Where to live in Australia

by Mark Benson on February 1, 2010

in General Information

What does Australia have to offer?

Australia is one of the more popular destinations for expats around the world and there are a number of prominent expat hotspots throughout the country. While areas such as Bondi Beach and other prominent tourist destinations can grab the headlines there is no doubt that ultimately the vast majority of expats of working age will at some point focus upon the five major cities of Australia.

Even though the tourist destinations on the coast attract large amounts of visitors and a large number of employment opportunities many of the more prominent and well paid employment sectors are focused in and around Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. These five cities are by far and away the largest in Australia and ultimately attract the most attention.

Sydney

Even though Canberra is the capital of Australia there is no doubt that Sydney attracts the most attention in the worldwide press and many people even believe that it is the capital of Australia. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales with a population of over 4.4 million and covering an area of over 12,000 km². Situated on the coast, Sydney is often referred to as the “harbour city” and has for many years been a very popular destination for those looking to relocate to Australia.

The city is one of the leading centres in the world in relation to commerce, art, fashion, culture, entertainment, education, tourism and is also one of the more prominent financial centres around the globe. It has also hosted a number of high-profile sporting events such as the 2000 Summer Olympics, 2003 Rugby World Cup and the 2008 World Youth Day. But what does Sydney have to offer expats?

The weather in Sydney is referred to as a “temperate climate” with traditional warm summers and winters which are regulated, at least for those areas on the coast, by the ocean winds. In a direct comparison to the UK, the warmest month is in January where temperatures have been known to reach as high as 45°C while the coldest month is July where the temperature has been known to drop to 2.1°C. Compared to the likes of UK, Australia is very attractive from a weather angle, something which has not gone unnoticed by expats around the world.

The employment situation in Sydney is centred round property, business services, retail, manufacturing and health and community services. As with many prominent economies around the world the 1980s saw a significant shift from manufacturing to service industries with information technology also playing a prominent part. Sydney also has the highest median household income of any major city in Australia at upwards of US$42,000 with an unemployment rate of around 4.9%. Despite the fact that Sydney is ranked in the top 20 most expensive cities in the world it is an area of Australia which continues to attract the attention of expats with lucrative employment opportunities available across many different areas.

Sydney is considered by many to be the most multicultural city in Australia.

Melbourne

Melbourne is the capital city of the state of Victoria and has a population of around 4 million, making it the second largest city in Australia. Founded way back in 1835 Melbourne is now a centre of the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, sport and tourism with particular focus upon the media and the sports arena. It is commonly referred to as the “cultural capital of Australia”, a tag which has attracted the attention of many people.

Melbourne contains the busiest seaport in Australia and the business arena is dominated by the automotive industry which includes Ford and Toyota to name but a few. However, even though the city’s port handles over $75 billion worth of trade each year (around 40% of total Australian container trade) it is also very prominent financial centre with particularly strong links to the Asia-Pacific area. Like Sydney, it has handled a number of prominent sporting events such as the 2006 Commonwealth Games which instigated a significant redevelopment of areas of Melbourne which have benefited the business and tourism community to this day.

The city’s financial centre status is based upon the fact that two of Australia’s big four banks, National Australia Bank and ANZ, have their headquarters in Melbourne although it is also the centre of Australia’s superannuation pension fund industry. It is estimated that 40% of Australia’s pension fund investment is centred round Melbourne and 65% of so-called pension super funds such as the Federal Government Future Fund are based there. The likes of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Telstra also have their headquarters in Melbourne which has attracted significant investment and significant employment opportunities for expats moving to the region.

Despite the fact that Sydney is perhaps the better-known city between Melbourne and Sydney, Melbourne is now regarded as the leading tourist destination with around 8 million domestic visitors and approaching 2 million international visitors each and every year. Official figures indicate that from 2008 Melbourne actually attracted more in tourist money than Sydney. It is also worth noting that Melbourne is very prominent in the domestic and international conference markets which continue to attract great interest from overseas companies and significant investment opportunities.

Brisbane

Located in Queensland, Brisbane is the capital of the state with a population of nearly 2,000,000 making it the third largest city in the country. Situated on the east coast of Australia, Brisbane is a coastal city which was one of the first European penal colonies set up back in 1824. The history of Brisbane can be traced back to World War II when it played a prominent role in the Allied campaign and, like so many of Australia’s other prominent cities, it has also hosted a number of sporting and cultural events such as the 1982 Commonwealth Games, World Expo 88 and the Final Goodwill Games in 2001.

Brisbane has what is commonly referred to as a “humid subtropical climate” with hot and very humid summers and dry mild winters. The highest recorded temperature can be traced back to January 1940 at 43.2°C although in July 2007 the temperature in Brisbane fell below freezing for the first time ever at -0.1°C. Due to the very high temperatures in the region water usage in Brisbane is amongst the lowest in any western city in the world and there are often restrictions on the use of water.

Unlike many other prominent cities in Australia, Brisbane has a fairly wide mix of employment sectors which include both white collar (information technology, financial services, higher education and public sector administration) as well as blue-collar (petroleum refining, paper milling, metalworking and railway workshops). It is also worth noting that the Brisbane authorities have invested substantial amount of money into education and universities and indeed a number of successful biotechnology and other research facilities are based within the area.

Employment opportunities in Brisbane are many and it is recognised as one of Australia’s more prominent business areas with companies such as Credit Union Australia, Boeing Australia and Virgin Blue among some of the better known Australian companies with headquarters in the area. Brisbane has the fourth highest median household income in the country at just under US$41,000 which is obviously a significant attraction for expats looking to move to the country.

Perth

Perth is the capital city of the state of Western Australia with a population of over 1.6 million and a recent growth rate which has regularly exceeded the average in Australia. The city itself was founded back in 1829 and is often referred to as the “city of lights” because of the occasions when residents switched on all of their house lights and street lights when American astronauts passed overhead in 1962 and 1998. The city itself is situated on the west coast of Australia and the port of Perth is of a size that it is actually a city in its own right named Fremantle.

The climate in Perth is referred to as a “Mediterranean climate” with hot dry summers commonly lasting between December and late March with relatively cool and wet winters between May and September. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Perth was 46.7° back in 1991 with the coldest coming back in 2006 at -0.7°C. Unlike many summer seasons across Australia, there is some rainfall during the summer period, but not much!

Perth is relatively isolated as far as Australia’s largest cities go although the city itself is a focal point for business and government despite the fact that many industries such as mining, petroleum and agricultural exports are located elsewhere in the state of Western Australia. Like so many of Australia’s more prominent cities there has been a shift from the manufacturing industry to the services industry, which has been ongoing since the 1950s. Due to the large port associated with Perth the vast majority of manufactured goods required in the area are imported from either other areas of Australia or overseas.

The vast majority of employment opportunities are available in wholesale trade, retail, business services, health, education, community and personal services and public administration. While perhaps not as well-known as the likes of Sydney and Melbourne within expat circles, Perth is a city which continues to grow at a far higher rate than the average Australian city, offering new and interesting employment and investment opportunities.

Adelaide

Adelaide is the capital city of the state of South Australia and the fifth largest in the country with a population of over 1.1 million people. It is situated on the south east side of the country and is again a coastal city which appears to be a common factor associated with prominent and popular expat destinations – not only for the lifestyle and weather but also employment opportunities.

The weather in Adelaide is classified as a “hot Mediterranean climate” with mild wet winters and long hot dry summers. The rainfall in the Adelaide area is unreliable, light and infrequent and the city is officially classified as the driest of the major Australian cities. While there is some rainfall in the area, historically there have been rainless summer months with a record 69 days without any rainfall recorded back in 1893, although the rainfall is more reliable in the winter period.

The Adelaide economy is focused upon manufacturing, defence technology, research, commodity export and related service industries. The area is also heavily involved in electronic systems which are exported around the world with regards to medical, communications, defence, automotive, food and wine processing and various industrial sectors. It is also worth noting that Adelaide produces around half of all cars manufactured in Australia with General Motors prominent in the area. However, the city of Adelaide has not avoided controversy in the past with the State bank collapsing in 1992 with debts of AUS$4 billion. This led to a period of spending cuts and pressure on the state budget although recently the state authority regained its AAA+ credit rating and the area now appears to be back on a growth track.

Conclusion

We have covered the five largest cities in Australia which obviously figure prominently on destinations considered by expats looking to make a new life for themselves in the country. While there are many other areas of Australia which continue to attract the attention of overseas settlers these are the areas which offer the greatest employment opportunities and a higher standard of living. However, they are also amongst the most expensive cities in which to live, not only in Australia but many of them do figure prominently in the most expensive cities in the world list.

There are many areas of life in Australia which continue to attract more and more expats but it is the growing economy as a whole which offers many employment opportunities, investment opportunities and for those with experience in vital areas of the employment market, a potential shortcut through the immigration system. The fairly relaxed immigration policy implemented by successive governments has also had an impact upon the Australian population which has quadrupled since World War I.

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