A Bit of Q&A
I wrote a guest blog a few years back about working in Australia, and have continued to receive e-mails and questions about working in Australia, which is why I started up Speech Down Under. Maybe you have some of the same questions about working and living in Australia, check out some of my answers below!
How long have I been working abroad? I moved over to Australia in January 2016 and have been working here since [with some breaks/holidays in between]
What kind of jobs have I had in Australia? I started out working as an au pair and did this for about 4 months. As far as SLP jobs, I have worked a 10-week locum [short-term] position at an acute care public hospital, have worked part-time in acute care at a private hospital, and also as a contractor for a couple private practices [mainly doing home visits or working in aged care facilities], and also as a contractor for a specific aged care company. It might help to know that I had worked in acute care for a bit over 4 years in the US before coming out to Australia.
What type of setting am I in? I am currently working as a contractor for a private practice [primarily seeing home clients or residents in aged care facilities] and as a contractor for another aged care company. Most of my referrals are for dysphagia concerns.
Did I apply to places independently or go through a recruitment/hiring agency? I had one position working at the private hospital where I initially went through a recruitment agency [although I believe I originally saw the job posted on a job search engine]. However, later I was employed directly through the hospital.
Do I keep up my ASHA certification? So far, I have kept up my ASHA certification as well as my Michigan SLP license. I've just joined MedBridge, which is great because I can use their courses for continuing education for both my ASHA certification and for PSR [Professional Self Regulation] points for my Speech Pathology Australia certification.
Did I find my au pair job before I moved to Australia? How did I find it? Yes, I had my au pair job lined up before I moved out here. I used Au Pair World, but there’s probably other websites and there’s lots of Facebook groups out there.
Do I know if a place can sponsor you for a job right away? I’m not too familiar with the sponsorship process as I’ve never been sponsored for a job. I’m not sure the likelihood of being sponsored for as an SLP in Australia.
Do you think it will be easy for me to find a job? It seems like there are a good number of SLP jobs out there. But “ease” of finding a job may depend on if you’re looking for a specific setting/population/location. Browse some of the job websites [SEEK, jora, state government websites, Speech Pathology Australia job board, etc.] to get an idea of what’s out there.
How was it adjusting to working abroad? Of course, there are some adjustments and different processes to learn whenever you start a new position [especially in another country], but the actual day to day job is similar. It may also depend on location – my first SLP job in Australia was in Darwin, where there happens to be a large Indigenous population - so it was different in that aspect and pretty interesting. I should note that with the positions I’ve had here, there is less focus on hitting a specific productivity mark or percentage. I worked all acute care in the US, whereas I’ve worked some other settings now in Australia [but don’t have the US experience in those settings to compare it to].
Living in Australia
When I first moved to Australia, how did I get around? I was fortunate to have my au pair job lined up, and the family had a separate car for me to use to take the girls to school/activities and for me to use in my free time. Once I started working at the hospital in Darwin for my SLP job, I bought a used car. Side note – I actually looked into leasing a car and I don’t think that’s really an option in Australia [or maybe not in Darwin at least].
Did I get a driver’s license in Australia? Yep – I’ve now had a Northern Territory, New South Wales, and now Western Australia driver’s license. Check out each state’s website for more information regarding license requirements/applications. I wasn’t required to take a driving test of any sort.
How did I figure out living arrangements? I lived with the family while working as an au pair. Once I finished au pairing, I looked on websites such as Gumtree [Australian version of Craigslist], Facebook groups, and flatmates.com.au. I have used flatmates.com for most of the places I’ve found [I’ve always done house shares here].
What did I do for health insurance? While I was working as an au pair, I had purchased health insurance through Bupa. I didn’t renew it, so there was a period of time I didn’t have any health insurance here [oops!]. Once I was granted permanent residency, I was eligible for Medicare. At present, I don’t pay for private health insurance.
Did it seem like a big risk coming over here? For me, not really. I already had lined up to work as an au pair in Darwin. If it didn’t work out, worst case scenario would have been that I would go back to the US and look for another SLP job. I hadn’t done much [well, any] research regarding SLP jobs in Australia before coming here.
Did I do the Work & Holiday visa twice or did I go from the Work & Holiday to the PR [permanent residency] visa? No, I just did one Work & Holiday  visa. Then I applied and was approved for the Skilled Independent Visa  [which grants PR – permanent residency]. If you are on one visa and waiting for a decision on another [e.g. have already applied], I believe they give you a bridging visa which lets you remain in Australia while a decision is made.
How soon once I got to Australia did I apply for the 189 visa? I had been in Australia 11 months [came in January 2016] on a Work and Holiday Visa before I submitted my application for the 189 visa [submitted my 189 application in November 2016]. I would have submitted my Expression of Interest [EOI] before that, but I don’t remember the date I did that.
How long did it take me to hear back once I submitted an expression of interest [EOI] for my visa ? Sorry, I don’t remember!
Once my EOI came back, how long did the actual visa process take? I submitted my 189 visa application in November 2016, and it was approved in February [Valentine’s Day, actually] 2017!
If going for the 189 Visa, do you think it would be best to wait it out until I get that, or to go with the Work and Holiday visa? This is definitely up to you. I happened to already be on a Work and Holiday visa before I decided I wanted to stay longer and see about working as an SLP. If you come on a Work and Holiday Visa, it might be harder to find a job as an SLP [as you can usually only work up to 6 months with one employer on that visa], however that being said, it’s possible you might find a locum [short-term] position that would accept someone on a Work and Holiday Visa.
How did I get the points for the 189 visa? When I applied, you needed 65 points to be eligible.
I’ve just looked and I think this would have been the breakdown for my points:
- Age: [at least 25 but less than 33 years] 30 points
- English language skills: Superior 20 points
- I took the IELTS test [yes, as crazy as it sounds, I paid to take an English test in order to have enough points]
- Overseas skilled employment (outside Australia) 5 points
- Educational qualifications: Attained a qualification or award recognised by the relevant assessing authority for your nominated skilled occupation as being suitable for that occupation 10 points
Check the points table for the Skilled Independent Visa (189) to see all the categories and points in detail.
How was it gathering everything I needed for that visa? A pain to be honest! I relied a lot my parents and family scanning and sending me documents that I needed from the US as I was already in Australia. Some of the documents I gathered for the visa [and I may be forgetting some of them] - transcripts, birth certificate, SPA Skills Assessment, passport copy, National Police Certificate from Australia, FBI Clearance which requires fingerprinting, proof of evidence of previous work experience and employment reference letter from my old job.
- Do I need a JP to sign them? I didn't have a JP sign them, as they allowed physios and other professionals to certify copies.