Essential services and information for living in Australia
It’s important to understand how to access essential services and information prior to moving to Australia.
When you move to another country, or make plans to spend a lot of time there, you will need to consider how you will access all of the essential services you enjoy back home. Here is a brief run-down of everything you need to consider.
Lucky for you, healthcare in Australia for British expats is free due to a reciprocal agreement between Australia and the UK. This reciprocal agreement also extends to subsidised medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. When you arrive in Australia you will need to apply for a Medicare number, which will give you access to basic health coverage. Your Medicare card will also cover you for doctors’ visits and hospital admissions as well as any standard or elected surgeries or procedures, although the wait time for these can be months or even years in some instances.
Another benefit of having private medical insurance is the tax rebate, which is particularly large for high income earners.
Some people in Australia opt for private medical coverage in order to have priority access to essential and non-essential surgeries and treatments. With private health insurance, you pay for the service and receive a rebate from your private health insurance company for part of the costs incurred. Another benefit of having private medical insurance is the tax rebate, which is particularly large for high income earners.
Most allied health services (dentistry, massage therapy, physio-therapy etc.) are not covered by Medicare. The Department of Human Services website has an extensive list of “What Medicare Covers” for further details. Pensioners, war veterans, and those who live with a disability can apply for a Medicare card that covers additional services like dental, optical, prescriptions and more.
You need to apply for Medicare seven to ten days after you arrive in Australia, so this should be top of your list of things to do.
When you arrive in Australia you will need to apply for a Tax File Number from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This tax file number is essential when working in Australia, but even those who don’t plan on working but do intend to remain in Australia permanently need to apply for one. You can apply online for a tax file number; however, since a local address is needed on the application form, you must be in Australia when you apply.
When you arrive in Australia you will need to apply for a Tax File Number from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
You are permitted to drive with your UK driver’s license for three months after you arrive in Australia. Once you are settled make your way down to the local transportation office (the name of the office varies in each state). Bring your UK driver’s license, passport and proof of a valid Australian address with you.
Travel and Transport
Australia is a vast country and in terms of land area, is bigger than Europe (excluding Russia). For this reason, car and air travel are the most popular modes of transportation on the island continent. Car ownership in Australia is some of the highest in the world and domestic flights from major centres are an affordable way to travel between cities and inter-state. Seat sales and special deals will often feature one-way flights between major routes for under £50 on low cost carries.
Bus and train travel throughout Australia is not used as much for large distances. Within cities, public transport is very popular. Sydney has a great network of ferries, trains and buses and Melbourne has an efficient tram and train network. Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra also have great public transportation systems. Smaller cities and towns have less reliable public transportation systems to contend with.
After you arrive in Australia you will want to switch your UK mobile plan to an Australian plan. If your phone is un-locked, you may be able to buy an Australian SIM card for your UK phone. You may also want to buy a new phone and/or plan once you arrive. When signing up for a contracted plan you will generally get the phone for free or cheap. Plans start as little as £15 a month and can include data, free local and international calls and unlimited SMS/MMS. Another option is a pay-as-you-go plan, this is a great alternative if you don’t want to be locked into contracts – you can top up your credit as you need. Some of the main mobile service providers in Australia are Telstra, Optus and Virgin.
Whether you have school-aged or university-aged children, or are thinking of studying yourself, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the Australian school system. The school year in Australia begins in late January and finishes just before Christmas. Primary and secondary students will generally go to the school closest to where they live, or else to a private school where tuition is paid for attendance. In most states primary school starts in prep (kindergarten) and goes until year seven; secondary school runs from year eight through to 12. Post-secondary school consists of university or technical school (TAFE). Australian Citizens and Permanent Residents are eligible for Study Assist from the government, which is subsidised tertiary education.
The school year in Australia begins in late January and finishes just before Christmas.
All citizens over the age of 18 in Australia are required to vote. If you become an Australian citizen it’s important to remember this responsibility. You can register to vote on the Australian Electoral Commission website.
Superannuation or ‘super’ is something you may want to consider to save money for retirement. It is encouraged by the Australian government and there are tax benefits for those who have it. Many private companies in Australia provide super fund packages and it is important to explore your options before choosing a company. The Australian Government website is the best resource to find out more about superannuation.
The Healthcare guide will provide information on
• How to get healthcare
• Private medical insurance
• Planning ahead
• How overseas services compare with the NHS
• What could happen after Brexit