Adventures — 20 October 2020 at 5:59 pm

Thinking of straying to Straya? The Definitive Junior Doctors’ Guide to Living and Working in Australia

Dr Ella Bennett / Anaesthetics Trainee, Edinburgh
Dr Jack Leach / IMT Trainee, Edinburgh

Whether you’re looking for a temporary adventure or a more long-term training plan, Australia is one of the most popular options for junior doctors moving abroad and it’s not hard to see why. Famed for it’s eternal sunshine, outdoor lifestyle and opportunities for remote and rural training, Australia is an adventure medic’s paradise. 

The draw of sunnier climes is all very well but making the move can be an intimidating prospect. With seemingly endless form-filling, a sizeable financial commitment and a daunting immigration process to navigate, Australia is not without its difficulties. Adventure Medic are delighted to team up with UK junior doctor Ella Bennett to help guide you through the process in her ‘Definitive Junior Doctors’ Guide to Working and Living in Australia’. 

Contents

  1. Checklists
  2. The Australian system
  3. The Application
    1. How to apply
    2. What to apply for
    3. Where to apply
    4. Important dates
  4. Applying for medical registration
    1. AMC
    2. AHPRA
  5. Visa application and medical
  6. Things you’ll need to start work
    1. Medical registration – completing AHPRA
    2. Indemnity
    3. Occupational Health (OH)
    4. GMC licence
  7. Things you’ll need to live
    1. Relocation help/remuneration
    2. Accommodation
    3. Bank Accounts
    4. Tax File Number
    5. Superannuation/pension contributions
    6. Healthcare
    7. Car
    8. Phone
    9. Student Loans
  8. Things to know about work
    1. Pay and working hours
    2. Annual leave and study leave
    3. AHPRA requirements
  9. Fees and finances
  10. About the authors

Before you start

The key to a stress-free transition to Australia is being prepared. The following checklists detail everything you will need to find a job, get your health practitioner registration (AHPRA), secure a visa, and finally, move. The financial commitment is substantial (see Fees and Finances) and you will become a master of form-filling. Be prepared for small hiccups along the way and some un-anticipated delays. It can be a long and stressful process but don’t lose sight of the end goal; better working conditions, improved pay and days off on the beach! We promise it’ll be worth it…

1. Checklists

Documents for your applications

  • Cover letter
  • CV 
  • Contact details for 3 referees
  • GMC Licence to Practise certificate
  • Medical degree certificate
  • Passport
  • Evidence +/- ability to obtain the right to live and work in Australia
  • Proof of current indemnity

Documents for medical registration and visa application after you have secured a job

  • *Medical degree certificate x2
  • *Passport x2
  • *Driver’s licence x2
  • A scanned passport photograph
  • Copy of Australian job offer
  • Foundation Programme Competencies Certificate 
  • Certificate of Good Standing (CoGS) from the GMC
  • Australian police check – Fit2work of AIS (see AHPRA section)
  • UK ACRO police check

*Documents that need certifying

Once you have submitted your AMC, AHPRA and visa applications

  • Book visa health check 
  • Book flights (check baggage allowance offered by different airlines and routes)
  • Contact Student Loans Company if you have a student loan to arrange compulsory payments while you are earning abroad
  • Decide whether to relinquish your GMC licence to practice or whether to keep revalidating in the UK
  • Sort Australian indemnity cover
  • Arrange initial accommodation in Australia if employer doesn’t provide it
  • Request to set up Australian bank account online
  • Transfer money into your Australian account before you fly to ensure it transfers in time
  • Tell your UK banks that you’re going away to cover using your cards until your Australian bank account is up and running
  • Take out some Australian dollars to cover your initial expenditures
  • Consider booking annual leave for your first job
  • Complete Occupational Health paperwork – this will be sent to you by your employer
  • Join social media group for your hospital

Once you arrive in Australia

  • Visit AHPRA office to verify identity 
  • Pay a visit to Occupational Health and complete anything out-standing
  • Activate bank account, request debit/credit card and get a printed statement for address confirmation at the same meeting
  • Complete Payroll documents including TFN (tax file number) application and Superannuation forms– these will be given to you by your employer
  • Get an Australian sim card
  • Start flat and car hunting 
  • Enjoy the sunshine!

2. The Australian System

The Australian healthcare system is a mixed system; it has a universal public branch and a private, insurance-funded, branch. The public system is funded by Medicare, a form of public health insurance similar to National Insurance in the UK. This subsides approximately 75% of GP costs, 85% of specialist out-patient costs and 100% of public in-patient costs. 

The reality of this system is that all patients, regardless of their insurance status, present to public Emergency Departments before being referred on to either a private or public department. This is why most hospital sites in Australia contain neighbouring public and private hospitals. 

In the context of moving to Australia for work, this is relevant for two main reasons: firstly, you can choose to work in either a public hospital or a private hospital as a junior doctor and secondly, you will find yourself talking to patients about insurance for (probably) the first time in your career.

Australian Medical Grades

The medical year begins with term 1 in late January or early February depending on your grade. As a UK graduate post-foundation training, you will be eligible to apply to both Resident Medical Officer (Senior House Officer) or Principal House Officer (Junior Registrar) posts. The term ‘Resident Medical Officer’ is used to cover all doctors between intern level and registrar level (see table below) and is often used as a surrogate for ‘SHO’ in job adverts. Job adverts occasionally specify Post Graduate Year (PGY) but this is more common in New Zealand.

Australian medical grades with UK equivalent

Years after graduation UK Australia  General terms
1 FY1 Intern
Resident Medical Officer (RMO)
Junior Medical Officer (JMO)
PGY1
Resident Medical Officer (RMO)

Senior House Officer (SHO)

Junior Medical Officer (JMO)

2 FY2 RMO, SHO, PGY2
3-4/5 CT1-3, SHO PHO, junior registrar 
4/5-7 ST4+, registrar  Senior registrar
7+ Consultant, GP Senior Medical Officer SMO

 

3. The Application

(a) How to Apply

There are 3 main ways to secure a post in Australia:

  1. Recruitment drives
  2. Emailing hospitals directly
  3. Online job adverts

The fourth method, and anecdotally least common, of finding a job is through a locum agency. I had no luck with this as found many of the posts I was offered were not the correct grade or location. Finding a job through an agency appears to be more common once you have been granted full registration in Australia (see ‘AHPRA requirements’ under Things to know about work). 

Regardless of how you find a job, most hospitals will want to interview you. This is usually done by telephone or skype (on Aussie time!) so be prepared to put your work clothes over your PJs and stay up until 3 am. Having done 5 or 6 interviews ourselves, the common theme was that they were largely informal with a standard ABCDE clinical scenario to talk through.

1. Recruitment Drives

There are no country-wide recruitment dates so these must be found from state Health Board websites or by emailing medical staffing departments. As a rough guide, Queensland and South Australia commence their campaigns in June/July with interviews in August/September – most health boards will be flexible with exact start dates once they have offered you a job. 

Recruitment drive posts will usually be rotational. You can find details of the RMO campaigns for Queensland  and South Australia on their regional pages.

2. Emailing hospitals directly

The most common way to find vacancies is to contact medical staffing for each hospital or email consultants directly. Attaching a cover letter and CV to your email will increase your chances of a reply. This is a long process but is often fruitful and usually allows more flexibility regarding job specifics. These are usually not rotational posts with the opportunity to step-up grades when you feel ready. Many departments will be used to couples or groups of friends applying together and are happy to accommodate this where possible.

3. Online job adverts

Health Boards will usually have a vacancies page on their main website advertising any posts available. These vary in how up to date they are, so it is always worth emailing the hospital if you are interested. Job adverts can also be found on websites such as seek and recruit. States will often advertise their recruitment campaigns this way too.

(b) What to apply for?

After finishing FY2 you will be eligible to apply for both RMO/SHO posts and registrar/PHO jobs in Australia [see table above]. 

Resident Medical Officers are similar to FY2 posts in the UK. They can be useful to gain experience in specialties you haven’t done during F1/2, for example, more time in surgical specialties, ED, etc. If you do know what you’ll train in, they can be useful to build points for an application (e.g. Anaesthesia applications give points for 12+ months post-F2 in “complementary specialties”). Their downfall is that you’re not really progressing; it’s like doing more time in an F1 or F2 role. RMO/SHO posts are usually available as both rotational posts across different departments or as stand-alone posts in one department depending on your preference.

Registrar or Principal House Officer posts are more like core-training jobs in the UK. They are great if you want a step-up from FY2, particularly if you know what you want to specialise in. They are better paid than RMO jobs as you would expect but give greater responsibility and are less supported. In addition to this, they usually require some experience in the specialty before applying. It is also worth noting that in most departments, particularly in medicine and A&E, the registrar will be the most senior doctor in the hospital overnight so expect to advise and supervise juniors! This can be a great training opportunity, particularly in remote areas, if it is something you are interested in!

(c) Where to apply?

Australia has it all, from coastal cities to remote rainforest (and even a few ski resorts in between!). Where you apply is really down to personal choice. With some perseverance, it is relatively straightforward to find a job in most of the bigger cities. These jobs tend to be more competitive, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, and therefore usually less flexible. It’s worth widening your net depending on your circumstances: Adelaide, Brisbane and Cairns, for instance, have a reputation for being more accommodating of groups and couples than the bigger cities.  

Alternatively, jobs in smaller towns and rural areas are plentiful and many city jobs will offer a ‘half-way house’ option allowing you to include a rural rotation if this interests you. One of the major benefits of Australia’s huge size is that even the smallest towns usually have a regional airport making weekend trips, and longer escapes, very feasible. It’s also worth bearing in mind that ‘rural’ doesn’t always mean remote – I did a rural secondment a mere 40-minute drive from Brisbane city centre.

As a general guide, smaller cities and more rural locations will offer far better remuneration packages for taking a post there. Cairns, for example, generally offers posts with paid flights, 10 weeks of free accommodation and a generous moving allowance. Tasmania and many of the smaller East Coast towns offer similar. Bigger more popular cities like Sydney and Melbourne generally offer no financial help with moving, with cities like Brisbane and Adelaide falling somewhere in between.

(d) Important Dates

The Australian medical year is divided into ‘terms’ or rotations running from late January for RMO/SHOs and early February for PHOs/registrars; RMO/SHOs will usually have 5 terms/year whilst registrars have 3 or 4 (or very occasionally 2). The dates for these can be found on the health-board websites and generally do not vary between states. In practice, this does not restrict when you can start work as starting mid-way through the year is common. There is generally a lot of flexibility with regards to start dates and contract duration as the hospitals are well versed in how long the paperwork can take. It is generally preferable to start work at the beginning of a term though, as coinciding with other new starters makes for a smoother induction. The term dates for 2021 are shown below.


Senior House Officers/RMO’s

1 18 January 2021 – 11 April 2021 12 weeks
2 12 April 2021 – 20 June 2021 10 weeks
3 21 June 2021 – 29 August 2021 10 weeks
4 30 August 2021 – 7 November 2021 10 weeks
5 8 November 2021 – 23 January 2022 10 weeks


PHOs and Registrars
3 terms

Term 3 x Terms for PHOs and Registrars Duration
1 3 February 2020 – 7 June 2020 18 weeks
2 8 June 2020 – 11 October 2020 18 weeks
3 12 October 2020 – 31 January 2021 16 weeks

4 terms

Term 4 x Terms for PHOs and Registrars Duration
1 3 February 2020 – 10 May 2020 14 weeks
2 11 May 2020 – 2 August 2020 12 weeks
3 3 August 2020 – 8 November 2020 14 weeks
4 9 November 2020 – 31 January 2021 12 weeks

4. Applying For Medical Registration

Applying for medical registration is a long process – for this reason, some people start completing the steps (namely the AMC and EPIC stage below) prior to securing a job. This is entirely personal preference but be warned, the process is expensive so it’s up to you whether you take that risk or not.  

If you can, it is well worth getting a credit or debit card that gives you 0% on foreign transactions before you start. The fees will quickly mount up if you use a standard card. Refer to the checklist at the start of this article for a list of required documents. 

(a) Australian Medical Council (AMC)  

The very first stage for international medical graduates (IMGs) applying for provisional registration in Australia is to establish an AMC portfolio. To do this you will be required to get your primary medical degree verified by EPIC: 

Step 1 – Create an EPIC account (Fee 125 USD)

To do this you will need: 

  1. A colour photograph of your face.
  2. A scanned, full-size colour image of the identity page of your passport
  3. Details regarding your medical degree including issue dates and university student number 
  4. GMC number and dates of registration

Make sure that you indicate that you plan to apply to the AMC when completing your request to establish an account. 

After you have registered, it usually takes a few days for the account to be established. At this point you will be issued with an EPIC I.D.

N.B Once you have an EPIC account, you must upload a completed EPIC Identification Form (EIF) to confirm that you were the person who set up the account. This is downloaded from the EPIC website and must be certified by NotaryCam, an on-line notary service (included in your EPIC fee). Instructions on how to do this are available on the EPIC website. 

Step 2 – Set up an AMC portfolio (Fee 500 AUD)

The AMC will email your candidate number 3-5 days after you establish your portfolio. 

Step 3 – Upload your final medical degree to your EPIC account for verification (Fee 90 USD)

When you upload your qualification, select the option to send an EPIC verification report to the AMC. 

Please note that if any part of your degree is not in English (i.e. there are parts in Latin or another language) then you will need to get it translated before you upload it. There are various way to do this detailed on the EPIC website however, ECFMG recommend that that you use their linked service – Straker translations. The cost for this varies based on the language and amount of text requiring translation but as a guide, ours cost £42.  

Step 4 – Proceed with your AMC application selecting the pathway that you are eligible for

Details of pathways can be found here

For most juniors, this will be the Competent Authority Pathway. This is also available to GPs and specialists but results in general registration with further steps required for registration as a specialist. 

To be eligible for the Competent Authority Pathway you must have been trained by an institution recognised by the AMC. In practice this includes all UK, Irish, Canadian, New Zealand and USA universities. For more information check the Australian Medical Board website.

Step 5 – EPIC will automatically send a report to the AMC once your qualification is verified

EPIC verification can take a few weeks as they need to contact your university to obtain details of your student and graduation status. The AMC portfolio fee includes one qualification so you should not have to pay anything extra for this. Once this is complete you will be notified that your verification status will have changed on the ‘qualifications portal’ of your AMC portfolio. 

Step 6 – Pay for your AMC certificate (Fee 300 AUD)
Step 7 – Breathe a sigh of relief and note down your AMC candidate number as this will be required for the next stage…

(b) Australian Health Protection Registration Agency (AHPRA)

You cannot complete this stage without a formal job offer. Be warned, this is the most complicated, form-heavy stage of the process. It’s worth asking your prospective employer to check your forms (scan and email them across) before you submit them to AHPRA to avoid errors and delays. If you are a junior doctor applying via the competent authority pathway, you will be applying for provisional registration. This lasts for 12 months and requires various workplace-based assessments to be submitted whilst you are in Australia (see ‘AHPRA requirements’ under Things to know about work). After 12 months and the obligatory (but not particularly difficult) hoop-jumping you can apply to AHPRA for full registration.

Stage 1: Preparation for AHPRA application

Before doing anything, download and print the AHPRA APRI-30 application form below and read it from start to finish. Then re-read the final pages (25-27) paying particular attention to the checklist that details the documents that you will need to attach. Once you have a good grasp of what is required, start with the following:

  1. Certify your documents using a notary public or a justice of the peace which is generally a local solicitor. I simply googled this and contacted a few firms for quotes. It is worth printing the AHPRA application form first to double-check what documents you need certified so that you only need to pay a solicitor once! The application form for the provisional registration via the competent authority pathway is available as a PDF from the link above. Make sure that you take colour photocopies of your documents with you and consult AHPRA’s guidance on certification. I got 2 copies of my passport, driving licence and medical degree certified and this cost £90.
  2. Obtain a criminal record check through either Fit2work or AIS. These are valid for 3 months from the date of issue and need to be attached to your AHPRA application. I used Fit2work which was very quick and cost 159 AUD)
  3. Put your CV into the AHRPA format and include the signed declaration detailed in the ‘Curriculum Vitae’ section on page 26 of the application form. 
  4. Obtain your Foundation Competencies Certificate (received at the end of FY1) and a Certificate of Good Standing (a.k.a. Certificate of Current Professional Status; CCPS) from the GMC confirming you are fully registered. The certificate sent must be within 3 months of your start-date for work. If you apply too early, you’ll have to re-apply to get one within that 3 month time frame. It is free. It is an electronic certificate that is sent directly to the AHPRA. You do not have to carry, print or hand it in. Simply request it and the rest happens automatically. To request one, log into your GMC Online. Then follow: My Registration ⇒ My CCPS Request ⇒ Request a CCPS. More information can be found on the GMC’s website
  5. Make sure you have a copy of your Australian job offer to attach to the form
Stage 2: Fill out the AHPRA form for provisional registration and submit it to AHPRA (Fee 786 AUD)

When I applied, AHPRA required hard copies of the form (and all attached documents) to be sent to them. I used Royal Mail as it was the cheapest option. This takes a few weeks so look into couriers if you need this to happen faster. During the COVID-19 pandemic, AHPRA stopped requiring hard-copies of forms and began accepting online uploads – keep an eye on the website for any further changes but at present this has made the process both cheaper and easier! 

You must provide payment details on the form when you submit it. The payment however will not be taken until the application is processed. Processing can take 6-8 weeks and you will be notified when your registration has come through. 

5. Visa Application and Medical

Visa fee 1265 AUD (not inc. medical check and police check)

If you’ve made it here – congratulations, you’re nearly there. Your employer will advise you with regards to visas but you will most likely need to apply for a Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa, Subclass 482. This is an employer-sponsored work visa. You can apply as soon as you are sent a ‘transaction reference number (TRN)’ by your new workplace. You can find more information about this visa (and others) and start your application on the government immigration website. The visa overview page is updated regularly with approximate processing times. Anecdotally this varied a lot between individuals – mine took approximately 6 weeks whereas others were as quick as 2 weeks. 

There is a very useful ‘step-by-step’ section on the website which details the information you will need to provide and associated documents for submission. The visa application is online and reasonably self-explanatory except for the following sections:

  • Police check – ‘Character Reference’ section of visa application (Fee £55 for 12-day processing, £95 for 4-day processing)

Before applying for your visa, you will need to apply for a police check for every country (including your home country) that you have lived in for 12 months or more. This is cumulative – the 12 months do not need to be continuous – and applies to the last 10 years or since you turned 16 (if you are under 26). You can apply for the UK check online. Once processed it will be posted to you so that you can upload it to your visa application.

  • Proof of health insurance

Under the ‘Gather your documents’ sub-section of the ‘Step-by-step’ tab you will notice that there is a requirement to provide evidence of health insurance in Australia. If you are applying from a country with a reciprocal healthcare agreement such as the UK or Ireland, you do not need to provide this as you are automatically entitled to Medicare (see Healthcare below). Many other countries are also covered – a list can be found here.

  • Visa health examination (Fees vary dramatically – we paid £300)

Once you have submitted your application you will be issued with a HAP ID and a list of required tests by Australian Immigration. You will generally be required to undergo blood tests for HIV, hepatitis B and C, a medical examination and a chest x-ray though this can vary depending on your travel history. To book a health examination you need your HAP ID and you must use one of the panel physicians listed on the Australian immigration website.

It is worth shopping around as we found prices for visa medicals varied wildly! The clinic will send your results directly to the immigration office – a process that usually takes about 7 days. 

6. Things You’ll Need To Start Work

(a) Medical registration – completing AHPRA

Once in Australia, you will need to complete one final step to gain your medical registration. This involves visiting the local AHPRA office to verify your identity in person. This is quick, easy and free and AHPRA will contact you with details of how to do this once your application has come through. It’s worth mentioning that they will likely give you a date and a deadline by which to do this – do not worry if you cannot achieve this, we postponed twice and AHPRA was very accommodating. 

(b) Indemnity

There are various indemnity providers in Australia. If you are already with the UK MPS you can simply transfer your indemnity to their Australian branch – MIPS. You won’t have to pay any new fees if you’ve already paid for the year. There are certain criteria you have to fulfill for this to work – one of which is retaining your GMC registration (but not licence). You can also join MIPS or any of the other indemnity firms directly. Anecdotally costs were similar to the UK at approximately 70 AUD for the year.

(c) Occupational Health (OH)

Most of the Australian occupational health requirements are the same as the UK ones. The only exception to this is the need for proof of chickenpox (varicella) immunity. Some UK trusts test for this automatically (as mine did) so it will be on your OH record. For those that don’t, you will need to get a varicella antibody titre. Some trusts in Australia also require you to have a pertussis vaccination – we were unable to organise this before we left so were given it on arrival at the hospital. These are free from the OH department at your employing trust, so don’t shell out for them at home. 

(d) GMC Licence

As an aside, it is worth considering what to do with your GMC licence. There are three options:

  • Keep your licence: you’ll pay full fees but will remain eligible to work in the UK (including as a locum). You’ll also have to revalidate annually i.e. complete an annual return. This either means getting your current designated body to agree to keep you on their books and doing your revalidation meeting OR paying a fee to the GMC to do it.
  • Relinquish your licence: you won’t have a licence to practice medicine in the UK, though you’ll keep your registration with the GMC. You’ll pay much less in fees. It costs £10 to relinquish your licence and £10 to reinstate it. You won’t need a designated body nor have to complete an annual return. To reinstate your licence to practise you will need to provide statements from employers since relinquishing your licence and a certificate of good standing/professional status from the medical council(s) you have worked under (e.g. Certificate of Registration Status (CoRS) available from AHRPA which currently costs 50 AUD. You will also need a completed UD8 form.
  • Relinquish your registration: you won’t have a licence to practise and you’ll be removed from the GMC list of registered medical practitioners. Not really the done thing unless you’re leaving medicine entirely or plan to never return to the UK to practice medicine. You can re-register, but we wouldn’t really recommend this option.

More information can be found on the GMC website under Revalidation.

7. Things You’ll Need To Live

(a) Relocation help/remuneration

As mentioned above, many hospitals will offer some sort of remuneration package. The most common package when I applied (2018) was £1500 for relocation expenses such as flights and a number of week’s free accommodation on arrival. For us in Brisbane this was 4 weeks free accommodation; friends in Cairns received 10 weeks. 

(b) Accommodation

If your hospital includes an initial period of free accommodation, then obviously flat hunting is much easier. If your hospital doesn’t, many people choose to rent an Air BnB or stay in a hostel while they look for a more permanent solution. It is also worth asking the hospital to send an email out to see if any existing doctors have a spare room. 

The main ways to look for accommodation in Australia are through Flatmates for house shares or through various rental websites if you’re looking for an apartment. We used Real Estate in Brisbane and found a flat within about a week. 

(c) Bank accounts

There are several Australian banks that allow you to set up a bank account from outside of Australia. The two main ones that allow this are Westpac and ANZ. This is handy as it allows you to transfer funds over before you arrive. Most people use a third-party transfer service for this such as TransferWise as it tends to be much cheaper than using a bank.

When you arrive you will need to visit a branch with your passport and proof of address so they can issue a bank card and fully open your account – Westpac allowed us to use the hospital address before we found a flat. You can also still withdraw money without a bank card by visiting a branch with your passport.  Westpac’s page on moving to Australia provides further information on migrant banking.

(d) Tax File Number

In order to pay the correct amount of tax you need to apply for a ‘Tax File Number’ (TFN). Your employer will likely help you with this when you arrive, but if not, the Australian Taxation Office provides all of the information you need. 

You will be expected to file a tax return each year which will be due at the end of October. You can do this yourself, but we recommend hiring an accountant to make the process easier. You can even do this by email from the UK if you have already left.  My accountant cost 150 AUD but resulted in a refund of over 5000 AUD. 

(e) Superannuation (pension contributions)

You are unable to contribute to your NHS pension from abroad. Australia does however have a number of very good superannuation schemes. Your employer will be a member of one, but you are free to choose your own if you wish. These schemes are designed to not only contribute to a pension, but also provide tax relief to employees through a salary sacrifice scheme (also known as salary packaging). There is a large amount of information available online about these schemes. The Australian Tax Office and MoneySmart are good places to start. It is worth trying to get to grips with this early as it can save you a huge amount of money – we, for instance, ‘packaged’ our rent so it was tax-free for the entire year! 

It is also worth noting that when you leave Australia, you are entitled to claim your pension contributions back as a lump sum. This is often a substantial amount so is well worth doing. 

(f) Healthcare 

As mentioned in the visa section, you will likely be eligible for Medicare under the reciprocal agreement. You will still need to enroll once you arrive, but this is a free (and easy) service. Enrolling will provide you with a Medicare card so is a useful way to obtain some Australian I.D early. 

(g) Car

The main websites for car-buying in Australia are Car Sales, Autotrader and Gumtree. When you buy a car, make sure it has a valid Roadworthy Certificate (RWC). This is like a (very) basic MOT and it is illegal for a seller to sell a car without one. Accordingly, you will have to obtain an RWC before you sell your car when (and if) you leave. 

After you buy a car you will have to transfer the registration to your name within 14 days of purchasing it (7 days in WA and Tasmania). The process for doing this varies between states but in Queensland we had to fill in a form, signed by both the seller and buyer, and take it to our local transport and motoring customer service centre. 

The equivalent of road tax in Australia is car ‘Registration’ (or Rego). This varies between states but in general is paid yearly and can be done online or at one of the above service centres. In addition to this, regardless of state, it is illegal to drive without Compulsory Third Party (CTP) car insurance and you cannot get a Rego without this. In most states, CTP is included in your registration fee so you usually don’t have to worry about this too much. The final thing to consider after buying a car is breakdown cover – we would advise getting this given the age of Australian cars and the remoteness of many of the roads!

(h) Phone

There are lots of mobile networks in Australia and it is easy to secure rolling monthly contracts that offer lots of flexibility. The large ex-pat population means that many providers offer great deals on overseas minutes particularly to the UK and Canada. If this is something that would be useful it’s worth looking at companies such as Lebara, Spark and Amaysim.  

(i) Student Loans

If you have a student loan there is unfortunately no escaping paying it off. It is worth contacting the student loans company before you go to organise this as friends that didn’t were hit with a large bill on their return.

8. Things to Know About Work

(a) Pay and working hours

All doctors in Australia are paid every 2 weeks. The pay is generally much better than UK pay for the equivalent grade, particularly when you add in salary-packaging (see Superannuation above). 

There is no Australia-wide pay scale for junior doctors so confirm with your employer what your salary will be before you start. Doctors are paid a salary with ‘shift penalties’ for out of hours shifts. Shift penalties are supplements paid to the doctor and are detailed in the table below. This means that your pay can vary quite substantially depending on how many on-calls you do. 

Shift  Shift time Shift penalty 
Afternoon (M-F) Any shift commencing at/ after 12:00 and finishing at/after 1900 15% penalty paid for the entire shift
Night (M-F) Any shift commencing at/after 18:00 and finishing at/before 08:00 15% penalty paid for the entire shift
Saturday  Any shift between 00:00 Friday and 00:00 Saturday  50% penalty paid on hours worked within these hours

(e.g. you receive 150% pay)

Sunday  Any shift between 00:00 Saturday and 00:00 Sunday 100% penalty paid on hours worked within these hours.

(e.g. you receive double pay)

 

As a general rule, RMO’s earn approximately 6000-8000 AUD per month depending on shift patterns. Australia has strict rules on working hours and you are entitled to double pay for any hours worked over 40 hours per week. In addition to this, you are entitled to at least 4 days off in every 14-day period, 2 of which must be consecutive. 

 (b) Annual leave and study leave

In general, RMO’s are entitled to 5 weeks of annual leave, 11 days of professional development leave (PDL) and 9 days of exam leave per year. In addition to this, each territory in Australia has additional ‘state’ bank holidays which you will either get off or can take in lieu. 

Annual leave can be taken for double the time at half pay if a doctor wishes and conference leave can often be negotiated. In addition to this, many trusts will allow you to take additional unpaid leave. Any annual leave not taken at the end of the year is automatically paid out at the salary rate of your most recent job. 

(c) AHPRA requirements

Your employer will allocate you a supervisor and usually submit your forms to AHPRA for you. After 3 months of working, you are required to submit an Orientation Report for International medical Graduates (ORIG-30) and a Work performance Report for International medical Graduates (WRIG-30). These are relatively straight-forward and are completed together with your supervisor. After 12 months working, you will be eligible to apply to AHPRA for general registration. This will enable you to work unsupervised (e.g. take locum shifts).

Ensure your supervisors are happy to provide future references before you move on; many UK jobs you return to will require references for all jobs you have done in the last five years.

9. Fees and Finances

AUD: GBP exchange rate 1:0.55 at time of writing 

Expense Estimated cost (GBP) 
AMC  £440
AHPRA  £432
Visa  £695
EPIC £175
Health check £300
Police check £55
Fit to work check  £87
Notary fees £90
TOTAL £ 2 274 


On top of the above, don’t forget to budget for rental deposits (typically 1 month’s rent), flights and car (2000-5000 AUD). The cost of moving may seem daunting but remember that everything except the visa fee is eligible for tax relief at the end of the year. This equates to about a 40% refund. On top of this, we haven’t included any relocation allowance that your employer may provide. Even if you don’t get a relocation allowance, rest assured that the wages in Australia are more than sufficient to recoup the costs of moving. 

10. About the Authors

Ella and Jack were F3/4s in Brisbane in 2019. Before their Australian adventure they spent some time working in New Zealand (why choose one when you can do both?) using their free time to cycle-tour and travel. After returning to the UK, they worked as clinical fellows in the Shetland Islands before heading back to the mainland to take up anaesthetics and IMT training posts in Edinburgh.

 

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