Common Questions on Moving to Australia as a UK Junior Doctor
Moving to another country is always a big decision, especially to Australia since it is so far away from home. Such a move may not be for everyone, but it always helps to know everything you can before you move so you can make a well-informed decision.
We break this topic down in detail in our article 'To Aus or not to Aus?', which weighs the benefits against the downsides and gives you a framework for evaluating whether it might be a good fit for you. If you haven't seen that... we'd recommend reading that one first.
If you still have questions, in this article will answer the most commonly asked questions from doctors who are weighing up whether a move Down Under is right for them and busting some myths along the way too!
🌞 Is the weather really that good?
Generally, the weather is one of the main benefits of living in Australia, especially when compared to the UK! Australia gets significantly more sunshine than the UK, with a much shorter Winter. Thanks to this weather, most people enjoy an outdoor lifestyle which makes it much easier to be fit and active year-round.
However, like most countries, good weather depends on where you live. It is a common belief that Melbourne and Victoria have the most “British” weather while NSW and QLD on the East Coast have the sunnier weather. However, this is not necessarily true. La Niña has been present three years in a row making the East Coast rainy in the Summer while Melbourne gets all the sun.
With that said, generally, the weather is still better in Australia than it is in the UK. Also, the weather is what you make of it. You can still enjoy the outdoors even if there are a few clouds in the sky or a slight drizzle. Surfing, for example, is a great activity to do whatever the weather.
Additionally, the winters in NSW and QLD are short, only lasting a month or two. However, in Melbourne, it’s a different story. The winters can last longer and can be quite grey and cold.
Lastly, as you may know, there has been a lot of extreme weather in Australia lately with widespread bushfires and floods. So, that is always something to consider.
✈️ Does it take a long time to settle in?
First moving to Australia can be a bit of a shock to the system, especially if you start working right away. You may find that you are on vacation mode instead of working mode and just want to explore your new surroundings. This can create a bit of a personal conflict until you adjust.
Adjusting may take one or two months as you have to juggle many things at once like finding somewhere to live, finding a car, starting a new job, juggling a social life, trying to plan trips, and trying to accommodate friends and family who want to visit.
🙏 What is the work/life balance like?
Once you get settled into living in Australia, the work/life balance can be pretty dreamy. There aren’t many places you could live that allow you to see whales on your walk to work and then swim in the ocean after.
Also, sometimes you can bunch your shifts together so that you work 80 hours in two weeks and then have a whole week off which gives you more time to explore. Additionally, rota co-ordinators know that most Brits move to Australia to enjoy their time there and travel so they can often pair rotas with friends so they have the same days off.
👩🏻👨 Is it easy to make friends?
Given that Australians are notoriously friendly, it is quite easy to make friends in Australia. Apart from locals, there is a huge network of British junior doctors which makes it very easy to connect with like-minded people.
Often there are groups of friends that have a nice mix of F3s and F4s. As an F3, the F4s in the 'year above' act as an excellent source of information for travel inspiration and career advice.
Usually, these doctors are involved in lots of activities like social events and sporting teams and will gladly have you join.
📄 Is it going to make my application for core training in the UK look weaker?
Some people may have different opinions on taking a year or two in Australia as a junior doctor, but as long as you make your CV clearly explain what you did in Australia, you shouldn’t face any issues.
In fact, it may even make your application stronger since it shows that you had an experience that can be somewhat challenging and in the end, you succeeded. All in all, it shows great determination.
But, of course, you’ll come across the people who say you just had an extended vacation in Australia and only worked a little bit. And, what’s wrong with that? Especially after working extremely grim years during COVID. This just shows that you are a well-rounded individual who understands that you need to put yourself first sometimes in order to be your best version which ultimately improves your patients' and co-workers’ lives. The right people will respect that.
📅 Can I apply for a 6-month contract or does it have to be a full 12 months?
Most jobs are for a 12 month period. The hospitals will pay to sponsor your visa, and so want you to stay around for a full year to recoup that investment.
Most people stay for a whole 12 months, if not more. There is a lot of paperwork and upfront costs to stay for just 6 months, so it’s almost not worth it.
But, if a year seems like too long, 6 months may be possible. The Australian academic year is February to February, and hospitals are aware that a lot of British doctors want to move out in August. So if you are planning to start in August, you can occasionally find a 6 month contract which then aligns you with the Australian academic year since it will end in February. In some cases, they may even extend it to the following February, so 18 months, without you having to deal with any extra paper work.
Another option is to apply for a 12 month contract and leave before it ends or a find another job elsewhere. But, keep in mind that more tedious paperwork will be involved.
Also, a side note: If you want to move from Provisional registration to get General registration and start locuming, you have to complete at least a year working as a doctor in Australia. See this article for more information on eligibility and registration types if this is new to you.
🛩 Can I come home if I don’t like it? What is the notice period for most jobs?
You can absolutely head home if you are not enjoying your experience. Moving across the world is not for everybody, so feel free to speak up if you are not happy and want to move home.
However, before you make a hasty decision, talk with your workforce people and try to come to a solution that doesn’t involve leaving. It’s in their interest to keep you happy so they will be very receptive in discussing any issues you are having.
But, if you are certain that you want to leave, the notice period is typically between 4-8 weeks in advance depending on where in Australia you are working.
💍 Is it possible to go back to the UK multiple times a year if I have weddings or other events?
Yes, but there are a few things to consider. Mainly, it is expensive, time-consuming, and exhausting to go back and forth between the UK and Australia often. However, seeing your friends and family may lift your spirits and make it all worth it. Also, if you are money savvy in Australia, more than one trip back to the UK is not financially unreasonable.
You also have to think about work, of course. It may be difficult to get multiple blocks of 10-14 days off per year especially if you want to use your annual paid vacation time. However, you can always tell your employer you are going to take unpaid leave if you really need to.
To make life easier for you, it is wise to be upfront with your employer about the amount of time you want to take off. Give them plenty of notice, be organised, and be honest about why you need the time. This will increase your chances of receiving the time off since there will be clear and honest communication involved which they will respect.
When you do get back from the UK, to save you from some weird jet lag moments, you can work night shifts. This way you will be staying on UK time and your body may adjust more smoothly.
💃💃 Can I apply with my friends/partner who is also a medic/not a medic?
You can definitely apply with your friends or partners to work in Australia whether they are a medic or not! In fact, many medic employers are used to this and enjoy employing two people at once. Of course, you will have to interview separately but if you let them know you are applying with someone else, they are usually very good at accommodating both of you to work together.
👩 Is Australia dangerous? What about for a solo-female traveller?
Like anything, using your common sense will make it less likely to run into any trouble. So, to give you some common sense on Australia, here are a few different things to keep in mind.
🐊 Crocodiles - If you don’t follow people’s advice and swim in saltwater crocodile-infested water or don’t wear a “stinger suit” in the water during deadly jellyfish season, you’re putting yourself at risk.
🕷 Spiders - There are lots of spiders in Australia, and most of them are harmless (but look terrifying). Avoid keeping your shoes outside/check there aren’t any spiders inside if you have left them outside. Don’t do things like putting your hand in holes in the garden (goes without saying).
🐍 Snakes - Your exposure to snakes may be minimal but it is still wise to keep an eye out. Definitely don’t go walking in any high grass where you can’t see the ground. Also, snakes can be in the ocean too, just to let you know.
🦘 Kangaroos - Kangaroos can be quite unpredictable at dawn/dusk with jumping into the roads. So, if you’re travelling to rural places at these times just be aware that you might need to swerve (especially if your car doesn’t have “roo bars”).
🌞 Weather - The weather can be extreme at times but again, just be sensible. As long as you’re armed with a good waterproof (for la niña downpours) and are prepared to slap on the SPF 50, you’ll be alright. For most hikes, there are lots of signs reminding you not to go at certain times of the year if it’s too hot and to take plenty of water any time of the year.
🙅 Crime - Like anywhere else, there are pockets of deprived areas where theft and assault are more common but hard to generalise on a country level.
📚 This article is part of Messly's Ultimate Guide to Working in Australia. The guide covers all you need to know as a UK doctor to understand your options, research your move, find work, get registered and move out to Australia.
This article was written with input from Dr Florence Vincent, a British junior doctor who moved to Newcastle, NSW as an F3 and is currently working at Prince Of Wales Hospital in central Sydney.
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