Making a living in Australia

moneyI get a lot of questions from readers about how to get a job in Australia. I wish there was a magic pill to that dilemma because I want it too. However, I do know what people did to make the money to make life in Australia possible. (Note that I didn’t say get a job). So want moolah to make your life in Australia possible? Here are some of the ways you can do it:

1. Get a job the traditional way

Send your CV to the resume cloud in Seek or Career One. Hope that it’ll hit. Somehow. I know people who have sent hundreds of resumes but did not get a single interview. It can be a tough slog as Australia is a very competitive market and there’s this whole “no local experience” thing that Australian employers are hung up about.

It’s a Catch-22 situation, but not hopeless. If you’re just off the boat, network immediately by volunteering at organisations that have “jobs” that you hope to land one day.

For example, I recently found a volunteering position with St John’s at Seek Volunteer. I’m seeking to get into media and marketing, and the role was perfect for it. By volunteering, you’d be able to network and get that precious referee. (In Australia, referees can make or break a job application.)

I know a lady who volunteered at a nursing home, and when she applied for a Lifestyle Coordinator position, she was accepted because of her long service in the company. So, while sending your resumes to the resume pool, keep yourself busy by volunteering. You can never know what may come your way.

2. Retrain 

This is what I did. For one, this was in line with what I wanted to do. In many ways, coming to Australia was a career break of sorts. I was toying with the idea of going into healthcare, so I thought that I could try my hand at being a personal carer (nursing assistant). The Cert III Aged Care training was short (two to six months), cost only $2k (though, thanks to Skills for All, I only paid $200) and would equip me with skills I would need to be a nurse. Also, being a carer was an excellent way to see if nursing is a viable career path for me. (After two years, I decided that it wasn’t, but that’s a story for another day).

What course should I take? If you want to go down the practical route (and there’s no shame in that), look up Skills for All’s report on South Australia’s growth industries. Health Care and Social Assistance, which I’m in, is fortunately one of these.  So if you choose to retrain, do your research carefully and see what’s the course that will land you the job.


  • You may end up in a career you love!
  • Although you may not  adore you new career, if you choose your industry well, you will have the income that you need to survive in Australia.


  • Time & Cost for retraining.
  • Breaking into a new industry with zilch experience can be challenging. Again, try to volunteer first to network.

3. Create your own job by starting a business

I did this too. When I first landed in Adelaide, one of the first things I did was to do some freelance writing and web consulting. I had clients in Malaysia and Australia. However, I decided to close it and just jump into my aged care thing. Since I was time crunched (I had to work 35 hours per week for a year to fulfil my visa requirements) and wasn’t exactly swimming in cash, I didn’t have the luxury to hunt for clients while I eat beans and rice. It was fun, however, to be my own boss. I had name cards and invoices and even an ABN number! Now that I have my PR and am free of the constraints of the 475 visa, I’m going to restart my writing business again. 🙂

What can you do? I have met migrants who sold Malaysian food online and some who repaired cars on the side. A friend told me about the story of a man who went door to door doing chores for homes!

Anyway, besides going freelance (or being a sole trader, as they call it here), I know some friends who bought cleaning franchises and worked as cleaners. You may go, “Euw, cleaner?” But let me tell you there’s absolutely no shame in doing this. Better – you may earn quite a decent amount of dough! Who cares what people think when you can use the money to pay the bills!

Anyway, if cleaning doesn’t rock your boat, there are other franchises (with varying price tags) to choose from.


  • You don’t have to wait around for a job.
  • You can be your own boss.


  • The capital can be high. A franchise can come with a $15k or more price tag.
  • Having to deal with business and tax laws.
  • Dealing with business matters such as finding clients and managing staff.

There you have it. It’s by no means a definite list, so if you have any other suggestions or ideas, be free to chime in at the comments section!

Photo by TALUDA.


4 thoughts on “Making a living in Australia

  1. Alternatively ask for a transfer if you are working for a big firm in Malaysia. Be prepared for a couple of years of less salary compared to the locals but that’s the price to pay. Nothing comes easy so if you are not prepared for some tough times then stay wherever you are. Fortune favours the bold 😉

  2. This is a very good write-up, Susan! Thank you for sharing your research with us. It’ll certainly go a long way towards helping those who want to embark on this journey.

    I think it’s important to realise that the government is the largest employer in any economy, as well as the largest spender.

    By comparison to Malaysia, the government in Australia is much more fiscally responsible. They don’t just build new highways or dams on a whim. Nor do they create and expand new state-owned entities just for the sake of it.

    Most Malaysians will look at this and go, ‘That’s great. That means less corruption. I want to live in such a country.’

    But wait. There’s a price to be paid. Remember what I said about the government being the largest employer in any economy? Well, if the government is tight-fisted with spending, then jobs are not created, and competition becomes stiffer.

    For example, in Malaysia, the government has a controlling stake in publications like The Star and The New Straits Times. This creates opportunities for journalists and editors.

    In Australia, the government has no such interests. They own no media outlets at all. In this instance, journalists and editors are purely at the mercy of the free market.

    I could offer many other such examples, but I think you get the gist.

    Choosing to live in a country where the civil service is run with more honest and integrity is a great goal. However, potential migrants must be aware that it’s not a win-win situation. You must be willing to compromise to achieve your dream as well.

    Another issue is that of minimum wage. In Malaysia, the average minimum wage is just over RM4 an hour. In Australia, it’s just under A$17 an hour. That’s a hefty sum, and you have to convince employers you’re really meeting a certain standard before they’ll hire you.

    Worker rights are fairly strong as well, meaning it’s not so easy to hire and fire like Malaysia. It’s yet another reason why employers are very selective.

    In short, there are many obstacles to tackle and overcome. In my opinion, a potential migrate has to give themselves at least 10 years to settle in properly and build a life in Australia. It does take that long to find your footing.

  3. Dear Susan,

    Thank you for interesting posts. I’ve been following your blog since 2013. Yup, migration indeed a daunting and adventure tasks. After almost 2 years of waiting, we (hubby and 2 school going children aged 10&11) finally got our regional sponsored visa subclass 489 last March.

    Well, after the long waiting game we decided to make the leap. We will make our initial entry next June. Hence, we would be appreciated if you or anyone in SA could be able to share or recommend us on which suburbs suitable for living ( with moderate rental) and primary schools for new migrant. Thank you and Happy Good Friday!

  4. Hi Susan,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences on your blog. Could I ask you for advice on retraining for the purposes of migrating to Australia? I know you did it by becoming a nursing assistant.

    I’ve been looking at skilled independent 189 visa and the state sponsored 190 visa for skills that I could retrain for to qualify for those visas. Unfortunately it seems that for all occupations listed they require formal qualifications and anywhere from 1-5 years experience to get a positive skills assessment. That’s a really long time.

    Could you give me any advice on what or how I could find out what occupations can one retrain for in the fastest manner possible? I think your nursing assistant path is one option, but are there any others? Thank you for your help.

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