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Where to Live for Expats in Australia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Finding the right place to live in Australia depends on many factors. There are practical considerations such as house prices, the cost of living and availability of local amenities. Then there are the emotional criteria that make up the desirability of a place - whether what you desire is happiness, safety, friendly locals or an active social life.

Australia is a vast land mass, but is sparsely populated. Much of the centre of the continent, the Outback, is desert or semi-desert and is largely unsuitable for permanent human habitation. The Outback is certainly visited by expats, and worked in by some, but very few settle here.

Most Australians, and the vast majority of expats and recent immigrants, live in the five largest cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne. The cost of living in Australia is high in these cities, though Adelaide is a little less expensive that the others. Outside the cities, prices are somewhat lower.

More people immigrate to Sydney than any other Australian city. This has made it a very multicultural city. Sydney is expensive, but it promises a good life. There are plenty of things to do: cultural activities, excellent nightlife, shopping, sport from windsurfing to rock climbing in the Blue Mountains. There are fine beaches as well. Sydney is Australia’s financial capital, and tends to be more business-orientated and not as laid-back as other parts of the country.

Canberra, Australia’s capital, is also popular with immigrants and will be appropriate for you if your line of work is connected to diplomacy or embassies. Because it was planned, Canberra is a well-ordered and strikingly green city. It provides a sedate alternative to the frenetic pace of Sydney.

Melbourne is the second most popular expat city, and Australia’s second most important city. It is also less brash than Sydney and has a milder climate. Melbourne has one of the highest rankings for ‘most liveable city’ in the world, and is also famous for its trams.

Queensland has a very fine climate, outstanding natural beauty and fine beaches. The fast-growing state capital, Brisbane, which is well-known in Australia for its laid-back pace of life, is very popular for its beaches and outdoor pursuits, including exploring the Great Barrier Reef which is nearby.

Western Australia has the third highest number of immigrants, most of them moving to the Greater Perth area. Australia’s largest state is rich in highly sought-after minerals such as gold, oil and uranium, and its economy is driven by the extraction of these resources. The Enterprise Migration Agreement has recently been set up to encourage foreign migrants to Western Australia to make up the shortage in this and other skill areas. Perth and its environs have all the conveniences you would expect of a modern city and a high lifestyle quality. The everyday cost of living in Western Australia is certainly high, though wages more than compensate for this.

If you are on one of the skilled migration programmes, the place where you live may be determined by where you are needed. This is likely to be in a smaller city, for example in the hinterland of New South Wales or Victoria, known as the bush. The Australian government is encouraging people to live in this area to relieve overcrowding in the larger cities.

 

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