Seeking A New Life Down Under?

Posted on: 14 May 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

With its sun, surf and love of the great outdoors, Australia is the single most popular destination for British people seeking a new life abroad. So why does life seem so much brighter in Oz?

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This year's freezing winter and a gloomy economic forecast has prompted a big jump in the number of us heading to the Antipodes.

According to the Move Monitor Survey, conducted on behalf of removals company Pickfords, there was a 31% increase in the number of British citizens leaving for Oz in 2008 compared with 2007.

Indeed, recent figures released by the Australian government showed 23,236 British settled in the country in 2007/8 — the second largest immigrant group after New Zealanders (27,601).

It's a figure that has been steadily rising and has nearly doubled in five years.

An estimated 1.3m British ex-pats enjoy life Down Under, and our appetite for Australia shows no signs of abating.

What's more, disillusioned by the falling pound and poor economic outlook, Australian ex-pats in the UK are returning home in the highest numbers for 30 years.

So why does life seem so much brighter in Oz? And is it worth moving to the other side of the world? According to a recruitment campaign by South Australia, it could be to do with the high proportion of single men. Ideal if you happen to be a woman seeking one.

Southern Australia has been trying to lure females with the promise of strong career prospects, a quality lifestyle, beautiful beaches, world-class wine, fine weather — plus 'bronzed, sportier men who are enjoying a booming economy'.

While some would-be immigrants might be seeking Mr Right, the truth, according to the state's Deputy Agent General, David Travers, is that most people are looking for a better quality of life.

“We have 5,500km of beaches, we're on the same latitude as Tuscany, and we're one of the most affordable states to live in.

“Many people wanting to start a family outside of the UK come here,” he says, adding that 2,535 Brits moved to the state in 2006-7.

Tamzin Brown did just that, moving from Clapham in South London to Sydney, New South Wales, with her partner Greg in April 2006. Tired of an existence that was too 'materialistic and pressured', they opted for a healthier and more satisfying life than the one they had in Britain.

“My career took a nosedive when I moved here,” says Tamzin, a 48-year-old accountant who works for Qantas. “But it was worth it. We live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the pace of life is slower and the climate allows the sort of outdoor lifestyle we could never enjoy in London.”

She says the downsides are inferior pubs and expensive housing. She and Greg have been saving to buy a home while renting a two-bedroom flat in Mosman — the ‘Chelsea of Sydney' — for £336 a week.

“You need a deposit of 20% here, plus we are waiting for prices to drop a bit,” she says.

The Australian market has the same problem with affordable housing as the UK has had in recent years.

Sydney and Melbourne are the most expensive cities, and you get more for your money in Perth, Brisbane and best-priced Adelaide.

There, the average house sale is £183,000, according to recent figures, in contrast to Sydney's £238,000 or Melbourne's £192,000.

Rent is equally reasonable: a three-bedroom home in the suburbs of Adelaide costs an average of £129 a week, compared with £182 for a comparable property in Sydney.

But, according to Knight Frank's International department, purchase prices are slowing. Prestige properties in Sydney rose by only 4% in 2008 compared with 9.2% the previous year.

Countrywide, an end to the strong growth in prices in recent years is down to 'interest rate rises, high petrol and grocery prices', according to the Real Estate Institute of Southern Australia (REISA). Sound familiar? Don't let that put you off.

Economically, Australia seems to be in better health than the UK: in 2008 unemployment was at its lowest for a decade, and 133,500 visas will be granted to immigrants who can fill specific labour shortages during 2008/9.

The resource-rich state of Western Australia is attracting the biggest volume of Brits, with a whopping 7,125 of us moving there in the past year.

In addition to the comforting familiarity of Tesco and a massive ex-pat population in Perth — 10% of the city's population is British-born, a legacy of the '£10 Pom' assisted-migration scheme between 1945-72. Economic opportunities are the big draw, according to Genelle Surace of Western Australia's State Migration Centre.

“Not only has Western Australia seen the highest growth in wages this year countrywide, but Perth has just overtaken Brisbane as the fastest-growing capital in Australia,” she says.

“It's a small, compact city that is more laidback than Sydney or Melbourne, and the state gets more sunshine than any other.

“Mining and natural resources are driving the state boom, so while many people have headed into the mining areas to make good money, we have a skills shortage in the Perth metropolitan area.”

She says Perth is looking for a wide variety of professions, but especially teachers, nurses and police. If you want to move to Australia, you have to have a certain number of points — based on your profession, age and skills.

Professions are weighted between 40-60 points, depending on their usefulness to the state in question, and you score highly for being in the ideal age range. If you or your spouse is an engineer, you will be looked on very favourably by the State of Victoria, which has just been on a recruiting drive.

And Melbourne — Australia's second largest city — is a great place for small businesses according to their Agent General's office in London (www.liveinvictoria.vic.gov.au).

“The sheer size of Australia can be daunting, but Victoria is a compact state which has everything: culture, Alpine skiing and beaches,” says their man in London, Nathan Cox.

So, as the controversial TV adverts by the Australian tourist board asked British viewers in rather more blunt terms, what are you waiting for?

Further Reading

  • Government of Western Australia State Migration Centre: 0061 89220 0222, www.migration.wa.gov.au
  • For an explanation of the points system and different types of visa, see Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship: www.immi.gov.au

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