Beginning a Life in Australia (Chapter 5 - Employment).
Everyone in Australia has the right to work and earn an income. That income helps you to enjoy the benefits of a free and equal society. Australia has a wide range of successful industries that operate across all states and territories. There is a wide range of professional and industry qualifications that can help you find and keep a job. We all expect each other to contribute to and share in Australia's wealth.
Finding a job
The Australian labour market can be very competitive. How quickly you can find a job in Australia depends on economic factors, qualifications and skills, the type of work you are seeking, and particular circumstances which may affect the availability of certain types of work in different parts of the country. Australian work experience is invaluable and should be a priority if you are struggling to find work in your desired field.
If you do not already have a source of income or a job available, and provided your visa allows it, you will need to look for work. Approval to migrate, permanent residency and/or citizenship do not guarantee you a job.
Applying for a job
Your success in gaining employment depends on a number of factors. The factors include: where you plan to work, economic conditions, your skills, your qualifications and the demand for employees.
Employers advertise for employees in many places. If you are new to Australia, your best option for finding employment is to respond to job vacancy advertisements. The advertisement will inform you of the type of work required, location and other important information.
When you find a job vacancy that is suitable, the advertisement will tell you how to apply for the position and the name of a person to contact for more details. Your application will usually require:
- a cover letter stating the position you wish to apply for and why you should be considered for the position based on your skills, experience and qualifications
- a resume showing your personal details (name, address, phone numbers, email address etc), skills, previous jobs and experience, education and qualifications
- copies of references from previous employers, or their contact details
- copies of educational and trade certificates relevant to the job
The Australian Government's employment service program jobactive can help you with writing job applications and interview techniques. Visit the jobactive site for more information.
Once you are successful at obtaining a job, you will need to supply your new employer with your bank account details and your tax file number. Refer to the Money - managing your finances page for further information about tax and superannuation.
Employment qualifications and recognition
Some occupations have special requirements. This could include registration or licensing with a government authority and/or membership of a professional or industry association. The Qualification Recognition site (managed by the Department of Education) helps you to find out how you can have your qualifications recognised.
Trade qualifications are assessed by the Department of Education through Trades Recognition Australia.
Many careers will require some form of qualification for even entry level jobs. If you have a particular industry in mind, browse through ads for similar jobs or visit industry websites. The Education page of this website can give you some general ideas on what sort of education is available and where to go for more information.
Work rights in the Australian workplace
Australia has laws on minimum wages and work conditions. These laws are designed to ensure equitable working arrangements for all Australians. The laws specify the types of legal agreements that define the work relationship between employers and employees.
They vary between enterprise bargaining of whole organisations to individual common law contracts. Industrial relations law makes the workplace fair, safe and productive for both employers and employees. Protected working conditions include:
- minimum rates of pay
- hours worked
- free association with any organisation
- occupational health, safety and welfare
These conditions can vary greatly depending on your job and industry. To ensure fairness for all employees, Australia has a Fair Work Ombudsman who monitors compliance with industrial relations laws and investigates breaches of the law. The Ombudsman provides a free service that you can access if your conditions or safety at work is a concern to you or your family. More information on the Fair Work Ombudsman and access to the services is available on the Ombudsman's website.
The Australian Human Rights Commission investigates and resolves any complaints about discrimination in the workplace. Discrimination can come in a variety of forms on the basis of sex, race, age, disability, trade union affiliation, religion, sexual preference or political opinion.
Safe Work Australia has information on work health and safety and workers' compensation in Australia.
If you do not have a source of income or a job, you still need to support yourself and your family while you look for work. Help is available from a number of sources for new arrivals. If you have a sponsor, ask them about the support they are willing and able to provide. If you have an 'Assurance of Support', the assurer has agreed to support you for your initial period in Australia.
Centrelink, through Services Australia, is the agency that delivers social security payments and related services. Generally, you are not able to receive payment until you have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for up to four years. Age and disability pensions are available to those who have lived here for 10 years. If you are a refugee or humanitarian entrant, you do not need to wait to access social security payments.
Centrelink has a Migrants, refugees and visitors page that contains translated materials and specific information for new arrivals on how to access social security payments.
If you suffer from severe hardship during the waiting period, you may be eligible for Special Benefit. Centrelink pays the benefit if the cause of the hardship is from a major change to your life beyond your control. Centrelink does not pay any special benefits if you are unable to find a job Additional help, through the tax system, may be available to families with children. More information can be found on the Australian Taxation Office website.
All Australians will contribute to a superannuation account which is a savings and investment account for your retirement. Superannuation, or 'super' for short, is paid by your employer at a set percentage into a specialised account while you are working. It is only accessible after you reach the legislated retirement age. More information on super is available on the Australian Tax Office's individual superannuation page or the MoneySmart website.
An employer’s guide to working with refugees: Unlocking new sectors of Australia’s workforce talent is a new guide developed for prospective employers of refugees. The guide showcases success stories, challenges misconceptions and highlights the multiple benefits that refugees bring to businesses, including the creation of more diverse, inclusive and innovative workplace cultures. The guide further provides targeted strategies to help businesses engage with refugees – from offering workplace experience or training opportunities to more formal positions. By using this guide as a practical roadmap, it is our hope that more businesses will consider refugees for employment – leading to their enhanced economic security, self-reliance and integration into Australian society.
Migrants and refugees bring considerable benefits to employers and businesses. Their skills and experiences can help you, as employers, to enhance customer service, strengthen existing market share or expand into new markets, both in Australia and overseas.
You can read more about the benefits to your business in New Arrivals New Connections: An employer's guide to working with migrants and refugees.
Career pathways pilot for humanitarian entrants
The Career Pathways Pilot helped to test effective ways to support newly arrived humanitarian entrants, with vocational level English, to use their professional or trade skills and qualifications in Australia.
Eligible Humanitarian Entrants were supported to:
- Plan a career pathway in Australia.
- Find out how to use existing skills in the Australian workforce and how to obtain recognition of existing qualifications.
- Find employment opportunities and training to upskill or reskill.
- Achieve career goals.
The Pilot operated from March 2017 to June 2019, across six humanitarian settlement sites in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Toowoomba, Perth and Hobart.
Although the Pilot has ended, information about broad support available to newly arrived migrants and humanitarian entrants is available below.
Career Pathways Pilot Evaluation
Deloitte Access Economics was engaged to undertake an interim evaluation of the Careers Pathway Pilot program, which was completed in July 2019.
The evaluation found that the Pilot program model had been effective to some degree in supporting participants to meet their short term employment objectives, and that its intended medium term outcomes were also slowly starting to be realised.
Evaluation findings will contribute to the program design of ongoing settlement programs, including the Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP), the Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) Program and the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), as well as other government programs.
For further information, see
Interim Evaluation of the Career Pathways Pilot for Humanitarian Entrants.
Job Outlook is a careers and labour market research information site to help you decide on your future career. It provides useful information on the number of people employed in each industry or occupation and what they earn.
The Career Quiz can help you identify the types of work that might suit you.
The Australian Labour Market
The Australian Labour Market Update provides information on the Australian labour market on a quarterly basis. It is intended to inform people interested in working in Australia on a temporary or permanent basis.
The Labour Market Information Portal
The Labour Market Information Portal contains information on projected future employment change over five years to November 2020 for different occupations and industries.
Both businesses and individuals benefit when an individual's prior skills, experience, knowledge, qualifications or licence are formally acknowledged.
Recognition can include:
- recognition of prior learning
- recognition of current competency
- credit transfer (including national recognition)
- trade recognition overseas qualification assessment
- mutual recognition of occupational licences.
Find more information about Skills and Licence Recognition
Many organisations assess overseas qualifications in Australia. Why you need your overseas qualification assessed will determine which organisation you need to contact.
Find out more about Qualifications Recognition
The myskills website is the national directory of vocational education and training (VET) organisations and courses. It is a federal government initiative to enable consumers to search for, and compare, VET courses and training providers.
The Australian Apprenticeships website provides quick and easy access to information regarding Australian Apprenticeships.
Skills for Education and Employment
The Skills for Education and Employment program provides language, literacy and numeracy training to eligible job seekers, to help them to participate more effectively in training or in the labour force.
The Friendly Nation Initiative
The Friendly Nation Initiative is a business led strategy that seeks to increase employment, mentoring, training, and internship opportunities for refugees and humanitarian migrants. With a particular focus on the special intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees, it recognises that creating pathways to employment is a crucial step in the process of resettling newly arrived refugees.
Watch the Friendly Nation Initiative video
Read more about the Friendly Nation Initiative
jobactive (for job seekers) is a free government service that can help you find and keep a job.
jobactive (for employers) is a free government service that can help you to identify potential employees. Your local
jobactive provider can give you customised support to meet your business needs, including:
- recruitment advice;
- free advertising; and
- candidate screening and short-listing.
You may also be eligible for wage subsidies if you recruit through jobactive. For more information visit jobsearch.gov.au
The My Future website helps you identify your interests, build your career profile and explore occupations.
New Enterprise Incentive Scheme
The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme provides individualised help for job seekers to become self-employed business owners.
Australian Core Skills Framework
The Australian Core Skills Framework is a tool which assists both specialist and non‑specialist English language, literacy and numeracy practitioners describe an individual's performance in the five core skills of learning, reading, writing, oral communication and numeracy.