Settling in to Australia

Where to begin? You land in Australia, you’ve got your working holiday visa sorted ready for a year of shrimps on barbies.

You want to cuddle a Koala, see if Kangaroos really do cross the road, bag yourself a role in Neighbours and get that cracking aussie tan you see the whole cast of Home and Away sporting all year round.

Am I right?Settling in to Australia

But if you’re looking to stay in Australia for a while you’re going to want to get yourself a job that can pay for you to do all of the above (probably can’t pay for a role in Neighbours though…)

Before we go through the best ways to go about this, just remember that having a job in Australia, in most cases, is nothing like having a job at home. It is the best way to experience a taste of Aussie life, you meet real Australians, most jobs pay really well and it also looks fairly impressive on your CV.

So to get you started, here’s ten key checkpoints to consider:

1.   Decide what kind of work you want to do and where you want to do it.  

Australia is BIG. And the six territories offer very different lifestyles and experiences, so choose between them wisely. Ask yourself: Can I work on a farm? Do I want a taste of Australian city life? Do I want a ‘proper job’ or do I fancy working behind the bar? Do I want to do my 3 months rural work to get a second year visa? And go from there…

Quick breakdown on what each territory can offer you jobwise:

  • Victoria – VIC (i.e. Melbourne) – City life in Melbourne, the hippest city in Australia. Get yourself an office job in the CBD, or work in one of the many rooftop or hidden cocktail bars that Melbourne is well known for. Victoria also offers farm work in the north eastern part of the territory in places like Mildura and Rutherglen.       
  • New South Wales – NSW  (i.e. Sydney) – Life can be a beach if you get a job in Sydney. It’s surrounded by them. Again, there’s plenty of bar work around especially in places like Darling Harbour, Bondi Beach, The Rocks and George Street. If you fancy a taste of Australian corporate life, the CBD, North Sydney and surrounding areas like Macquarie Park will have some opportunities for you.  New South Wales has farm work opportunities too, with the Blue Mountains and other surrounding areas.
  • Western Australia – WA (i.e. Perth) – Western Australia is often referred to as Australia’s most expensive state, this is because it is a huge mining state offering a fair proportion of Australia’s exports. This is the place to go to if you’re a ‘tradie’; so if you’re a plumber, electrician, builder – there will be a fair amount of work open to you. A lot of travellers on working holiday visas tend to go work here, doing 2 weeks on 2 weeks on type of shifts… and earning a lot of money in the process. Those who are in the medical profession, i.e. doctors, nurses, dentists, are also in high demand in this part of the country. There’s a lot of farmwork around this area too, in short WA is huge.
  • Northern Territory – NT (I.e. Darwin) – The most tropical of the territories. NT is the place where you should never smile at a Crocodile. It’s hot all year round, but watch out from October to March when the wet season hits – the rain really does pour. There’s plenty of work here for ‘tradies’ and a fair bit of farm work, such as working on cattle stations and even pearl farm work. Darwin is a very very small city, which offers the standard ‘strip’ of nightclubs and bars… but is close to Lichfield and Kakadu National Parks.
  • South Australia (i.e. Adelaide) – Fancy working on Kangaroo Island? Come to Adelaide. Although a small city, there’s plenty on offer for work. Farm work, bar work, they have it all.
  • Queensland (I.e. Brisbane/Surfers Paradise/ Cairns) – Banana humping, mango picking, work as a deckhand on a boat… all are possible. There’s a lot of agencies which farms use in Queensland so check these out as your first port of call. Surfers Paradise is a hub of bars and tourist activities, so head that way if you fancy working behind the bar.

2.   Look to see if you need specific qualifications for a job:Settling in to Australia

  • Fancy barwork? You need an RSA.
    Unlike in England where anybody over 18 can work behind a bar, in Australia you need an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certificate. It varies from territory to territory on how you obtain this so have a good search around on the web.
  • Electrician/ gas fitter/ builder /plumber – double check
    If you’re a fully trained electrician, builder or plumber in the UK, your qualification may not necessarily translate directly to Australia. It’s common that to work your trade, you need an Australian licence to practice. Do your research before you get there as getting a licence may set you back a couple of hundred dollars.
  • Work in construction? You’re going to need a white card.
    If you’re a skilled trades person or are just looking for some casual labouring positions, you will need to complete the white card training course before you set foot onto a site. This course will ensure that you are aware of the occupational health and safety requirements in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria.
  • Traffic control –  not as easy as you think

    This can be a popular route for backpackers as it doesn’t involve anything too physically strenuous and pays well. However, to get into this you need to have obtained:  

    • A white card
    • An RTA blue card
    • Attend a traffic control course
    • Have a driving licence which shows that you’ve been driving unsupervised for atleast 12 months


If you’re looking for office work, go to agencies such as Hays, Robert Walters and Adecco. In most cases they will expect you to stay around for 4-6 months, so be honest about how long you want to be somewhere for.

3.   Set up a bank account.    

You’ll need an Australian address for the bank to contact you on, proof of your Working Holiday Visa and your passport.

  • Commonwealth bank
  • Westpac
  • Nab

4.   Apply for a tax file number (TFN) on the Australian Taxation Office website

This means the Australian government can tax your earnings, but the great news is that you can claim this back when you leave the country!

5.   Get yourself a sim card/ mobile phone.Settling into Australia

 Word of advice: if you’re in the middle of nowhere such as outback in WA or NT, invest in a Telstra sim card. The rate is more expensive but any other network just won’t get signal.

Optus, Virgin Mobile and Yatango are all good choices if you’re city/suburb based.

6.   Tailor your CV to what job you’re applying for:

So if you’re going for a bar job sell any bar or customer service experience you may have. Like wise for an office or manual labour job. Be specific and don’t ‘blanket’ disseminate your CV; competition can be fierce especially during busy tourist periods, so set yourself apart.

7.   Crucially… start to like goon and the regional beer

Goon. The stuff of dreams. It costs around £10 for a 4 litre box of the stuff, ‘Slap the bag’ is a great ice breaker in hostels, once drank the goon sack serves as a great inflatable pillow. What more could you possibly want from a drink… I won’t discuss the horrific hangover.

Beer is important in Australia. Everybody has an Esky full of the stuff at all times. VB is the beer of choice is Victoria, XXXX in Queensland. If you’re staying with relatives, it’d be wise to learn what their beer of choice is and get a crate in. You’ll soon be their favourite house guest.

8.   Get on Gumtree and sort yourself a room in a share house

So you’ve got the job, you’ve become accustomed to goon, that tan is coming along nicely and although living in a hostel/with relatives/friends is great, it may be time to get some of your own space back and unpack on your terms for a bit.

Gumtree is the best source for finding room shares. Be careful when arranging viewings as, like anywhere, there can be some bogus people advertising – take a friend with you and be sensible when negotiating your rent. Chances are that you will end up living with other people like you who are working and want to see more of Australia.

9.   If for whatever reason you can’t find a job, get in touch with hostels in your city to see if you can work for your bed and food.

Chains like Nomads and Base offer this, but lots of independent hostel do too. In some cases you can even get paid for working there. This could be working as a cleaner, on reception, or as a pool person. Send them an email, follow it up and show your face.

10.  Embrace Australian culture.

In general, meat, beer and sport is pretty important in Australia, but each city and town is very different from the other; they offer different attractions and personalities.

For example, the rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney may be friendly, but it’s for a reason – they offer pretty different things. Learn what makes your city different and don’t be afraid to get involved.


Article credit:

Jen Wright has travelled and lived in Australia, New Zealand and North America. Jen is a Content Marketer by day and a wannabe travel writer by night. See what she’s up to on Twitter; follow @JenM_Wright


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