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City Profiles - where should I settle ?

settling in Australia

Where should I settle in Australia?

A very big question. You've got four main factors, the job situation, the cost of real estate (whether to buy or rent) and the climate. Plus whether you have relatives/friends locally. That can make a big difference in settling in.

  • Sydney. Has a great (although often windy) climate and a vibrant economy. The big disadvantage is the cost of real-estate - it's a lot more expensive than elsewhere in Australia. Even if you go to the far western suburbs like Campbelltown, or the Central Coast (Gosford area) you will find your dollar does not go nearly as far as elsewhere in Australia. And living in these areas will involve a long commute if you are working in the Central Business District.
    In my opinion, families with children should strongly consider settling in another part of Australia. Single migrants or couples without children could think about Sydney as maybe a location for a few years, but be prepared to move interstate when children arrive.
    A compromise if you want to live in this area might be to live in Newcastle or Wollongong, but you would need to find work locally in these cities as although cost of living is lower, neither are generally within commuting distance of Sydney on a day to day basis. Both these cities suffered industrial trauma in the late 1980s/early 1990s when a lot of their heavy industries shut down, and although they are recovering, they still have their problems. Newcastle, for example, has one of the highest unemployment rates of any Australian city.
  • Melbourne. Melbourne's climate is very different to Sydney's. Winters are colder (about 14C/57F) on a winter's day, about 3C/5F colder than in Sydney. That makes a big difference to the lifestyle you can have, especially as Melbourne skies in winter are a lot greyer than Sydney's. In summer, Melbourne is probably better than Sydney, in that it's equally warm and drier (also less humid). Even in summer though, Melbourne's weather can be variable.
    Melbourne is probably a more liveable city than Sydney, its road system in particular is better. Melbourne's economy is a lot stronger now than in the early 1990s, and it remains the centre for Australia's manufacturing industry. Real estate in Melbourne is about 30-35% cheaper than in Sydney.
  •  Brisbane. Has a wonderful climate (winter about 21C/70F), although summer is relatively wet and humid. Brisbane's economy is fast growing and diversifying, and real-estate is far more competitively priced than Sydney or even Melbourne. A downside of Brisbane is that the city centre is somewhat tattier than the other major state capitals in Australia.
    A recent problem in Brisbane is an infestation of fireants in some suburbs (two separate epicentres, one in the south west and one near the port). The Queensland government is trying hard to eradicate this pest - discovered in early 2001 - but in the meantime there are reports that infested areas have been affected by real-estate blight.
    It is possible to live on the Gold Coast and commute into Brisbane (about 1 hour). The Sunshine Coast to the north, however, is a little too far away to commute to Brisbane on a daily basis.
  •  Perth. Almost like a mini-California, Perth has great prospects. It has possibly the best climate in Australia (mild in winter, hot and dry in summer), a fast growing economy (with a lot of emphasis on resource based industries) coupled with relatively cheap real-estate and terrific beaches and parks. The biggest disadvantage of Perth is its isolation - Adelaide is your nearest substantial neighbour and that's over 3 hours flying time away.
  •  Adelaide. Although a lovely city, Adelaide has lagged the rest of Australia in recent decades. Adelaide's biggest advantage is it's low cost of living - it has the cheapest real-estate of any major Australian city. Finding a job is more difficult though, although not impossible. However, if your profession is something like nursing or teaching, Adelaide might be quite a good choice. Nurses and teachers, for example are in demand throughout Australia and because of the low cost of living, people in these professions will probably have a higher standard of living in Adelaide than they would have in Sydney or Melbourne.
    Adelaide is on roughly the same latitude as Sydney but its climate is very different. Adelaide's winters are cooler and wetter than Sydney's, but its summers are normally hotter and drier.
  •  Canberra. Although the ACT government is trying to encourage other industries to locate there, Canberra is very much a government city. Which can cause a problem for migrants as Australian citizenship is required for most federal government jobs.
    In comparison to Sydney, Canberra is quite cold in winter (by Australian standards), with about 12C/54F during the day and night-time temperatures often dropping well below freezing (-5C is quite common). Summer though is hot and dry, and Canberra's skies are often clear and sunny throughout the year.
    As a planned city, Canberra is neat and orderly and very easy to get around, but not nearly as 'lively' as city as Sydney or Melbourne. If that's what you're looking for, then Canberra is not for you. But the area around Canberra is very beautiful (as long as you're not looking for beaches on your doorstep) and the ski fields in winter are only a few hours drive to the south.
  •  Hobart. Tasmania is probably only for a specific type of migrant who's not looking for an especially warm climate (Tasmania's climate is similar to that of North West Europe, with average daytime temperatures in high summer of 22C/72F). That said, leaving climate aside, Tasmania can offer a very good lifestyle provided you can find a job there. The state has traditionally lagged the rest of Australia and unless you have specific skills in demand there finding a job may be difficult. Once you do find a job, salary levels won't be as high as elsewhere in Australia, although the cost of real estate is also low.
  •  Darwin. Once a backwater, Darwin is now one of the fastest growing areas in Australia, helped by its proximity to Asia and new projects that will be completed in the next few years (development of the Alice Springs - Darwin railway and Timor Sea gas, to name but two). Darwin's population is still relatively small, at 100,000 and its isolation from the rest of Australia means that the cost of living there is higher than in most other States. Nevertheless, if you are looking for somewhere more unusual and exciting to live in Australia, Darwin could be worth investigating. The still small size of the Northern Territory economy means that the job market isn't as broad based as elsewhere and finding a suitable role might take longer. The biggest challenge for someone from the UK moving to Darwin would be the climate - especially in the wet season from November to March/April. Temperature-wise, Darwin at this time of year is often no hotter than Perth, but it is a lot more humid.

There are opportunities elsewhere in Australia, especially in regional centres in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. In terms of size, some of these towns and cities, like Townsville and Cairns in Queensland can rival Darwin or Hobart, as can the opportunities they offer. But you would need to investigate the location thoroughly before deciding to move there.

Realistically, the four main centres of economic activity in Australia are around Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. And in my opinion alone, the best compromises between economic opportunities and cost/quality of living - especially for families - are offered by Brisbane (although this might change if the fireants take hold there) and Perth.




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