Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Movng to Sydney, Australia - Preparing for the IELTS test?


If you are applying for one of the many visa's available in your migration to Australia and English is not you or your countries first language you will be required to prove you are English speaking or pass an English test.

Annoyingly, I remember taking the oral part of the IELTS and that they played out a tape recording with questions.  I think it was the overseer who kept coughing at exactly the wrong times! Although I passed quite easily and so did my wife, I missed a good couple of questions because I could not hear them. Please remember, as it's a replayed recording, there is not second chance, you need to focus and focus immediately. The recording churns on and does not wait for you. If you miss a question just focus on the next one so you don't miss anymore.

I recently spoke to someone who is an experienced teacher of 2nd language English speakers and who has been teaching in Australia for 28 years now.  He has actually focused only on exam preparations for IELTS and Cambridge advanced for the last few years.

His advice for the Australian IELTS is :
The reading test of the IELTS is quite difficult. Time is your enemy. Some people spend ages reading the text and run out of time when answering the questions. Native English speakers might be able to read the whole text in detail, but most cant as it takes to much time. (I did this)
Here are some bullet points

1. SKIM the text only looking for the main idea of the text by checking the heading, pictures and their captions. Always look at the firsts sentence of each paragraph. The first sentence is likely to be the topical sentences, telling you what is in the actual paragraph. This is called locating where the information is in the text. Do this in three to five minutes. This will set you up to come back for answers as you go through the questions.

2. For each question note or highlight the key words. You will be please to see that you can already answer a lot of questions already as a result of the initial three minute browse through the passage.

3. Work your way through each left over question by scanning the passage text the correct answers. Please remember that time is the killer here. Rather get the 80 to 90% of answers you know quickly and then when you have time left over go for the hard ones.

4) Once finished, CHECK your work. Those possible questions you answered incorrectly could be the difference. Keep checking until the time is over. Stay calm and focused. DO NOT flip your sheet over feeling satisfied as soon as you hit the last question. Check the hard ones. Sometimes we make the silliest mistakes.

5) In the True, False and Not Given or Yes/No/Does Not Say sections, don't be a clever dick and use your own knowledge, logic or common sense. Since these are  reading tests, the examination is on precisely what is in the text - EVEN if it wrong.

6) Watch out for "bold" defining words like "all, every, no, none, always and never" : These are not quite always true, as there will be exceptions or tricks.

7) DO  NOT skip a hard question, especially in the multiple choice sections. Come back, try to answer it, and then GUESS. Marks or points are not subtracted for wrong answers! Give yourself a chance!

8) Always make sure you read the instructions carefully.
For example -- "Write no more than two words and/or a number". Don't exceed this! Anything else will be wrong. Its a clue to the answer.

9) Check all your pages. Make sure you have not skipped any questions. There are normally 40 questions. check the back page.

Check check check - nothing more painful than doing it again when you could have passed it the first time.

10) Don't be nervous. The stress we went through preparing and at the test was not equivalent to the test itself. This is no university English, just standard English. The Oral tester was very friendly, they are not there to be nasty or trick you, just to see if you can communicate.

I think both my wife and I had a nice conversation with the Oral tester and had a bit of a laugh too. Nerves will kill you, be honest, communicate as clearly as you can. Think about the tester you are talking too, he will ask questions. Talking is communicating so ensure you give him the info he needs to feel his questions are being answered.

Good luck people. Hope it goes well!
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Best suburb for a family in Sydney

Thought I would do some research on the best Suburb for a family on Sydney.

One recent set of Research put Forestville as the highest ranking Suburb in Sydney.

Its very safe, with lots of bird life and bush walks. Its not a trendy place, rather a very stable , affluent upper class suburb. Its a 20 minute drive to the beach or to Sydney Waterfront from here. Kind of boring for a young couple wanting to move to Sydney to experience some night life. You wont find it here.

It is situated 15km north of the Sydney CBD and falls into the Warringah council area. Its known to be both in the Northern beaches and also the "Forest" area.

The only negative is that there is no train line to jump onto, although there are bus routes. I notice that a lot of people have complained that there is a lack good public transport to Sydney for  working people. A little bit over at St. Ives there is a train in Gordon that takes about 15 minutes to get to Sydney center.

Forestville if close to the top forested areas of Sydney and as such dopes not have massive malls. There are a lot of smaller shops, do it yourself, gardening and nurseries. it really is a well to do area and as such the type of shops reflects this.

The following factors  were taken into account - property prices, size of land, average number of bedrooms, proximity to schools, shopping, health care and capital gains over time.

Forestville is actually only ranked 25th on the whole of Australia. The Blue Mountains came up really high with a lot of suburbs in the top 20. (affordability and plot sizes kicked these up.)

There are a choice of three primary schools in Forestville.
The nearest high school is Killarney Heights High School. There are some other high schools nearby - Forest High School in French's Forest and Davidson High School in French's Forest.

some of these are the best high schools in the northern areas.

There is also Aspect Vern Barnett School for children with autism spectrum disorder.

There are a bunch of sports and recreation facilities - Tennis, Netball, rugby.

The population is not high with only about 8000 residents and the average is a touch over 40 years of age. A about 1500 people are over 60! Mainly European ancestry (UK ancestry)

Orange a region in New South Wales, ranked as the number one area for families in NSW. The median house prices sitting at $333 000, a large plot size of 851 square meters and large houses with more than three bedrooms. House prices have increased by 16% over the last 5 years and there are good sets of amenities. Unfortunately Orange is three to four hours drive from Sydney, so if you are working in the Sydney area its a no go.

Forestville's average house prices are at a touch over 1 million AUD so its not a cheap option.

Forestville's average rentals are also sitting at $840 (3BR is at an average of $780, 4 BDR is averaging $900) per week so it is really a high end Suburb.

Only 12 percent is young couples with family.

If you want to check out St Ives which is close by and with a better train route go here
Good family Suburb - living in St. Ives, Sydney
A Good Sydney family Suburb - St Ives, Sydney - general tips about schools, trains and shops

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Bringing Pets To Australia

Wow, its a lot of work to bring a couple of pets to Australia!

We have two beautiful little dogs and a cat who are so totally part of the family. I have literally spent thirty to forty hours researching, faxing, emailing and phoning importers and kennels and vets and the moon.

Its crazy how you can ask some companies for a quote and they don't respond for days. Others are so expensive its just crazy.

I am currently moving my three pets to Sydney from a country that is not on the "allowed list" to Australia. This means that my pets must first go to an acceptable country for 6 months where they can be tested by "trusted" vets and then only can they be imported to Sydney where we will live.

The whole journey will take about seven months as there is state vet quarantine in both South Africa and Australia. read $$$$

I am exporting pets from the Philippines to Australia.

Firstly, the Philippines is not the easiest place to get things done. A lot of the exporters are fly by night, and when they hear you are a foreigner or expat they load the quote. Seriously? We are not dumb mister Filipino!

After going through a list of the main removal companies who all quoted very high, I ended up phoning the airlines myself and got put through to the airlines Cargo office, who, because its the Philippines, don't actually have their own offices so I got put through to a recognized agent.

I got put through to Aero international Freight forwarding they quoted me about USD $2050 to pickup and fly three small animals using Singapore Airlines via Singapore to South Africa. This is not including the IAT approved pet crate Kennel things I have to buy. They were Friendly and helpful and were the cheapest by far. The others were all at the USD $3300 mark.

They tried Emirates but this was not an option as they go via Dubai and they wont take pets in transit on their planes unless the have a special RNATT rabies test three months prior to leaving. Luckily other airlines don't require this.

Going via South Africa is also much cheaper than going six months in Malaysia which is expensive despite being closer and flights are shorter and cheaper. I got a quote for USD $30000 - seriously people! - they just sit in a  Kennel and eat kibbles!

Ok to get from the Philippines to South Africa there are number of things to be done.

So to get out of the Philippines all your rabies and other Vaccinations have to be up to date and your vet/shipper has to get a export certificate from somewhere in Manila before they can fly.

Also, in order for your pets to go to South Africa, you have to do the following :

Dogs will go into quarantine in South Africa for 6 to 14 days.
You need to apply for an import certificate for quarantine.
You need to deposit some money into a SA state vet bank
You need to send the application and deposit by fax to south Africa quarantine - to book a place.
They send it to the import permit place to get an import permit made.
You then need to phone them a few times to manage it along.
You need to organize a courier to pick up the docs and bring them to you in the Philippines.

Also. For dogs, blood needs to be drawn and couriered (chilled) to the Onderstepoort state vet for a number of tests.
You will have to pay for the local Philippines vet to do the blood, the fedexing and facilitation. I was charged 16000php.

You need a vet to do this. Allan at Vets in Practice, Alabang has done this twice now and has been very helpful.

The SA state vet will create a second Vet import permit that also needs to accompany the dogs.
In order to get this permit you need to deposit about Rand1500 per pet in a South African bank and the deposit slip needs to accompany the OVI Master Permit application with the blood to Onderstepoort.

When the dogs finally are in quarantine in Johannesburg they will be re-tested for some 5 items - which you will pay for - about Rand 1400 each.

Cats need a separate application for a non-quarantine import.
They do not go into quarantine.

They dogs need to be picked up from quarantine once the state quarantine staff are happy with them. South Africa quarantine Kennel costs are about Rand 32 per day (as apposed to AUD149 per day in Sydney (Rand1500)) Really Australia!?. You are going to crash with your prices!

Private Kenneling ranges from about 80 to 120 per day per animal.

So now your dogs are in South Africa.

So once they are in South Africa and out of quarantine, a 6 months Rabies regime starts, along with all the other normal Vaccinations, kenneling and flights and import permits to South Africa.

In Johannesburg I found three main kennels which people talk about on the forums

Keringa kennels - offer the full suite - kenneling and vet and import and export.
Paws Resort - kenneling and vet - they use another company for import and export.
Animal Travel do the whole gambit as well.

Keringa are the most expensive. they also omitted where the animal would stay - as they have three classes of kennels.

Paws resort seem reasonable with kennels with gardens. they were helpful and seemed to be less of a money grab.

I will follow up with more detail once I am further in process.

Feel free to post comments below and ask me questions in the comments.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

What is the job market like in Sydney?


probably everyone who immigrates to Australia probably has employment as uppermost on their mind. Of course if you are sponsored by a company it is no a big issue, but once you are out of the company that brought you over its going to be a new, possibly difficult playing field.

As someone who has migrated to Sydney Australia and lived in here for some years, I thought I would do some research and also share my own experience.

For me it was fairly easy to get a job in Sydney. the credit crunch in 2009 hit. I was living in Europe and my contracts dried up.

I applied for two jobs in Sydney by phone from the UK. After a few calls I had one job offered immediately (well after a few interviews) and that was the impetus for me to get there. I had a job - very safe - it did not pay so well(for me anyway).

After I was in Sydney for two months - the other company came back to me with a much better offer and I jumped to them. (sorry first company, but to be fair it was a much better offer)

I was in a niche skill set. There were not a lot of others around and I guess I ticked all the right boxes in terms of skill and experience.

I started in a great place - came with good experience - came in at the right price.


The flip side. I met a guy from Europe, who was doing some packing on a removals truck - really low skilled labor.  He could barely speak English. Please note he was such a nice guy - decent hard working, good nature. But! he could barely speak English. I asked him how long he had been in Australia. "6 years", he told me.

SIX years - and he could not speak English even half proficiently.

I know this will make some people mad!

But! Australia is English speaking. I think its possible to learn English in that time? At least to convince an employer you are not unable to communicate?

A lot of people on this blog, post about their struggle to find employment on this blog and I have noticed the same thing on forums. I stick by what I say, make sure your skills are current and that you can bring something to the job.

Come in at a lower wage (not ridiculously low) and make it worth their while. Once you have a track record find new opportunities.

My son does websites to make a living. He bumped into a lot of people starting new businesses (as they needed websites..) A lot of people were starting off as carpet cleaners, getting small franchises, pool cleaning and care, pet care and even running fitness courses for kids in schools.

One guys had built a whole fleet of guys doing carpet cleaning across wider NSW.

Some mothers were finding jobs at their kids schools in the canteen and so on. Find a way and get by.

There is a lot of money in Sydney, you can find ways to make it there.

Sydney, and Australia as a whole is affected by the global recessions and downturn in the markets - same as everywhere else. Don't expect it to be a simple game.

A very unfortunate fact about IT employment in Australia.

I know for a fact (as I work in one of these) is that all the big financial service companies - e.g. banks and insurance houses are and have moved 80% of their IT to cheap wage locations like Manila in the Philippines and Gurgaon in India. Several thousand people have been hired by just two banks in these cheaper areas of cost and all of those jobs have been lost in the home location - Australia. This is a stone cold fact. This is why, in order to compete you need to make sure you bring the best skills to the table. You will need to compete with the best - the core of the company left over in the "expensive" cost-to-company location (Australia).

The pressure of the global recession is forcing companies to really change the way they do things in order to survive.

Ok so what do they statistics say?

People in Australia are working longer hours - more than 40 per week.

Of young adults who worked full-time in 1976, more than half (59%) worked 40 hours per week and around a quarter (25%) worked more than 40 hours per week. In 2011 however, less than a third (31%) worked 40 hours per week, and over 38% worked more than 40 hours per week

 The 2011 Census reported that over one in four of Australia's 22 million people were born overseas.

November 2013 growth forecasts for this year are 2.5 per cent

Houses are becoming unaffordable - getting out of reach of dual parent incomes

Commutes of an hour at least are the norm.

 Australia Sydney, NSW - 354 in the work in affordability for houses
 Australia Sydney, NSW- average house price  $722,700
 Australia Sydney, NSW median house hold income $80,500  (you cant buy the above house on that....)

Good luck to everyone out there with your job search, please drop a few comments on how it went for you?

Please don't hesitate to ask specific questions below in the comments section. I would be happy to try and reply based on my limited experience in Sydney

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/state-of-the-australian-economy-in-15-charts-20140110-30lw4.html#ixzz39uEIt3hN

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

457 Visa for Australia -Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457)


457 Visa for Australia -Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457)


This visa lets a skilled worker travel to Australia to work in their nominated occupation for their approved sponsor for up to four years. ​​


You might be able to get this visa if:
  • you have been sponsored by an approved business
  • you have the required skills to fill a position nominated by an approved business.

more info

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Advice on moving to Sydney


Are you thinking of  immigrating to Australia? (or immigrating to any country for that matter)

Here is some advice on moving or immigrating to Sydney from someone who has moved to Sydney, but also has moved country many times - and this with family in tow.

Actually this advice applies to anyone immigrating from any country to any other country.

There is a very very very large chance it will fail - either due to lack of work, spouse or children being unhappy.

I have met some families where the mother cant speak any English and due to this afraid to let her 15 year old daughter out the house. The kid is practically a prisoner in a foreign country with no friends. Whenever the mothers goes out to shop or whatever the daughter is used as the interpreter and help and support crutch. Its no ideal. I am not judging but it can be horrendous for the children.

This is a highly complex issue and we are highly complex beings whose well-being is formed by things like attitude, values, friends, familiar places, shops, religion, family, money, climate(yes really)

Don't burn your bridges. Don't spend all your money. Don't sell your house, parrot, boat, whatever :)

Put it in storage with your family or just pay for storage.

Go to your new destination with eyes wide open.

It WILL be a holiday for the first six months - after that not so much, no friends, - just getting a pair of jeans or other item that fits and is to your taste is an issue.

Take at least a year maybe two before your pull all your assets over to your new country.

Go cheap, rent cheap, (close your eyes at the crappy rental house, and shabby carpets) - have cash left over to use for travel, weekend trips, do spoil your family.

You will need cash for a car or two. Especially if you have family.

If you are from the upper class in some other country - scale it down and be very prepared to scale it down. You need to drop down a level in order to start again.

You wont succeed if your family is unhappy. (did I mention that)

Make a 250 percent effort to spoil and cherish your spouse and children. Burn your assets on this for years - Remember, a house does not make your family happy - doing things, getting out, events, parties, clubs, learning activities, some sort of friendship network - this makes adults and children happy.

Send your family home - one, two or all for long holidays, don't mind if the holidays overrun the Australian school terms. Let them recharge, make it happen, think out the box.

I recently enjoyed the opportunity to work in another country (I left Sydney for two years) and now that we are to go back to Sydney its a frightening situation.

Money is tight in Sydney- things are very expensive -especially rentals. The feeling in the family is one of dread. Everything was under a budget.

If you have some cash, and buy a property, that's a good option as rentals in Sydney are very high and normally eat up a large chunk of the income.

Sydney is a great place don't get me wrong, its safe comparatively, has a fairly good infrastructure and schooling. But nothing is good if its too expensive to go out or you have no family or friends to share your experiences with.

A lot of people have posted on how hard they have found it to get a job in Sydney. They wasted large amounts of money moving, immigrating buying furniture and cars. Some people did all this and ran out of cash after some period - One commenter (on this blog) looked for six months and he was highly qualified - and still did not find work - not even an interview.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Best suburbs to raise a family in Melbourne

After moving to Australia some time ago I did some research on Melbourne in various places on the net - forums, blogs, answers.

Here is what I found 

Middle suburbs would probably be good - ones that do come down a bit in price because they are that little bit more out distance wise (approx 10 -15kms) These are not as expensive as the inner suburbs. 
Places like Balaclava, Oakleigh, Murrumbeena, Carnegie, Malvern East, Ashburton, Moorabbin, Cheltenham(these are all on the South Eastern side of the city).
The closer you get to the beaches the more it will cost. All of the above are on train lines and about 15-20 minutes by train from city or same by car.
It depends on whether you want to buy, rent, and if the schools are to be government or private.
Of course the suburbs that have the good government schools are usually a lot more expensive. 
Some other lady said
We have three young children and live in Ormond / McKinnon.  This is on the train line with great access to the city, its 5 to 10 minutes to the beach, there are outdoor pools and is also only 15 minutes from great shopping at Chadstone or Southland.
Our children are 9, 7 and 1 and we have found the public schools in the area to be excellent, there are also many good private schools. We have been away for 3 years and are returning there next week. Across the Nepean Highway to the Bayside suburbs of Brighton, Sandringham and Hampton the real estate prices are significantly higher. 
Someone else - 
Southbank is definitely my recommendation! It is only a ten minute walk to the city, it has excellent public transport (tram, bus and train), the road cafes are great and  the casino and Yarra river are nearby.
Another gent gave this review
Sought after areas in Melbourne are around the East, South and Southeast side, so this pushes up the price of the properties on those sides are pretty expensive. The inner suburbs are older houses, these are pretty dense and small, with hugely expensive prices due to their closeness to the CBD. 
I used to live in Collingwood and Clifton Hill (the inner suburbs) with my parents. Then got married in 2000 and started looking for our own place. The obvious path will be to look around the area that I have always lived in. However after searching for some time we realized that with our budget of about $300K, we could only find a run-down house that we would need to renovate extensively. We were looking further and further towards East and South East area, until we reached Rowville and felt that it had become ridiculously too far, not to mention the peak-hour traffic report that you usually hear from the radio on the M1. 
We finally found Point Cook, west of Melbourne. It is about 20 minutes from the city via the Westgate Freeway with plenty of new estates being opened, affordable prices, close to the sea and infrastructure that is aimed at young families. Just  have a look yourself if you are interested to find out.
Another insight
The flat newly developed (and industrial) areas are in the north and west. East and south east are the better areas with better living areas and life styles. What it comes down to is that cheaper areas are western and northern burbs which tend to be more industrialized. Nicer areas tend to be a little more expensive but worth the cleaner areas. Mind you some of the inner suburban areas are very expensive for a small dingy terrace house.
A differing opinion
Melbourne is NOT the world's most liveable city at all ! How arrogant is that ?? It's the best Aussie has got and that is thanks to the multiculturals. I've lived there for 4 years and know it very well. The older western inner suburbs are good like Nth Melbourne and Brunswick or older parts of St Kilda in the other direction. There are many nice inner suburbs around and also Yarraville over the bay is a very quaint old area. There is no escaping the hyped prices now on property unless you want to buy a crappy oversized legoland house on a muddy subsiding outer suburb scheme, which you should steer well clear of. Also, that Docklands is a nightmare c o c k up so I would forget that too. It is a hideous mess. I also hope you get used to the world worst rude drivers ! Go

One lady resident born and bred
I grew up in Glen Huntly and I loved living there as it was close to nice leafy suburbs like Caulfield and Bentleigh. When my husband and I purchased our first place we chose Cheltenham as we could not afford to buy into Glen Huntly/Caulfield. After living here for 2 years I can honestly say that it would be one of the best places in melbourne to live. We are right next to trains, Southland shopping centre, good schools, cafe's, beach, a major highway and every other amenity you could think of (including an excellent bulk billing medical centre that is open until 10pm every day). All this only 19k from Melbourne CBD. We have now purchased our second home in Highett and I am thrilled to be staying in the area. 
BrightonExpensive area – its one of Melbourne's top suburbs
Beaumaris,Nice family area – close to beach / golf courses / Westfield Southland
BoroniaFull of bogans – relatively close to Knox City Shopping Centre
Dandenong.Even more bogans.
Brighton & Dandenong are worlds apart in terms of location and cost of living –

Brighton is one of the most expensive suburbs in Melbourne; similarly livable but more affordable suburbs are Ormond and Hampton.
If you're in your 20s or early 30s, childless and want to live in a ‘trendy’ (I despise this term, but it’s pretty apt) south-east suburb, look at South Yarra (where I live), Prahran or Windsor. The latter two are more affordable, but there are seedy areas.
If you're in your early 30s or over, have children or will have children in the near future and want to live in a yuppie suburb, look at Malvern, Malvern East, Armadale, Glen Iris and Caulfield/Caulfield North/Caulfield South/Caulfield East. Elsternwick, St Kilda East and Carnegie are also family friendly, but less yuppie-ish.
I may be biased, but my vote goes to South Yarra. It has its faults (e.g. high median house price [although, you intend on renting] and high wanker factor), but I can’t think of any other south-east suburb with as many great cafes, restaurants, shops, schools, parks, bars and clubs. The public transport is also very good and [edit] it's close to the city/CBD. 


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