Living in Perth

by Mark Benson on February 4, 2010

in General Information

While the likes of Sydney and Melbourne may grab more attention than Perth there is no doubt that this is a city which is becoming more and more attractive to expats and immigrants all around the world. It has a history which goes back many years and a future which looks prosperous, bright and set to attract more and more visitors. But what exactly does living in Perth have to offer? What can you expect from Australia’s fourth-largest city?

The history of Perth

As we mentioned above, Perth is the fourth largest city in Australia with a population of 1.6 million and the title of the capital of the state of Western Australia. This is a city which is able to trace its roots back to June 1829 when Capt James Stirling arrived to set up camp although the first actual sighting of the area can be traced back to 1697 when the Dutch were exploring in the region. As we have seen in other prominent cities in Australia there is this very strong link to the aborigines with evidence that they have lived in the area for over 40,000 years.

Formerly known as the Swan River Colony, Perth was the first recognised European settlement in the western third of the continent. Indeed the date on which the British colony was created, 4 June 1829, is still celebrated today with Foundation Day recognised as a public holiday. There is some confusion as to how the name of the city was arrived at although one of the early European visitors was from Perth in Scotland.

The weather in Perth

The city of Perth is situated on the Swan Coastal Plain, which is relatively flat and sandy, with the Swan River very prominent in the area. The city and its suburbs cover an area of around 6,100 km² and include a number of beaches which are proving very popular with the tourist market. Those looking at living in Perth should be aware that the area has what is known as a “Mediterranean climate” with hot and dry summers and relatively cool and wet winters. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Perth was a mammoth 46.2°C back in 1991 with the coldest recorded at -0.7°C back in 2006. The hottest month in the area is traditionally February with June recognised as the coldest time of the year.

Whether due directly to global warming or a natural shift in climate patterns it is reported that rainfall patterns in and around Perth have changed significantly since the mid-1970s with less rainfall in the winter and more “extreme” short, sharp, downpours in the summer months. Tourism continues to grow in Perth which has a number of extremely clean beaches, traditional tourist climate and a growing number of tourist services and facilities.

The economy of Perth

In many ways Perth is isolated on the west coast of Australia although over the years the area and the economy have adapted to this. Like so many of Australia’s largest cities we have seen a gradual change in the local economy with the services sector now more prominent than any other employment sector. As you might expect from the capital of the state of Western Australia, Perth is the administrative centre for business and government.

While there is still a relatively small manufacturing base in Perth, this predominantly serves the local communities needs, the majority of manufactured goods are imported from overseas or the eastern states of Australia. There are many different areas of employment highly visible in Perth which include shipbuilding, mining, agriculture, retail, wholesale trade, business services, health, education, community and personal services as well as public administration. The vast majority of service sector employment positions are centred in and round the Perth metropolitan area which continues to attract expats and overseas visitors.

One area in which Perth is rich in resources is metal ores, coal and oil and even though these operations are predominantly on the outskirts of the Perth region many of Australia and the Far East’s prominent mining and oil companies have their headquarters in Perth. This is an area of employment which continues to grow and attracts above average income for expats with skills which are required in these particular sectors.

Property in Perth

In relative terms property prices in Perth are less than the likes of Sydney and Melbourne when you also take into account levels of income and the cost of living. However, there was a housing boom within the Perth region from 2005 to 2008 which saw prices increase faster than wages hence increasing the relative cost of living. Traditionally Perth has maintained one of the highest standards of living in Australia and even though the cost of living has increased, in many ways this advantage is still in place.

There are many reasons why property prices in Perth increased between 2005 in 2008 but the main reason was the continued surge in expats and immigrants moving to the region. Even though higher paid jobs are perhaps a little more difficult to secure in Perth, compared to Melbourne and Australia, the number of highly skilled workers from overseas moving to Perth continues to rise. In tandem with many of Australia’s leading cities, Perth has seen a significant increase in its population since World War II with a fairly relaxed immigration policy allowing companies in the region to bring in highly skilled overseas workers.

The relative price of property compared to income and the cost of living in the region has narrowed between Perth, Melbourne and Australia but Perth continues to grow in stature and population and we are seeing the outskirts expand and cheaper property becoming available.

The transport network in Perth

As we touched on above, Perth is relatively isolated in geographical terms even though it has managed to overcome this in the business arena. As a consequence of this geographical isolation the transport network in and around the region has attracted massive investment by the local authorities over the years. The area is serviced by a network of freeways and highways, extensive train services, many bus routes and ferries but the region’s two main airports, Perth airport and Jandakot airport, are becoming ever more vital as regards the prospects and the future of the region.

The metropolitan area of Perth itself has a very impressive 70 railway stations, 15 bus stations and has seen a massive improvement in reliability and quality of service. There are areas of “free travel” by train and by bus in and around the Perth metropolitan area which is obviously good for business and good for employment prospects. Such is the size and capacity of the city’s main port, Fremantle, it is in effect a city in its own right on the outskirts of Perth.

Education in Perth

As is becoming a common theme amongst Australia’s major cities, living in Perth will give you access to a vast array of universities such as the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, Curtin University of Technology and the Edith Cowan University with one private university in the region which is the University of Notre Dame. The University of Western Australia is one of the “group of eight” prominent universities in Australia and has a world renowned research institution. Indeed the striking architecture of the university itself is proving to be something of a tourist attraction with growing numbers visiting the campus.

The Curtin University of Technology goes back to 1966 and is Western Australia’s largest university by student population alone. This particular university’s has a great reputation in the field of science and engineering research and is renowned as the best of its kind in New Zealand and Australia. The Murdoch University was created in the 1970s and houses Australia’s largest veterinary school with a campus which is over 2.2 km².

The Edith Cowan University is an amalgamation of the Western Australian College of Advanced Education and the Teachers Colleges at Claremont, Churchlands and Mount Lawley. The university also incorporates the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts which is a very prominent field of education in the Australian university system.

The University of Notre Dame Australia has a history which goes back to 1990 although the facilities in Perth are second to the campus in Sydney. However this University is one of the only ones in Australia to have a campus in two or more Australian cities and the university also has strong ties with its American namesake.

The culture of Perth

Perth offers an array of different cultures with museums and galleries, sport, music and performing arts and film and television to name but a few. When you throw in such establishments as the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Western Australian Museum, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Perth International Arts Festival you begin to get a flavour of exactly what Perth has to offer. Sport in the region covers a variety of different activities such as Australian rules football, basketball, cricket, hockey, netball, rugby union, soccer and baseball.

The culture and the reputation of Perth is proving invaluable to the tourist industry because even though the area is relatively “isolated” geographically it still continues to attract more and more visitors on an annual basis. There are a few other cities in Australia which have managed to adapt to their environment and their location as well as Perth which is down to planning for the future and a proactive local authority.

The cost of living in Perth

The cost of living in Perth is dominated by the property sector, as we have seen across all major Australian cities, and the increase in property prices since 2005 has had a marked impact upon the cost of living. Of the five major Australian cities which include Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, the cost of houses in the region is the second highest at an average of $475,000, although, median unit prices are the fourth highest out of the major five at $336,000.

If you look back around five years ago the cost of living in Perth compared very favourably to the cost of living in other prominent Australian cities such as Melbourne and Adelaide. However, as we have indicated above, there was something of a property boom between 2005 in 2008 which saw a very sharp spike in the cost of property in the region which has impacted upon the overall cost of living in Perth.

While in many ways the cost of living in Perth is still cheaper than many other prominent Australian cities it does not compare as favourably as it used to against the likes of the UK. Unfortunately one of the by-products of a successful economy and a successful city is an increase in highly skilled and highly paid jobs which have been created by numerous multinationals moving to the region. Unfortunately, the original Perth residents are now being priced out of the property market and it is believed that upwards of 30% of those living in Perth moved there from overseas.

Conclusion

There are many prosperous and growing cities in Australia although when you consider the relative geographic isolation of Perth this is a success story which has come through hard work and forward planning by the authorities. The region of Perth has attracted an enormous number of immigrants and continues to do so with the offer of highly paid jobs for highly skilled workers. This has seen a significant increase in the cost of living in and around the region but this has been offset by an increase in the quality of services, facilities and employment opportunities in the area.

While Perth is the centre of the state of Western Australia it is noticeable that many of the companies headquartered in the city actually operate on the outskirts of the region in areas such as mining, coal and oil. However, there are more and more service companies moving to Perth and this is creating a useful and their welcome balance in the employment market. While perhaps not one of the best known tourist destinations in Australia, Perth is still an area which is attracting more than its fair share of visitors and has seen an increase in its population of around 400% over the last 50 years.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne February 22, 2010 at 1:51 am

What is recommendable if I´d like to visit Perth?

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Lorraine February 27, 2011 at 2:45 am

Great overview. We're looking to relocate from Sydney to Perth. Currently living in a cheap suburb of Sydney so house pricing is definitely a major issue.

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George Pearson September 12, 2011 at 3:13 am

The above article about Perth is far too generous. Do your homework before coming to Perth.

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Josie Barker September 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I am sorry to tell you that Perth is nowhere near as interesting or liveable as this coverage would have you believe. Perth is a dreary, petty-minded city with very little in the way of cultural worth. The cost of living is hideous. Fresh food is exhorbitantly-priced. The cost of property is appalling. First time homebuyers are in a very difficult position. The housing stock is painfully ugly as well as over-priced and Perth's transport system is basically primitive with successive governments promising improvements but, once in office, never delivering. The winter is mild and dry but December to April are uncomfortably hot and sometimes humid. (Increasingly humid according to hearsay.) There are racial problems throughout Western Australia that I have not seen in other parts of Australia – though I have to admit I don't know Northern Territory or South Australia well. There seems to be a greater proportion of British-born people in WA. Certainly it has a xenophobic atmosphere. Whether these facts are connected is hard to say. What is certain is that WA has as full a contingent of drunks and dangerous drunk-drivers as anywhere else in Australia and possibly more. The newer trend of making your own drugs in backyard labs and factories is fast becoming legendary. As for schooling – well I don't have to worry about that but I suspect Perth would not score well on the Educational league tables… but poor poor education is one of Australia trademarks. Perth contnues to have a smalltown mentality whilst contending with increasing numbers of newcomers without proper housing to support the influx. Please do your homework before making a move to Perth. I can't wait to get out of the hole.

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davide May 19, 2013 at 9:57 am

Hi, I'm moving to Perth in July, and I'm looking for a working hostel. Do you have any suggestions? I want to work in a farm, for the second Visa. But I don't know which part of Perth is better for farm works.
So please if someone can help me, reply to this post!! Thank you so much!!

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