So you've taken the plunge and decided to settle in the so-called most isolated city in the world? Or are you a relatively-new migrant who just wants to see how you are faring with your settlement? Well, welcome to the club and I hope you'll soon call Perth your new home sweet home.
As adapted in Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' stages of grief, any significant change of life circumstance is expected to bring about three major stages: (1) shock and denial, (2) anger and depression, and; (3) acceptance and integration. It is important to be aware that migrants will somehow go through these stages as they try to assimilate with their new habitat. As someone who is actually going through these stages, I would like to share some practical tips based on the lessons I have learned with the hope that your integration can be as smooth as possible.
1. Do first things first
Check out the Settle in Australia guides in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website. It has loads of information for all new arrivals, including skilled migrants, family migrants, refugees and humanitarian entrants. It is comprehensive enough that I try not to duplicate in this article anything that's been covered there already.
2. Watch your finances
I am assuming that you've brought in some savings to fund your settlement. I suggest that you visit the Moneysmart website of Australian Securities and Investment Commission. It is also a good idea to consult with an independent financial advisor to get an advice on your finances but do not make major decisions unless you are sure that you have done enough research. If you are not ready to make any big financial decisions yet, just park your savings in a high-interest online savings account. Check out Canstar, RateCity or other market comparison websites to compare savings accounts, term deposits, life and non-life insurance, energy providers, etc. If you have plans of buying your own home within the next few years, you may consider opening a First Home Saver's Account (FHSA). Check out the pros and cons of having this account. I realise that most big banks don't usually have this type of account because they promote the low deposit home loan schemes.
3. Simplify selection of primary and secondary schools for children
Before your arrival in Perth, I assumed that you already made a research about schools in WA. If not, then it's good to start checking out the websites of WA Department of Education (public education), the Association of Independent Schools of WA (AISWA), My School or The Australian's Your School report. Whilst I struggled to select a school for my child in the beginning, I learned that it is better that you set your selection criteria first then look for a specific school that meets all or most of those criteria. One important thing I learned though is that if you prefer to enrol your children in a private exclusive school, be aware that most sought-after secondary schools are usually booked way in advance so even if your child is years away from entering secondary school, it is best to register as early as possible to avoid disappointments.
4. Research, research, research
As you continue with your migrant journey, I cannot overemphasise the value of research. Visit as much government websites and reliable information resources as you can. Attend free seminars whenever you can, hang out in your local library or spend time in bookstores to read anything relevant about Australian lifestyle.
5. Have fun job-hunting
I always tell new migrants never to say they are jobless because job-hunting is actually a full-time job. The guides provided in Settle in AustraliaHow to Find Work provide starting points where and how to find work. Check that your CV or resume is formatted to Australian norms. Register for an account with www.seek.com and subscribe to its job alerts. Research for companies in your work discipline and visit their websites to find out job opportunities. If you are a qualified professional or tradesperson, apply for membership to organisations that promote your work discipline so you can attend their gatherings and start your network. Set a specific time of the day when you will be dedicated to just submitting job applications and stick to that routine. From my experience, job market in WA is very competitive and volatile and it takes a lot of effort and perseverance to find a job.
6. Keep your sanity - socialise and join communities
While you are facing daunting tasks in your settlement journey, don't forget to regularly unwind and re-energise. At this stage you need all the energy to face all the challenges in your new home. Subscribe to weekendnotes so you are updated with the happenings around and attend events you and your family are interested with. If you have a Facebook account, join relevant Perth groups so you get familiar with places, people and issues. I find thePerth WA Crime Reports group very useful as regards crime and safety in the community. Join your local communities and find clubs or organisations according to your interests. "No man is an island" and there is always a benefit in keeping in touch with your fellow human beings.
7. Learn common Aussie lingo
I realised that even though you may have come from an English-speaking country, you will still find Aussie words that are worth adding to your vocabulary. Check out Monash University's "A Very Short Dictionary of Australian Slang" and ASA Group's Aussie Slang so you are not clueless when somebody calls you a sandgroper or asks you if you want a brekkie in Maccas.
8. Be street-smart
It might take a while to gain confidence in and around Perth especially with its multi-cultural environment and sometimes unique business models. For once, I didn't know that there is such a thing as a "cooling-off period" when you make a purchase or sign a contract. I also didn't know that you can bargain and haggle especially when purchasing cars, home appliances and electronics. I also had my share of being discriminated and treated as a second class citizen even after swearing to Advance Australia Fair. But one thing I keep reminding myself is that knowledge is power – you have to know the law (both written and unwritten), rules and your rights so you can be more confident in your interaction and be able to assert your rights and privileges.
According to most migrants I have surveyed, it took them about five years before they settled in a new place. Well, this need not be a benchmark and this depends on each individual's circumstances. Wherever you are in your migrant journey now, the important thing to note is that you could see improvements, how little they may be, and that you are progressing towards the stage of acceptance and integration. Be patient, be open to all possibilities, take things one day at a time, have fun and adopt the Aussie "no worries" mindset.
A Very Clear and Simple to grasp language , first hand experience , helpful appropriate sites and of course ' hits the bulls eye ' makes this one of the useful articles I have read for us migrants . Thank you . melwani
I wouldn't recommend transferring money over here until you are well & truly settled. If you end up returning to the UK you will lose any interest made due to the exchange rate.
We have been in Perth for 2 yrs, I haven't made it past the depressed stage so we are going back. For many different reasons we haven't wanted to call WA home. Good luck to any new migrants - it is a compromise!
Hi Sandee, only today I came across with your article. Very clear and handful tips.
Last week I launched tow of my projects with immigrants: Keep Moving Forward Emotional Support for Immigrant and the Immigrants Business Networking Association. Both projects have the collaboration of City of Joondalup and Sixty27. I would love to meet you and know more about your experiences as a migrant in Perth. Cheers firstname.lastname@example.org