Living in Australia



You are responsible for your expenses in Australia and for supporting your family members, should they join you.

You’ll receive an Establishment Allowance within the first month of your arrival, which will help cover expenses including textbooks, rental bond and insurance. This is currently $5,000.

You’ll also get a Contribution to Living Expenses payment every two weeks to help meet costs such as accommodation, transport, food, entertainment and communications.

This amount of your Contribution to Living Expenses is set by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Your entitlement starts on your first day in Australia and is paid in arrears (that is, it is not in advance). It ends five days after your examination results are released if you are a coursework student, or five days after you have submitted your thesis if you are a research student.

Payments are tax free and continue during public holidays and semester breaks, approved fieldwork and reunion visits to your home country, and for up to six weeks if you are hospitalised. Payments will stop if you are suspended from the Australia Awards program or convicted of a criminal offence.

For more details on your Establishment Allowance and Contribution to Living Expenses see the scholarships policy handbook.


Your first priority on arrival should be to open an Australian bank account.

Your institution will help you do this. You’ll need an account so we can deposit your establishment allowance and your contribution to living expenses payments.

Bank opening hours vary, but are usually 9am to 5pm. Some open later or close earlier, and some branches are open on Saturdays.

To open an account, you’ll need photographic identification, such as your passport or drivers license. Once your account is set-up, you can register for internet banking and withdraw cash from automatic teller machines (referred to as ATMs) 24 hours a day, as well as from many stores.

In Australia, debit or credit cards are most commonly used instead of cash in stores. This system is called EFTPOS meaning electronic funds transfers at the point of sale.


You and any dependent family members travelling with you are allowed to work. You don’t need to apply separately for a work permit.

Some Australia Awards scholars get work on campus as tutors. Others work off campus, for example in the service industry. The different types of work availablevaries greatly between regions. However, few scholars meet Australian requirements for certain professions, such as medicine and teaching.

We advise against working during term as it could disrupt your studies.

You can work up to 40 hours per fortnight while your course is in session. Work that is part of your course is not counted. There is no limit to the hours you can work during session breaks.

A special provision for Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sponsored students enables dependent members of your family to work. For Masters and PhD students, your dependants can work unlimited hours, but not until the date that your course begins.

Jobs are advertised in newspapers and on the internet, and most institutions have employment and career services that can help you find part-time work, write resumes and perform well in interviews.

If your course lasts for more than six months, you are considered to be an Australian resident for tax purposes. If you work, you should get a tax file number from the Australian Tax Office at and you will be required to lodge a tax return at the end of the financial year (30 June). Any income tax deductions made by your employer will be returned to you if you have earned less than $18,200 in one year.

Internet sites that list lots of job opportunities include:


Finding the right accommodation is one of the biggest challenges most scholars face when they arrive. Rental housing is in short supply in many parts of Australia.

If you’re on your own, the simplest, safest and most convenient option is on-campus accommodation. Staying in a residential college saves you time and money on transport, and also protects you from the expense and uncertainties of the rental property market. On-campus accommodation can run out fast, so be sure to register as soon as possible before you leave for Australia. Register with your institution, or ask your Student Contact Officer for help. Note that a place in on-campus accommodation is not guaranteed.

Check with your institution to see if it provides accommodation support services and to find out which suburbs or areas are nearby and recommended for students.

You may also consider home-stay accommodation—boarding with a local family in their home—or sharing accommodation with other students. In a home-stay arrangement, the house is usually furnished and you only need to furnish your own room. Contact the student accommodation unit at your institution for more details. Many institutions have this information on their website.

If your family is joining you in Australia, renting a private house or flat will be your best accommodation option. However, available rental properties can be limited across all Australian capitals, and the cost of rent can be high.

Real estate websites

Check out these real estate websites for up-to-date information, photos and prices of rental accommodation throughout Australia:

Families and children

If you’re thinking about bringing your family to Australia, we recommend you wait at least six months to enable you to finalise your living arrangements and settle into your studies. During this time, you’ll also be able to seek places in childcare or school for your children.

You must have care arrangements in place for your young children if you plan to leave them during the day or at night. Under Australian law, parents have a legal obligation to make sure their children are safe and not leave them in dangerous situations. Very young children must be supervised at all times, as they are not capable of taking responsibility for their own welfare. Children of primary school age are also too young to manage themselves and must be supervised to ensure they are safe. Leaving your child in a car unsupervised at any time is extremely dangerous, and is illegal in Australia. For more information visit:

If you need childcare, you’ll need to book early because there is often a long waiting period for places—sometimes six months or more. Childcare is also expensive in Australia and can cost at least $70 a day or more in some states.

Your children can attend public government funded primary and secondary schools. If you want to receive the tuition exemption, or low tuition fees, make sure your children are attached on your Foreign Affairs or Defence Sector (Subclass 576) visa. Otherwise, you will have to pay full international student fees for your children.

Email your Student Contact Officer about schools and childcare providers near your institution.

Remember that your family must have their own Overseas Student Health Cover. This is not funded by your Australia Awards Scholarship.

Please note that all accompanying family must travel on a Student visa (Subclass 500) (Subsequent entrant). You will not be eligible to receive the reunion airfare entitlement if your family accompanies you during your studies, regardless of what visa type they travel on.

Please note that the Australian Government does not provide any financial or other support for your family.


Public transport varies widely between Australian cities, so visit your institution’s website for information on services.

Your Student Contact Officer will be able to advise you about student concessions on public transport and whether you can receive these.

Student concession cards provide you with discounted travel on buses, trains, ferries and trams in some, but not all states. You must carry your student identity card at all times when using a concession card. If a transport official asks for your identity card and you don’t have it, you can receive an on-the-spot fine.

Buses, trains and trams operate according to timetables. Public transport authorities generally have maps available of their routes and the times they operate. You must catch buses and trams from designated stops.

A good tip is to research public transport routes because this may help you decide where to look for long-term accommodation.

Cycling is popular among students, and most cities have good cycle networks. By law you must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle. Keep your bicycle locked up when you’re not riding it. Your institution may have a secure place to store bikes.

Some students buy used cars, especially if they are living in a regional area or their accommodation is a long way from the institution. While running a car can be expensive, taxis are also very expensive in Australia.


Australia has good mobile phone coverage and fast internet services. There is a range of commercial internet providers and many of these offer discounts for long-term contracts.

It is important to read through all the internet options available and ask as many questions as necessary to ensure you are comfortable with the cost and benefits of the internet package offered. Most universities and colleges also provide limited internet usage from the university’s computer labs, as well as free wireless internet connection on-campus.

Previous scholars recommend that you bring your mobile phone with you and buy a new SIM card on arrival. International phone calls can be very expensive, so look carefully at your options for deals on phone cards for international calls.

Pre-paid and post-paid deals for mobile phones are available. Pre-paid means you pay in advance for the service. Post-paid plans are contracts which may be long term, lasting 24 month, or short term, lasting 30 days. Be cautious about signing a long-term contract, you may be surprised at the size of your monthly bills.

Visit the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association at for more information.

If you don’t already have a computer, consider buying or renting a laptop or desktop computer in Australia so it will be covered by warranty.

Electrical outlets in Australia supply electricity at 220-240 volts. If you plan to travel with electrical appliances and a charger for your phone or laptop, you’ll need to bring or purchase an adapter for Australia.

Living costs in Australia

Knowing the average living costs in Australia is an important part of your financial preparation.

Additional information is available at

Additional information