. There's also MASSES of old posts about best places to live, how to find accommodation, what to do and where to go so that might be useful to explore too.

 

Anyway, that's my ramble, drop us a note if you need anything else - and good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just one point. It actually gets darker sooner in Australia than the uk, even in summer.

 

But not in the winter...

 

Every point on the planet has the same number of daylight hours in a year. In Australia they're more evenly distributed than in the UK.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just one point. It actually gets darker sooner in Australia than the uk, even in summer.

 

Well...in summer. But not in winter. Just to clarify...

 

Because Australia is closer to the equator than the UK, it obviously doesn't have as great a variation between midwinter and midsummer sunset times as the UK and other places at higher latitudes.

 

However, because of the north - south distance of the continent, there can be up to 2 hours difference in sunrise and sunset times within Australia on any given date.

 

Canberra sunset times are 8.20 pm in midsummer and 5 pm in midwinter. So...earlier in summer but later in winter than the UK.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Canberra has a long cold winter, being so far from the coast, so there's not a lot to be gained weather wise.. There's not much entertainment for kids either.

 

But it's generally a sunny, dry cold....nothing like UK winters. I spent considerable periods caring for my nieces in Canberra when they were young and I found it great for kids. Always something to do and easy to get around.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good reply from ABL75 - pretty much nails it. You won't get any benefits on a 457 visa and child are is going to cost you $1k per week which might put a dent in your finances. Finding work for the dependent on a temporary visa can be tricky - it can be tricky for a permanent resident given that the largest employer requires citizenship. You'd also probably struggle to find childcare, it's hotly sought!

 

if you rely on family for child care, even occasionally, then you will be forced to be very independent and self sufficient, it can be isolated and lonely at times.

 

Canberra is pretty cliquey and you will have to go out of your way to make acquaintances. Friendships I found were generally work focused or developmentally focused but as most families are two income with lots of noses to grindstones (never experienced the laid back lifestyle myself) you may struggle to make friendships you rely on.

 

Accommodation is apparently easing up as lots of new apartments have sprung up since I left but if you want family home on a block then it might take a little longer to find. The further out you go, the more you will find you need two cars.

 

As a 457 visa holder you may well have to pay the $10k pa in school fees (when the child turns 5) - at 4 kids go to part time preschool and at one time that was free but I have a vague feeling they now levy fees for that but it'd be worth checking. Not really going to be an issue this year anyway.

 

There are loads of activities you just have to hunt around for them and most of them will cost. In summer you will probably keep the kids inside because they'll get burned outside without copious layering of sunscreen and they probably won't feel much like going out anyway - the grass (well, rough fescue) all dries up in the summer so there's no joy in playing on the lawn.

 

Would I do it? For the adventure, sure, for a little while when the kids are young but, be warned, you will have to be very self sufficient and very selfish. Don't burn any bridges - rent your house out, take a career break (your DH), keep the kids' child care places if you have any etc and see how you like it. I'd check the figures very carefully though, the money may sound good but Canberra is an expensive place to live.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well...in summer. But not in winter. Just to clarify...

 

Because Australia is closer to the equator than the UK, it obviously doesn't have as great a variation between midwinter and midsummer sunset times as the UK and other places at higher latitudes.

 

However, because of the north - south distance of the continent, there can be up to 2 hours difference in sunrise and sunset times within Australia on any given date.

 

Canberra sunset times are 8.20 pm in midsummer and 5 pm in midwinter. So...earlier in summer but later in winter than the UK.

You are indeed correct. Neither of those times really count as long evenings which the op was hoping for though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just one point. It actually gets darker sooner in Australia than the uk, even in summer.

 

There may be more daylight in the UK but when I was commuting into and out of London I frequently didn't get home until 9.00 or 10.00pm by which time it was definitely dark. Even when I was able to knock-off at 5.00pm I'd seldom be home before 7.30pm so my daughter was often asleep when I got in.

 

Working in Canberra over the last few months, where a great many people knock off at 5.00pm, I've generally been home by 5.30 and in my pool with my wife/daughter by 5.45pm.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Zoegilly... gosh this is a hard one.

 

I also think ABL275 and Quoll have mentioned a lot of key points.

 

Just a few added thoughts for you.

 

- how secure is your job? By that I mean, are you returning to work with your previous employer prior to your maternity and hence the offer for you to work in Australia for a period of time is actually a 'secondment'? Will you still be employed by your UK employer? Reason I suggest you to consider this, is that if you will be transferring to work for an Australian employer without the safety net of being seconded from your UK employer, then there are risks. Check the terms of your contract. If the employer can let you go without a significant period of notice, say 3 months, then financially you could be at risk if they terminated your employment earlier than the 18 months. Which in Australia and Canberra's current economic and political climate not unlikely.

 

A lot of the above, and what I will say next depends on your area of work. I would say if you are not in a specialised area of IT, a health professional, qualified accountant, or education professional, then in Canberra work is pretty hard to find at the moment and probably for the next year or so at least. Hence if things don't work out with your Australian employer then don't assume it will be easy to find an alternative 457 employer in Canberra.

 

I would suggest that there is a stronger chance of being 'let go' as a 457 employee than Australian PRs and citizens. We have experienced a stronger sense of protectionism /patriotism in Australia than we experienced in the UK. Or, maybe we are just more aware of it! I don't necessarily think it is a bad thing either, but as a temporary resident just something to be aware of and be prepared for. If you have a very specialist skill which is in demand then less risk of not being able to find an alternative if the worst happens, without having to knee-jerk and come home.

 

- Your 457 visa employer will have to be prepared to fund your home fare if the worst happens. However there is a limit to their liability - $10K ish is my memory, but do check this out as it could be wrong!. Hence again, check your contract very carefully.

 

- Check the salary that they will give you. After living here for c. 2.5 years we now have a much better feel of the cost of living in Australia vs. the UK. Irrespective of exchange rates ( as these go up and down!), I would say that for like for like buying power you are looking like needing a multiplier of x 2 - 2.25 on your UK salary.

 

Apart from all the financials then quality of housing and price vs UK depends on where you lived in the UK I guess! You can get more decent accommodation for your money than if you lived in London, but if you lived further North or out of the Southern/East/West commuter areas, then you will find housing in the more central areas of Canberra v. expensive and properties quite old on average. Further out, prices drop dramatically. If you have a car, then it is really easy to travel around Canberra than almost any city in the UK I know!

 

Re practicality of child care, then yes, it can be hard to find a place. Bit of a show stopper whilst on the waiting list. Again, depends on area. Might be worth investigating further if your OH intends to work also. If not, then this will make everything so much easier.

 

Re missing family, being homesick etc... then this depends on your own personality and circumstances. I can't remember feeling homesick so much, more bored and lonely from time to time. Mind you having two children so young, I think you have everything going for you to help with this. You will be so busy I imagine you won't have time to be bored... and with a young family it is the perfect time to bond with other families. We certainly miss the extended family and long term friends we have in the UK. Also, of course F& LTF's provide that cover when you need it to take care of the children. However, again, we have loved making new friends and whilst it has taken us longer than we expected to form 'close' friendships, this is now happening and has extended our experiences more than if we'd stayed in our safe familiar circle back home.

 

Finally, Canberra... what does my heart say? I absolutely love it! Maybe it was a time in our life thing. We had our daughter late in life just over the 40 hill! Also, we'd spent our UK lives in and around London. So, we'd done the busy, busy, life and had to change anyway with our daughter arriving on the scene.

 

We enjoy so many things in Canberra;

- the landscape is truly stunning. Canberra is surrounded by hills/mountains and bush country. At first the colours of browny green felt a little dull, always Autumnal almost. However, those colours and the quiet landscape have seduced us over time. Just driving along in the car from home to town, to work, to the shops, you are always surrounded by the most amazing vistas and the smell of gum/pine/eucalyptus. In addition, because Canberra is seasonal then you have all those British spring flowers still, as well as all the exotic flowers and fruits in the summer.

 

- the light - I don't know what it is but the quality of light is just 'brighter'! The sky at night is blacker, the stars shine more vividly, the blue sky is 'bluer'! We just feel more alert and awake, no matter what time of the year. No SAD syndrome experienced here. The weather is warmer by far. Whilst it can be cold over many nights in winter and early spring and late Autumn, the day times normally climb to reasonable temperatures and the sky is still often so blue!

 

The city itself is quiet, without question. However, it is 'smart' not shabby, and has all the capital city museums and other public buildings you would expect. All on a smaller scale in the UK, but then all interesting never the less. All free too of course... all so much more accessible as they are on your doorstep and not crowded. All very children friendly places.

 

If you love the outdoors and sports, dancing, music, then you are spoilt here. Children (and adults) certainly seem to have more of an opportunity to get involved and be fit, healthy and busy with activity. We haven't missed being on the coast. We weren't in the UK anyway. Mind you, we do have a pool in the garden !

 

Finally, Canberra seems a safer, calmer place to bring up children and live life as an adult also. Quality of life for us is beyond any doubt on balance better here...

 

... we just wish we were closer to family and indeed Europe and the US to travel to!

 

If you decide to come then it is certainly a very exciting adventure. If you check things out carefully it won't be an expensive one, and you can relax and enjoy the experience without having to commit to leaving the UK from the start.

 

Good luck with your decision :-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There may be more daylight in the UK but when I was commuting into and out of London I frequently didn't get home until 9.00 or 10.00pm by which time it was definitely dark. Even when I was able to knock-off at 5.00pm I'd seldom be home before 7.30pm so my daughter was often asleep when I got in.

 

Working in Canberra over the last few months, where a great many people knock off at 5.00pm, I've generally been home by 5.30 and in my pool with my wife/daughter by 5.45pm.

There are a few 8.30-4.51 ers around but neither the DH nor I ever worked those hours. He, more than I, worked pretty much every weekend at least one day and I used to joke that he was a 5-9er!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But not in the winter...

 

Every point on the planet has the same number of daylight hours in a year. In Australia they're more evenly distributed than in the UK.

 

My post is very pedantic I know but........the nearer you live to the poles the longer twilight is as the sun sets at a different angle (not a scientific description) so technically you get less darkness in the UK over the course of the year compared with most of Australia. The actual hours of sun over the horizon is identical though in the UK it is more often obscured by cloud so you have to take that one on trust. :biggrin:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Family Hughes

 

Your circumstances sound closer to ours than any I have seen before. Like you, one daughter (now 10) born when we were past 40. I have lived in Surrey for 27 years so in the London rat race. Planning on Brisbane rather than Canberra though I am interested to hear about Canberra as I have never visited there though definitely will.

 

Good to read your positive but balanced post.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Gbye grey sky. So another family looking for not just a change but an adventure! If you have any specific queries about Brisbane or Canberra then ask away. We didn't specifically choose Canberra, it was were my husband was relocated with work. Initially we were not sure, although my husband had visited a couple of years before and found it unique and interesting compared to the standard large cities on the coast.

 

Canberra has just been voted as Australia's most live-able city and we can see why from our point of view. It is certainly getting better and better each year as well as its population grows and more and more choice of housing and social scene venue appear.

 

If the city had its high speed rail link to Canberra approved that would be fantastic and of course we do wish international flight schedules would start from the brand new, and empty international airport!

 

Enjoy your recce in August. If you do get the chance then take a visit to Canberra to see how different it is. It is very, very different to Brisbane/Sydney/Perth/Melbourne in feel

 

:yes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Ptp113
Hi Gbye grey sky. So another family looking for not just a change but an adventure! If you have any specific queries about Brisbane or Canberra then ask away. We didn't specifically choose Canberra, it was were my husband was relocated with work. Initially we were not sure, although my husband had visited a couple of years before and found it unique and interesting compared to the standard large cities on the coast.

 

Canberra has just been voted as Australia's most live-able city and we can see why from our point of view. It is certainly getting better and better each year as well as its population grows and more and more choice of housing and social scene venue appear.

 

If the city had its high speed rail link to Canberra approved that would be fantastic and of course we do wish international flight schedules would start from the brand new, and empty international airport!

 

Enjoy your recce in August. If you do get the chance then take a visit to Canberra to see how different it is. It is very, very different to Brisbane/Sydney/Perth/Melbourne in feel

 

:yes:

Just don't go to the Parliamentary Triangle as most do and think you've been to Canberra. Even Billy Connolly did that and he should have known better!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...