Living in Australia
Living in Australia will be a new experience, but there are support services in your institution as well as from other organisations to help make adjusting to life in Australia easier.
Australia is among the happiest countries in the world (World Happiness Report 2017) and we have four of the 30 best cities in the world for students (QS Top University Rankings 2017), you are sure to enjoy your time here.
No matter what type of study you are doing in Australia, whether you are here for a few months or a few years, some research and planning will help you have a safe and rewarding study experience. Important considerations and planning includes:
- Planning your departure.
- Arriving in Australia.
- Accessing support services.
- Remaining visa compliant.
- Working while you study.
- Living costs and finding accommodation.
- Health and safety.
Common slang in Australia:
- Australians generally use British English for the majority of language, with ‘colour’ and similar words spelled with a ‘u’, while words such as ‘specialised’ use an ‘s’ as opposed to a ‘z’
- Some popular Aussie words/terms and their meanings:
- G’day – good morning or hello
- Arvo – afternoon
- Mate – friend
- Cheers – thank you
- She’ll be right – it will be OK
- Barbie – barbecue
- Mozzie – mosquito
- Bloody oath – hell yeah
- Thongs – flip flops
- Ta – thanks
- Bogan – redneck
- Australia as a name comes from the latin terra australis incognita meaning unknown southern island
Facts about Australian Nature and Land
- The Great Barrier Reef is regarded as the world’s largest living organism, and is often listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World
- Australia is the only continent covered by a single country
- The highest mountain in Australia is Mt Kosciuszko, which stands 2228m high. Australia as a whole is a fairly flat country, with relatively few mountain ranges given its size.
- The Daintree Rainforest, found in tropical north Queensland, is the country’s largest and covers around 1,200 square kilometres
- The Aussie state of Tasmania has the world’s cleanest air
- While mining is one of Australia’s biggest industries, more land is covered by pubs than mines
- Uluru (Ayers Rock) is known as the largest monolith in the world and is over 8km wide at its widest point
Australia’s coastline stretches almost 50,000 kilometres and is linked by over 10,000 beaches, more than any other country in the world. More than 85 per cent of Australians live within 50 kilometres of the coast, making it an integral part of our laid-back lifestyle. If you were to visit a new beach in Australia every day, it would take you over 27 years.
Plan your departure
Once you have been accepted to study at an institution and have received confirmation of your student visa, the next step is to start planning for your arrival.
Here is a checklist to help you plan your departure:
- Passport and Visa– Check that your passport is valid for at least 6 months prior to your entry arrival in Australia, and that you have all your visa documentation. It is also a good idea to make copies of your passport in case you lose your passport.
- Student enrollment and orientation documents– You will need your electronic Confirmation of Enrollment (eCoE) and student information pack, which you will have received from your institution.
- Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)– This is a requirement for entry to Australia, so make sure you have your health cover policy arranged before you leave home.
- Travel Insurance– You should also consider travel insurance, which covers things your OSHC may not – such as cancelled flights, lost documents, dental or optical care, etc.
- Airfares– Make sure you are aware of the date and time of your flight. Keep your flight details in a safe and secure place, with your passport and visa.
- Contact details– You may want to have a list of emergency contact details for family, as well as your embassy, accommodation and institution details. If you have used an education agent, keep their contact details on you, in case you need to contact them once you arrive in Australia.
- Australian currency– There are money exchange places available at Australian airports and in cities, but it is recommended to have some Australian currency on you prior to leaving your home country.
- Transport from the airport– Whether you are taking public transport, a taxi, or you are being picked up from the airport by your education provider, it is important that you have all the details including the time, the route and, if your travel has been arranged by your institution, their contact details. If you need a map to assist you in getting to your accommodation from the airport, they will be available at the airport, or you can print one prior to leaving.
- Accommodation details– Make sure you have the address of where you will be staying as well as their phone number and payment confirmation (if you have already paid for your accommodation).
Customs and Border Protection
You need to be aware of what you cannot bring into Australia(opens in a new window) and therefore what you should not pack. It is illegal to carry drugs including marijuana, cannabis, heroin, cocaine and amphetamines in and out of Australia. There are a number of items that you must declare upon your arrival in Australia including:
- Firearms, weapons and ammunition.
- Currency amounts of A$10,000 (or foreign equivalent).
- Some medicines.
You should also be aware that as a routine part of their work, Customs and Border Protection officers may question travellers at any time, and trained dogs may also be used to detect illegal drugs or prohibited imports. If you are in doubt, declare your goods or ask a Customs and Border Protection officer for advice. Declaring goods does not necessarily mean your baggage will be examined.
People who deliberately break Australian Customs and Border Protection regulations could be fined(opens in a new window) or taken to court. You can also find information at the Department of Home Affairs(opens in a new window) website.
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is responsible for protecting Australia’s unique environment and agricultural industries from unwanted pests and diseases by regulating imported products including certain food, plant material and animal items.
It is important to check Australia’s biosecurity requirements when packing your personal items. Do not bring fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry, pork, eggs, dairy products, live plants or seeds. Some products are not allowed into the country while other products need to meet strict import conditions. You can search the department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON)(opens in a new window) to find detailed import conditions under which various commodities may be brought into Australia.
If you are unsure of an item, declare it on the Incoming Passenger Card which you will receive on the plane, or don’t bring it at all. Failure to declare items can result in an on-the-spot fine or potential prosecution.
You can find more information on what you can bring or send to Australia on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website(opens in a new window).
Arriving in Australia
When you arrive at an Australian airport, you will first need to go through immigration and customs clearance. If you need help finding your way around, just ask the airline staff or one of the border officials in the arrivals area. A clearance officer will check your travel document and visa, and once cleared you will be able to collect your luggage to go through customs and quarantine clearance processes.
More information on what to expect when you arrive at the airport is available at the Department of Home Affairs(opens in a new window)website.
Getting to your new home
You should arrange accommodation before you arrive in Australia, even it is just for the first few days. Have your accommodation address written in English ready to show the taxi or hire car, or detailed directions if you are using public transport. If your institution is picking you up from the airport they will take you exactly where you need to go.
Some institutions run an orientation week (also known as ‘O Week’) for new students. This is typically held at the start of the year and during the week; you will learn about your institution, take tours of facilities, and meet people who will also be studying at your institution. You can usually find more information about your institution’s orientation week on their website, such as a full schedule of activities.
If your institution has an ‘O Week’ it is important that you attend to learn how to get the most out of your institution and study experience.
Remember, if you have any problems or questions once you leave the airport, call your institution’s international support staff. These details will be in your enrollment and orientation information.
Once you have confirmed where you will be studying, you can look for accommodation that suits your needs and budget. Some tips when searching for accommodation include:
- The costs will vary depending on your chosen state, city, and type of accommodation.
- Always confirm the total cost and any other expenses you may be required to pay, such as a bond and utility fees.
- Consider how far it is from your campus and whether it is easily accessible by public transport, such as bus or train.
- Find out what shopping centres, hospitals and emergency service facilities, and other amenities are nearby.
Short-term accommodation options you might want to consider when you first arrive in Australia include:
- Hostels and discounted rates on hotels.
- Temporary housing which may be offered through your institution while you get settled. Talk to your institution’s international support staff or check their website for details.
You can rent or ‘lease’ a property by yourself or with friends. This can be done through a real estate agent or privately. When renting a property you will need to pay a security deposit or ‘bond’ (which is usually four weeks rent), as well as rent in advance (also usually four weeks). The bond is held to repair any damage that you, your house mates or house guests cause to the property while renting. Some, or all, of this amount may be refunded to you once your tenancy agreement has terminated.
For more information on your rights and obligations when renting in Australia you should visit the relevant government Fair Trading agency in your state/territory.
Campus living can be a great option to minimise travel. Most universities have comfortable and furnished apartment-style living on campus or close by, sometimes with cleaning and meals included. Contact your institution directly to find out the accommodation options they have available and how the costs compare with organising your own accommodation.
With homestay, you will live with a family in their home. Homestay can be a good option for younger students as you will have all the comforts of an established home, often with meals and cleaning included. Families offering homestay accommodation to international students are thoroughly screened to ensure they can provide a suitable living environment for students.
You have certain responsibilities to meet when it comes to paying accommodation expenses on time, cleaning and maintenance. You also have the right by law to feel secure in your property, maintained with working facilities. If there are any problems with your accommodation, talk to your agent or landlord (if renting), your international student support staff for on-campus living or the service where you found your homestay.
There are also organisations such as tenants unions and consumer advocates that can provide assistance. To find out more visit the relevant government Fair Trading agency in your state/territory.
Support services for students
There are many consumer protection and support services available for international students. This includes services provided directly by institutions as well as those provided by a range of state, territory and federal government departments.
Australian has a strong consumer protection framework to protect the rights of Australian consumers, including international students in Australia. The Australian Consumer Law includes a national law guaranteeing consumer rights when buying goods and services. You should contact the relevant government trade and consumer agency in your state or territory, if you:
- Would like information about your consumer rights.
- Have a problem with a consumer good or service that you have bought or are considering buying.
- Would like to know how a business should behave under the law.
- Would like to make a complaint about a business.
Overseas Students Ombudsman
The Overseas Students Ombudsman (OSO) investigates complaints about problems that overseas students have with private education and training institutions in Australia. The Ombudsman’s services are free, independent and impartial. You can find out more about this service on their website: www.ombudsman.gov.au(opens in a new window). A number of OSO(opens in a new window)publications, including newsletters, can be found on the OSO website(opens in a new window).
If you are studying at a public institution, such as TAFE colleges and many universities and schools, you should contact the Ombudsman in the state or territory in which you are studying to lodge a complaint. You can find details of what the Ombudsman can investigate on their website. Below is a list of the Ombudsman websites for all states and territories in Australia:
- Australian Capital Territory Ombudsman– ombudsman.act.gov.au(opens in a new window)
- New South Wales Ombudsman– ombo.nsw.gov.au(opens in a new window)
- Northern Territory Ombudsman– omb-hcscc.nt.gov.au(opens in a new window)
- Queensland Ombudsman– ombudsman.qld.gov.au(opens in a new window)
- South Australian Ombudsman– ombudsman.sa.gov.au(opens in a new window)
- Tasmanian Ombudsman– ombudsman.tas.gov.au(opens in a new window)
- Victorian Ombudsman– ombudsman.vic.gov.au(opens in a new window)
- Western Australian Ombudsman– ombudsman.wa.gov.au(opens in a new window)
Tuition Protection Service
The Tuition Protection Service (TPS) is an initiative of the Australian Government to assist you if your institution (referred to as ‘Education Provider’ under the TPS) is unable to fully deliver your course of study. The TPS may also assist you if you have withdrawn from, or not started, your course and are eligible for a refund of tuition fees and the institution has not paid them.
The TPS will ensure that you are able to either:
- Complete your studies in another course or with another institution, or
- Receive a refund of your unspent tuition fees.
Under the Tuition Protection Service international students have a number of rights and obligations. For more information visit the Tuition Protection Service(opens in a new window) website.
Institution support services
Student support forms a large part of Australia’s education system. Institutions provide specialist services to help international students adjust to life and study in Australia, and to achieve their goals. This includes student services such as:
- Language and academic support.
- Designated international student advisers.
- On-arrival reception and orientation programs.
- Childcare, health and counseling.
- Student accommodation.
- Employment services.
- Prayer and worships rooms.
- Banking, shopping and food outlets.
- Clubs, societies, sport and fitness facilities.
Many Australian education institutions are like mini communities, so not only will you be able to undertake your studies amid world-class learning facilities, you will also be able to enjoy the social side of studying as well. You can join a club or society, improve your health and fitness in the gym, join a sports team, attend a social event, or volunteer for community service. To find out full details of what your institution provides please check their website directly.
Australia has a number of student associations representing and assisting students from Australian institutions. National associations include:
- Council of International Students Australia (CISA)(opens in a new window)– national peak student representative body for international students studying at the postgraduate, undergraduate, private college, TAFE, ELICOS and foundation level.
- Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS)(opens in a new window)– assisting international students in maximizing the scope and potential of their experience living and studying in Australia.
Most institutions in Australia also have their own student associations – you can visit your institution’s website for more information.
Australia has laws that protect individuals from discrimination in many areas of public life, including education. A person with a disability has just as much right to study as any other student. This means that institutions cannot:
- Refuse admission on the basis of disability.
- Accept a student with a disability on less favourable terms than other students (for example, asking for higher fees).
- Deny or limit access to a student with a disability (for example, not allowing access to excursions, or having inaccessible student common rooms or lecture facilities).
Many institutions offer services for students who require assistance with their studies because of a disability or chronic medical condition. These may include voice-recognition software, hearing aids or note-taking services. You should contact your institution several weeks before you arrive to make the appropriate arrangements for your specific needs.
Institutions must make every effort to accommodate a student with a disability. However, the institution is not legally required to make modifications if the changes involve major difficulties or unreasonable cost. The institution has to prove the changes are unjustified and, before making such a claim, must have direct discussions with the student and seek expert advice.
If you are experiencing a problem with your institution, you should first talk to staff at your institution. If informal discussions do not resolve the problem, you have the option of lodging a formal complaint. Institutions are required to have a process for students to register complaints. If you feel you have a legitimate complaint that is not being recognised by your institution, you should approach the Australian Human Rights Commission. Confidential enquiries can be made by telephone but a formal complaint must be lodged in writing before the commission can take action. Find out more about disability rights in Australia at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission(opens in a new window).
While many larger institutions have childcare facilities with trained staff, there are also a wide variety of private and not-for-profit childcare centres available around Australia. The Australian government provides financial assistance to help parents with childcare costs. International students who receive direct financial assistance from the government, through a government scholarship, may be eligible to receive the child care benefit. To find out if you are eligible for child care financial assistance, read more at the Australia.gov.au(opens in a new window) website.
Other support services
Some other support services that may be useful to know while you are studying in Australia are:
- Contact details– 000
- Service details– Life threatening situations, such as a car crash or a fire.
Local police – non urgent matters
- Contact details– Call 131 444 (everywhere except Victoria). In Victoria you need to call your local police station (consult your local Telephone Directory)
- Service details– Police attendance for non-urgent matters.
- Contact details– 13 11 14
- Service details– Lifeline provides crisis support, suicide prevention and mental health support services across Australia. These can include stresses from work, family or society and physical and mental well-being. Lifeline offers support services by phone or through their online chat available on their website.
- Contact details– 1800 551 800
- Service details– If you’re between 5 and 25 and you’re feeling depressed, worried, sad, angry or confused about things like your studies personal relationships, Kids Helpline offers free 24 hour, 7 day telephone counseling support (anonymous if you prefer).
Poison Information Centre
- Contact details– 131 126
- Service details– Provides advice on the management, assessment and treatment of poisonous products including non-prescription pharmaceuticals, household and industrial chemicals, and plant and animal venom.
Sexual Assault counseling service
- Contact details– Search online for ‘rape crisis centre’ in your home state
- Service details– If you, or anyone you know, has experienced or is at risk of sexual assault, call one of the state-based sexual assault counseling services. These provide a free 24 hour, 7 day a week telephone counseling service (anonymous if you prefer). Many are connected to hospitals or government health departments to help you if the assault has left you with injuries.
Health and safety
Australia is generally a very safe and welcoming place to live and study, consistently ranking among the safest countries in the world(opens in a new window).
But it is still important to look after yourself and be aware of the risks that exist – and ways to minimise them. This is particularly important for when you first arrive and are adjusting to your new way of life.
Following your common sense and best practices will ensure you remain safe and healthy, whether you are handling emergencies, personal and home safety, or natural elements such as sun, water, and fire.
As an international student in Australia, you are required to have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for the entire duration of your study in Australia. But there are also other types of insurance which you may find useful.
Overseas Student Health Cover
International students undertaking formal studies in Australia, and their dependents (for example, spouses and children under 18 years old), must obtain OSHC. It includes cover for visits to the doctor, some hospital treatment, ambulance cover and limited pharmaceuticals (medicines). OSHC insurers can provide a range of different OSHC products. These may range from a basic product which covers only the compulsory minimum services to comprehensive products which cover, in addition to the compulsory minimum services, extra services as specified under the particular policy. You can find more information, including a list of the providers and average costs, on the Department of Health(opens in a new window) website.
Remember, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship requires overseas students to maintain OSHC for the duration of time they are in Australia. For further information please visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection(opens in a new window) website.
Private health insurance
Along with your OSHC you might want to consider purchasing private health insurance to cover items that your OSHC does not cover. You can take out private health insurance to cover just you or your family as well. Benefits, membership costs and eligibility can vary greatly between funds and insurance policies, so when buying health insurance take care to ensure the cover you select is suitable for your needs. You can find more information at: www.privatehealth.gov.au(opens in a new window)
Australia has a very reliable travel industry, but cancelled flights, lost luggage or other un-planned issues can arise. If you are travelling with valuables or are on a travel schedule you have to meet, travel insurance can help cover any mishaps or missed flights. You can arrange travel insurance through a range of providers including travel insurance companies, airlines and travel booking companies.
Home and contents insurance
Home and contents insurance covers the building you live in and your belongings, such as furniture, clothes and appliances. If you rent a property, building insurance is the responsibility of the owner and you do not need to worry about it. But contents insurance is worth considering if you have valuable items you couldn’t afford to replace very easily if something happened to them.
If you purchase a car, motorbike or other vehicle you will need to consider what type of insurance you will need to purchase. Depending on what state or territory of Australia you live in there may be compulsory insurance you need to purchase. For example, in NSW you must purchase Compulsory Third Party insurance which covers you for personal injuries caused to someone else in an accident. You should check with the relevant government agency in your state or territory to find out what, if any, compulsory insurance you might need.
You can also choose to purchase vehicle insurance that covers your car for accidental damage, malicious damage, theft, fire, flood or storm. There are a wide range of providers in Australia that offer vehicle insurance so make sure you research your options and consider what your specific insurance needs are before you purchase vehicle insurance.