1. Choose where to live
It may be that your new home – at least in terms of geographic area – will be determined by factors such as a job move. However, if you have free choice in the matter, you’ll want to put time into choosing a location that suits not only your needs, but also your personality and lifestyle.
There can be a surprising difference in attitudes and culture between different Australian cities, and you need to be sure that you’ll feel at home in your new home. Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, for example, have in recent years all established themselves as buzzing metropolitan hotspots, while Adelaide is often described as being like “a big country town”. The capital, Canberra, is a planned city with a relatively small population, many of whom work or contract for the national government.
Take the time to find a location that really matches what you and your family need from your new home.
2. Research your destination
Australia’s society and culture are similar, but certainly not identical, to the UK’s. The practicalities, such as the local property market, transportation, schools and amenities, will all need to be researched, but it’s also important to research factors such as the weather, economy and cultural norms of not just the country as a whole, but the city and even neighbourhood where you’ll be living or working.
Fortunately there are plenty of great online resources to help with this, many of them written by British expats.
3. Don’t leave financial matters to chance
Moving from the UK to Australia is expensive, and your financial plans need to take absolutely everything into account, factoring in the costs of obtaining visas, as well as moving you, your family and your belongings to the other side of the world.
It’s also important to understand what your finances will look like once you’re living in Australia. Factors such as property and rental prices, as well as day-to-day living costs like food and retail prices, the costs of public transport or running a car, can vary quite significantly between different Australian locations; websites like Numbeo can be useful in researching relative costs of living in various cities.
As a final point, remember to look into your tax liabilities in both Australia and the UK, if applicable, as this may influence factors such as where you choose to hold savings and investment accounts.
4. Keep your children involved
If you have children, be sure to involve them as fully as possible in planning and arranging every step of your move. Children can be particularly sensitive to a house move – never mind a life-changing relocation to the other side of the world. Asking for (and, perhaps more importantly, listening to) their opinions and preferences can be a great way to keep them feeling engaged and positive throughout the process. That way, the move is something in which they are actively participating, rather than something that’s being imposed upon them.
To help when moving with children, take a look at our list of children’s books about moving house to help them understand what’s going on.
5. Decide what you need to take with you
Be practical – even ruthless – about what you need to take with you when you move. Moving large items of furniture or dozens of boxes of ornaments, books, clothes, toys etc. from the UK to Australia can be an expensive business, and in some cases it makes more sense to buy new items in Australia once you get there. In the months and weeks prior to your move you should make efforts to go through and, where appropriate, thin out your belongings. Decide what can stay (for example, if you intend to let out your current property rather than selling up), what can be sold, what can be donated to charity, and what you want to take with you.
6. Always use an experienced international removals firm
Once you have decided what belongings are coming to Australia with you, look for a company with solid experience of international removals – this will ensure they not only understand the practicalities and logistics of the job, but are also fully aware of Australian customs and import regulations (see below).
It’s a good idea to check online for reviews and recommendations from previous customers, and to check whether the company belongs to an established and reputable trade association, such as the British Association of Removers (BAR) Overseas Group.
7. Be aware of customs and import restrictions
When transporting your family’s belongings to Australia, it’s important to be aware of any import taxes, customs fees or duties for which you may be liable – your removals firm should be able to provide some guidance here. You should also remember that Australia has strict border controls with regard to certain materials. For example, natural fibres such as wicker and bamboo are prohibited, and customs officials may require other items to be treated or fumigated to eliminate the risk of introducing exotic diseases or pests; you will be liable for any charges imposed by Australian quarantine inspectors.
Be aware that this doesn’t just apply to your transported belongings – when you travel to Australia you will also have to declare whether you are carrying plant material, animal products or certain foods. Failing to comply with import rules can result in consequences ranging from on-the-spot penalties to prison sentences and hefty fines.
8. Consider insuring your belongings in transit
When discussing your move with international removals firms, be sure to ask whether any protection or insurance for breakage or loss is included in their base price, and whether additional insurance is offered as an optional extra.
Removals firms often offer only limited liability cover (paying up to a certain pound value per item for loss or damage) and in some cases – particularly if you are transporting high-value furniture items or collectables – it is a good idea to take out marine insurance or similar international removals insurance in case anything goes wrong. If you do decide to take out insurance, remember to shop around for the best deal.
9. Bringing your pet to Australia
If you own a pet, there are certain realities you’ll have to face when planning your move. Moving a pet from the UK to Australia can be costly – we’re talking thousands of pounds, rather than hundreds. The quarantine fee alone starts out at $2,000 (around £1,200).
The good news is that in 2013 Australia relaxed its quarantine laws, meaning that – providing you have followed the correct procedures and obtained an import permit – your pet will usually only need to spend ten days in quarantine, rather than the previous thirty. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website should be your first stop to learn what to expect.
10. Be prepared for Australia’s climate
In Britain most people are aware that Australia is “a bit warmer” than the UK, but many don’t appreciate quite how substantial the difference is. While climates vary between different parts of Australia, the national average summer temperature is around 30°C, which is about twice as high as the UK’s summer average.
Always bear in mind exactly how extreme Australia’s climate is in comparison to the UK, and make appropriate plans to deal with that to ensure your family’s comfort and safety. Also remember that the seasons are flipped in the southern hemisphere – if you get on the plane in the middle of the British winter, you’ll be arriving down under at the height of the Australian summer!