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Part 2

Preparing for Australia

Essential preparation

Flights and visas

The Australian Government (via an Australia Awards representative in your country) will arrange and pay for your economy class airfare to Australia. They will also assist you to obtain your Australian visa.

All scholars must travel on a Student Visa (subclass 500). To apply for your visa, you must have a valid passport, and as the immigration process can take some time, it is best to start your application early.

It is your responsibility to understand the conditions of your visa. Breaching visa conditions—for example, by working more than the allowed number of hours—may result in your visa being cancelled. If you have any issues once you’re in Australia, see your Student Contact Officer at your institution as soon as possible.

If you are travelling with family (or they are joining you later), your family members should be included on your visa application form, as this will make it easier for their own visa applications.

All scholars must take part in a compulsory Introductory Academic Program prior to their studies start date. You are advised to arrive in time to get settled for this busy program, but no more than two weeks before it starts.

Temporary accommodation and your arrival

Temporary accommodation will be organised for your arrival in Australia. This will be arranged by your institution before you leave home, so make sure that your Student Contact Officer knows when you are arriving and whether any family members are accompanying you.

You must pay for your temporary accommodation, but your institution will ensure that it is moderately priced and has everything you need, including cooking facilities or places to buy food close by. Your institution can also give you information about shopping and public transport.

If you do not need temporary accommodation on arrival, make sure you let Australia Awards staff in your home country and your institution know, otherwise you may still have to pay for it.

Likewise, your Student Contact Officer needs to know your flight details to arrange an airport pick-up to collect you from the airport and take you to your temporary accommodation. Make sure they have this information well in advance.If you arrive in Australia on the weekend or a public holiday and have not organised this, it will be very difficult to get in touch with someone to help.

It is your responsibility to find and pay for long-term accommodation, but your institution will help you. Information on accommodation can be found in Part 4.

Important

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Many academic institutions shut down over the summer period towards the end of December and beginning of January. If you are arriving in Australia during this time, make sure your Student Contact Officer knows, so that airport pick up and temporary accommodation can be organised.

Health insurance

Health services in Australia are of a high standard but are expensive. It is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s responsibility to ensure that you have medical cover. Your institution will arrange and pay for basic medical insurance. This is called Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). This insurance starts from the day you arrive in Australia, so your Student Contact Officer needs to know your arrival date to purchase your cover.

It is your responsibility to ensure this insurance covers your personal needs, noting it does not cover your family if they are travelling with you (for advice on health insurance for your family see Part 2, ‘Thinking about bringing your family?’). Your institution will provide information about insurance providers.

Overseas Student Health Cover will help you pay for:

  • any basic medical and hospital care you may need while studying in Australia
  • the cost of most prescription medicines 
  • an ambulance in an emergency. 

Overseas Student Health Cover does not cover:

  • pre-existing medical conditions 
  • dental treatments 
  • optical treatments 
  • physiotherapy. 

It is your responsibility to buy additional private health insurance if you require extra cover, at your own expense. Overseas Student Health Cover may not cover pregnancy-related costs. The costs of the specialist medical services associated with pregnancy and having a baby in Australia are very high. Most insurers will require you to be a member for at least 12 months before you can claim any maternity-related expenses, and it is your responsibility to check your chosen provider’s policy. We strongly advise you to consider deferring your offer if you are pregnant. You may incur significant expenses by giving birth in Australia, particularly if the birth is complicated.

You are responsible for the difference (gap) between the Overseas Student Health Cover refundable amount and the amount charged by your health professional. A gap in payment occurs when a health professional charges more than the refundable amount provided by Overseas Student Health Cover. For example, if your medical bill is $75, and the Overseas Student Health Cover only provides $50 for that service, you will be required to pay the difference of $25. The Australian Medicare system works in the same way; Australians may need to pay the gap for medical services when they occur. As an international student in Australia, you are not covered by Australia’s national health cover stem—Medicare Australia.

Cash

Your Establishment Allowance and Contribution to Living Expenses will be paid into your bank account soon after you arrive, but you will still need Australian currency to cover expenses in the first few days of your stay. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recommends you have at least $750 Australian dollars when you arrive, to cover costs such as food and temporary accommodation.

You can change money at the airport when you arrive in Australia. Credit cards are also widely accepted, although foreign currency, such as US dollars, are not accepted and will need to be exchanged to Australian dollars on arrival.

Scholars with disability

If you need support when studying, please inform the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and let your educational institution know of your needs before you travel. This will help us make sure that the support you need is available when you arrive, and that we can assess your needs and make reasonable adjustments.

Australia is an inclusive society, and has excellent services and facilities for people with disability. Most community-based services and facilities, including public transport, restaurants, shopping centres and public libraries, are accessible for people with disability.

All educational institutions are required to ensure access and equity for students with disability.Your institution’s disability services office will be able to provide support and information.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade engages a disability support consultant to assist Australia Awards scholars. The disability support consultant will work with you and your institution to develop a tailored disability support agreement for you. Your institution’s Student Contact Officer will help you implement this agreement.

It was like a dream for me to come to Australia and Australia Awards made it possible. Many people with disabilities depend on other people. In Australia, I learnt how technological support can make them independent. I experienced more freedom because of the excellent infrastructure in Australia.

RAJUNA SINGH

Australia Awards alumna, Nepal

Portrait of RAJUNA SINGH

Research your new home

Australia’s land mass covers 7.7 million square kilometres. It has a population of more than 25 million. This includes a diverse mix of people, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Australia’s First Nations peoples), as well as people from more than 100 countries around the world.

All of Australia’s states and territories host universities and other tertiary institutions. Some, such as the University of Melbourne in Victoria, are in big cities. Others, including Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, NSW, are in smaller regional centres.

Take some time to research your new home. There are many online resources available to learn more about where you will be living. Many university websites have interactive campus tours, as well as details on the different amenities on campus.

Weather

Australia experiences many different climates, including tropical, sub-tropical, temperate, alpine, arid and semi-arid. It is important to know what sort of climate you will experience where your educational institution is located.

Australia is in the southern hemisphere so our seasons are opposite to the northern hemisphere: summer is from December to February, while winter is from June to August. Make sure you think about the temperatures of your new home and come prepared.

Average temperatures for Australian capital cities
  • Sydney, NSW
    SeasonAverage daily minimumAverage daily maximum
    Summer 18°C 26°C
    Autumn 14°C 22°C
    Winter 8°C 18°C
    Spring 13°C 22°C
  • Melbourne, VIC
    SeasonAverage daily minimumAverage daily maximum
    Summer 13°C 26°C
    Autumn 10°C 20°C
    Winter 6°C 14°C
    Spring 9°C 19°C
  • Brisbane, QLD
    SeasonAverage daily minimumAverage daily maximum
    Summer 21°C 29°C
    Autumn 16°C 26°C
    Winter 10°C 21°C
    Spring 16°C 25°C
  • Adelaide, SA
    SeasonAverage daily minimumAverage daily maximum
    Summer 15°C 27°C
    Autumn 12°C 22°C
    Winter 7°C 16°C
    Spring 11°C 21°C
  • Perth, WA
    SeasonAverage daily minimumAverage daily maximum
    Summer 16°C 31°C
    Autumn 13°C 26°C
    Winter 8°C 18°C
    Spring 11°C 23°C
  • Canberra, ACT
    SeasonAverage daily minimumAverage daily maximum
    Summer 13°C 27°C
    Autumn 7°C 20°C
    Winter 1°C 12°C
    Spring 6°C 19°C
  • Darwin, NT
    SeasonAverage daily minimumAverage daily maximum
    Summer 25°C 32°C
    Autumn 24°C 32°C
    Winter 20°C 31°C
    Spring 24°C 33°C
  • Hobart, TAS
    SeasonAverage daily minimumAverage daily maximum
    Summer 12°C 22°C
    Autumn 9°C 18°C
    Winter 4°C 13°C
    Spring 8°C 17°C

Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology climate statistics for Australian locations

Some useful websites to learn more about Australia

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  • Information for international students on living and studying in Australia can be found at: studyinaustralia.gov.au.
  • Insider Guides publishes lots of helpful information for international students in Australia: insiderguides.com.au.
  • For stories about scholars and alumni, visit the Australia Global Alumni site: globalalumni.gov.au.
  • Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, has up-to-the-minute national and local news and weather, as well as an Australian perspective on international events: abc.net.au.
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics has statistics, information and services on all aspects of Australian life, systems, environment and culture: abs.gov.au.
  • The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has the latest weather forecasts: bom.gov.au.
  • Google maps will help you pinpoint your new city or town, locations and addresses and is also helpful for planning public transport options: maps.google.com.au.

Ready to fly

Essential documentation

As well as your ticket, passport and travel itinerary, bring your driver’s license if you have one, your letter of offer from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and any other documents that are listed in your letter of offer. Carry photocopies of these documents in case you lose them.

Also consider bringing your medical history and, if you are travelling with medication, a letter from your doctor and copies of your prescriptions. It is also handy to have your Australian address noted, as you will need this for arrivals documentation.

Other documents that could be useful for you, and your family if they join you in Australia, include birth certificates, your marriage certificate, academic records, work references and property rental references.

Quarantine and illegal imports

Australia has strict quarantine laws to protect native plants, animals and agriculture against pests and disease. When you arrive in Australia, you must declare to customs all food and other plant and animal material as many of these are banned.

If you are carrying food or plant items, declare them even if you think they are allowed. Airline staff will give you an incoming passenger card, which you must use to declare these items before your aircraft lands. You could be given an on-the-spot fine or face prosecution if you do not declare prohibited items.

Quarantine officers are located at every international port in Australia. Officers review and assess each incoming passenger card and X-ray and inspect baggage. They also have dogs at baggage carousels that are trained to sniff luggage and detect prohibited items. If you are carrying prohibited items, including food or plant items, you will be caught and may be fined.


IMPORTANT

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There have been cases of prohibited goods, mainly foods such as spices or seeds, being mailed to overseas students studying in Australia. Warn your family and friends not to send you food or other plant and animal products. Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service checks all parcels for illegal items and there are heavy fines.

Australia is a multicultural society, and specialty shops mean nearly all the food or ingredients you want can be purchased here.

Never carry illicit drugs. Penalties for drug offences in Australia are severe and could result in a jail term.

Other items you should declare include medicines and large amounts of cash in foreign currency. There are also strict limits on the number of cigarettes and the amount of alcohol you can bring into Australia. Details on these limits can be found online at the Australian Government’s information and services website australia.gov.au.

There are also regulations around which medicines or pharmaceuticals can be brought into Australia. Details of the availability of your prescription medication, and to find out what can and cannot be brought into Australia, can be found online at the Therapeutic Goods Administration website tga.gov.au.

Please note, you are not allowed to bring in prescribed medicine on behalf of anyone else, including family members.

Travel light

Airlines limit the weight of luggage you can bring free of charge. If you exceed these limits, you will be charged an excess baggage fee, which is not covered by your Australia Awards Scholarship. Before you pack, check with your airline to find out what the baggage limits are. This information is often included with your tickets.

Be sure to pack for the season and your destination’s climate. If you are arriving in Townsville in summer for example, you will not need warm clothing. If you are arriving in Melbourne in winter, then warm clothes will be essential.

Remember, you will be able to buy most, if not all the items that you need in Australia, including clothing and household goods.

I think that everything is available here in Australia. You just bring with you your documents and some essentials like clothing or something like that.

MODESTO LOPEZ

Australia Awards scholar, Timor-Leste

Portrait of MODESTO LOPEZ

Predeparture checklist

Essential
  • Make sure you have let your institution know when you arrive and whether you need temporary accommodation—well before you leave home.
  • Ensure your travel documentation—including passport and visa—is in order and pack any other important documents, as well as copies too.
  • Have enough money on arrival. You will need at least $750 Australian (or equivalent in your own currency) to exchange.
  • Check your luggage does not exceed airline limits.
  • Bring copies of your prescriptions if you are travelling with medicines.
  • Pack only allowable food items in an accessible location ready to be declared to Customs on arrival in Australia.
Other
  • Have an early look at accommodation options available to you.
  • Read your health insurance policy and be sure you have the right coverage.
  • Research and explore your educational institution and new city online.
  • Read the Australia Awards Scholarships Policy Handbook

Thinking about bringing your family?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recommends against bringing your family to Australia with you, given the demands of your scholarship. However, we understand that everyone has individual needs.

Deciding whether to bring your family with you to Australia is a big decision. Being separated from your family for the duration of your study can be difficult, but so can the responsibility of having them with you while on a busy Australia Awards Scholarship.

When thinking about whether to bring your family consider:

  • the financial burden of their healthcare, visas and childcare 
  • if there is a possibility that you or your partner will find employment in Australia, what impact will that have on your studies? 
  • what options are available to provide the necessary accommodation for a family group, as well as your children’s schooling or childcare. 

If you do decide to bring your family to Australia, we strongly advise you wait at least six months. This will enable you to finalise your living arrangements and settle into your new city and studies. Use this time to choose places in childcare or school for your children.

Accommodation

If you are bringing your family with you, you will obviously have different accommodation requirements to consider. On-campus accommodation is likely to be inappropriate, or even unavailable to families. Depending on the city or town you are in, it might prove difficult to get well-priced accommodation close to the university.

Family visas

Family of Australia Awards-sponsored students must lodge a Subclass 500 dependent visa application with a letter of no objection from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is also important you list your family on your own visa application as this will make their applications easier to process.

If your family accompanies you during your studies you will not be eligible to receive the reunion airfare entitlement.

Living costs

The living costs of a family are considerably more than for a scholar living in Australia on their own. For an overview see the Living costs in Australia in Part 3. It is suggested that you need at least an additional $7,100 Australian a year to support your spouse, and an additional $3,040 Australian per child.

Health insurance

If your family travels to Australia, they are not covered by your scholarship-provided Overseas Student Health Cover. This includes any medical expenses associated with pregnancy. You will need to purchase additional health insurance for them by upgrading your own cover. To upgrade your cover to include your family members you need to contact your provider directly and you will need to pay for the additional costs of insurance for your family members. You should make early contact with your provider to ensure that your family members have health insurance cover prior to applying for their visas.

Childcare and school

You must have care arrangements in place for your young children if you plan to leave them during the day or at night. Under Australian law, parents have a legal obligation to make sure their children are safe and not leave them in dangerous situations. Very young and primary school age children must be supervised at all times. Leaving your child in a car unsupervised at any time is illegal in Australia because it is extremely dangerous.

If you need childcare, you will need to book it with the provider early because there is often a long waiting period for places—sometimes six months or more. Childcare (long day care) is also expensive in Australia and costs an average of $100 Australian a day. Costs may be higher in some locations.

Your children can attend public government funded primary and secondary schools. If you want to receive the tuition exemption, or low tuition fees, make sure your children are attached on your Student Visa (Subclass 500) and that you provide proof of your Australia Awards Scholarship at the time of their enrolment. Otherwise, you may have to pay full international student fees for your children.

Your Student Contact Officer may be able to help with information about schools and childcare providers near your institution, or look online for your state’s education department (for schools) or community/health services department (for childcare information).

If your children will be attending childcare you will need to sign up to the Australian Government’s myGov portal. This is a single site for accessing a number of government services from Centrelink (for childcare payments) and the Australian Tax Office: my.gov.au.

Work

A special provision for Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-sponsored students enables dependent members of your family to work. If you are an undergraduate student, your dependents can work up to 40 hours per fortnight. For Masters and PhD students, your dependents can work unlimited hours, but not until the date that your course begins.

However, their skills and qualifications may not be recognised in Australia so it could be difficult for them to find satisfying work close to your institution or home.

As a family you need to determine whether the burden of study, work and carer duties is manageable.

If you are generally the main income earner in your family, will your family be best supported in Australia or by remaining at home? And if your partner does not—or is not able to— work, it is worth considering whether they will suffer from social isolation while in Australia.

Important

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It is important to consider the impact of your study on your extended family.

  • Make sure they understand what your Australia Awards Scholarship means.
  • Tell them about the obligations of your scholarship.
  • Your time in Australia will be intense and challenging.
  • You might not be able to fulfil other family expectations while studying in Australia.

Handy hints

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  • Discuss as a family what will work best for you all for the duration of your scholarship. Think about the costs, the work opportunities for your partner and the risk of social isolation.
  • Wait at least six months before making arrangements to bring your family to Australia.
  • During this time, register for childcare, and enquire about primary and secondary schools.
  • Bring your children’s immunisation records as these will be required for enrolment at school or childcare.
  • Ensure that the accommodation is adequate for your family.