Sarah has been travelling since September 2014 and recently spent a year in Melbourne on a Working Holiday Visa. She blogs at A Feeder Travels about living and travelling abroad and (you guessed it) seeking out delicious local food!
I wanted to live in Melbourne as it has a great food scene and I am a big foodie. They have fewer jobs in my industry (marketing) than Sydney, but for me the lifestyle was more important.
I wanted to really experience living and working in a seaside city, not just pass through on an extended holiday. The working holiday visa allowed me to do that on my own terms and not be beholden to sponsorship from a company.
How did you go about getting your visa?
I did it all myself, the visa application process is incredibly simple so there’s really no need to pay anyone to do it for you. For Brits, its a case of filling out a form online and paying a fee. All my travel was booked online direct with providers after doing searches with comparison sites like Skyscanner and Kayak.
Setting up bank accounts and TFN numbers when I arrived was also incredibly easy. The bank account was a case of visiting the branch with my passport and a print out of my visa confirmation, boarding pass and passport. (Boarding pass was needed to let them know what date my visa was activated.) The TFN application, which is required for working, was another super simple online application through the Australian Tax Office (ATO) once you have your address. Then you are all set for the job hunt!
How was the job hunt?
I ended up working for myself for most of the time i was in Melbourne. This wasn’t planned but ended up being the best option for me. I was up for doing anything, especially working with food but if you don’t have formal experience in hospitality in Melbourne you will struggle to find casual work as it’s a town of hospitality (or hospo as they say locally!) professionals. I was offered a contract role after asking friends of friends who worked in marketing (I had 13 years high-level experience) and one contract lead to another and another. If you work for yourself you can work past the 6 months providing you have multiple clients. This is what a lot of trades people do too apparently.
From my experience the best way to find flexible job opportunities is far and away through your personal network in Melbourne. Any applications that I made directly without personal references came up against inflexibility because of my visa type. There appear to have been many people pass through before us on the WHV who have tarnished the opportunity for those that follow, with lots of tales of people who take professional roles saying that they want to stay past 6 months, accepting training and then disappearing. Melbourne is a small place so personal recommendations count for a lot. If you have any friends or friends of friends then reach out to them and see who they know in your industry or industries that you have an interest in – you never know where it might lead!
How was the balance between work and travel?
I was contracting so I found the balance pretty even. I was able to travel between contracts with the money I saved up to allow for this. As a contractor when I didn’t work I didn’t get paid so saving was a must! I did find that general living costs were a lot lower than the UK (I’m South-East England) so saving was a lot easier.
There are so many beautiful things to do on your doorstep in Australia, so I did quite a lot of day trips and weekends away as well. Victoria has some beautiful countryside and Sydney, Tasmania and various other cities are only a short flight away from Melbourne.
Were you able to extend your visa for a second year?
No – my last client made an error in the paperwork and we ran out of time. I am still talking to them regarding opportunities to go back later this year once i have finished my stint in Africa.
Where did you go after Australia?
When I finished my WHV I went back to the UK for Christmas via a week in Thailand to break up the journey and catch up with some friends that live there. I am now settled in Lagos, Nigeria for a 3 month stint here working with a non profit NGO. Another opportunity that came about through friends of friends. It’s all about your network!
Any tips for potential WHV travellers?
Do it, do it, do it! If you have always wanted to give life in another country a go so you can explore on your own terms, go for it. Make sure you have a bit of money saved so you can keep yourself going for at least 2 months as finding a job in Australia can take time. HR departments at bigger companies in particular have lots of the usual processes to go through as well as checking your status as a migrant worker, so be prepared for a little wait. But be patient, the wait is worth it! Use your network too, even if it’s friends of friends. Those people became like family to me in the space of a year and made my time so far away from home full of joy by introducing me to their city from the inside!
The other things to do as soon as you can after you arrive are register for Medicare, and Ambulance Membership. Brits are entitled to reciprocal healthcare via the Medicare system. You need your TFN to do this but it doesn’t take long to come through – mine only took a week and I applied just before Christmas. I suggest you do this before you start work as you need to go to a Centrelink in person and it may take time to queue. You will then get your card in the post, you never know when you might need it! Regarding the ambulance service, I’m not sure what the score is for other states but in Victoria ambulances are a billable expense if you have an accident. So I joined Victoria Ambulance for a fee of around $12 a quarter. This means you will be covered for any emergency ambulance you might require. I had long term travel insurance and Medicare cover but for $12 it was worth doing anything I could to reduce the expense if the worst did happen.
Thanks to Sarah for sharing her story! Melbourne seems to be a popular base for us UK travellers!