Sunny, check. International airports, check. Good coffee, check. Add in close travel proximity to Asia, a colorful calendar of cultural events, and a generally laid-back lifestyle, and you’re beginning to understand why Australia has become one of the hottest places for primary, secondary, tertiary, and EFL teachers from around the world to relocate. So, how do you do it? And, what should you know before you go?
Inner-city campuses and beachside academies
With curricula similar to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, teachers from those countries are often among the first to consider the move. Australia’s education system is composed of private and public schools in cosmopolitan, urban, and rural areas. Also, due to the numbers of students from Asia and the Middle East who choose to learn English in Australia, private language academies have experienced a boom in the last few years. There are now over 200 academies endorsed by the National ELT Accreditation Scheme (NEAS). Language academies employ qualified EFL teachers at their inner-city campuses in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Perth, as well as beach towns and regions like Byron Bay, Cairns, and the Sunshine and Gold Coasts. Australia’s popularity with Asian and Middle Eastern students means that teachers with previous experience in these countries will find themselves at home with their students’ learning style and behavior in the classroom.
Identifying your visa
NEAS has outlined minimum qualifications for ELT teachers and academic managers at endorsed centers, meaning immigrant teachers with training matching the international standards NEAS outlines can be employed. However, you will have to identify and apply for the relevant visa. Be aware, this could mean you will have to go through multiple screenings, so do have a coffee pot at the ready for energy! Depending on your nationality, education, and goals for teaching in Australia, possible avenues are the Working Holiday visa (suitable for most immigrants from Britain, Europe, and the U.S.) and Work and Holiday visa (mostly for South American visitors). These visas let young adults under 30 work in Australia for up to 12 months. It’s important to note that under these visas travelers are allowed to work for a maximum of six months with the same employer, a limit which actually works well within the EFL industry where teaching contracts can be offered seasonally. These visas can be renewed for an additional year.
Good healthcare system and services compensate for cost of living
Thanks to reciprocal healthcare agreements, teachers from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Malta, and Ireland will have access to Australia’s Medicare system for the duration of their stay, or for six months in the case of Italian and Maltese visitors. If you’re from another country, it is recommended to take out private health insurance. The public and private systems both deliver excellent standards of care.
Eating out, booze, haircuts – with a 10% goods and services tax, the standard cost of living is generally pretty high in Australia. Nevertheless, this high tax on purchases makes it possible for the government to keep cities safe and maintain quality highways, rubbish, and recycling collection programs. As for rent, you can expect to pay up to AUD$400-500 per week; less if you are happy to share an apartment. Rent varies depending on your desired location and household size, however, travelers must be aware that the cost of living, particularly accommodation and transportation, is high in Australia.
Whether you choose gorgeous Sydney, friendly Brisbane, artsy Melbourne, foodie Perth, or a small town, Australians love to eat out, meet with friends, lounge at the beach, visit farmer’s markets, road trip, and hike through the mountains on the weekend. It’s a diverse country with a plethora of social, cultural, and outdoor opportunities.
Once you get settled in, you’ll soon have a preferred coffee shop, restaurant, greengrocer, and butcher, and will likely find the locals to be open and welcoming. You may be met with some initial shyness (not everyone is the joking “larrikin” stereotype!), but Australians will quickly warm up and chat away.
Regulated pay and working conditions
Under the National Award, language teachers earn on average AUD$50,000. Private language academies adhere to minimum standards and salaries are determined by teacher experience and qualifications. In general, teachers working in Australia live comfortably, but you shouldn’t expect to be rolling in the dough.
That said, teacher vacation time is similar to that in other western countries (aka – awesome!), including a longer summer break. For Northern Hemisphere dwellers, remember, the new semester begins towards the end of January and Christmas is during the summer holidays. The exciting topic of summer holidays brings us to one of the best reasons to work in Australia: the travel opportunities.
A traveler’s dream destination
Australia’s large international airports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth buzz with frequent departures to cities around the world, but it’s the short flights to Asia that get many prospective residents excited. Japan, Korea, South-East Asia, the Pacific Islands, and New Zealand all have their stories to tell, and the Australian academic year provides ample time to explore them. Within Australia itself there’s an ever-changing landscape for your holiday weeks. Big cities, wine regions, beaches, rainforests, deserts, green countryside, mountains – Australia has something for everyone.
Temporary working visas streams, regulated pay and working conditions, and the opportunity to experience a new culture sounds pretty good, right? The fact that the country is a beacon for expats and travelers is an added – and very welcome – bonus. After all, time spent working abroad is time well-invested, and a semester or two teaching in Australia will be no different.