Australia is the world’s smallest continent and the worlds biggest island. The land area is 7,682,300 sq. km. With a population of just under 20 Million people, 90% are of European descent, 1.5% aboriginal and the rest from Asia and the Pacific countries. It’s mainly a Christian country, with acceptance of all faiths. English is the main language, but immigrants have brought in many diverse cultures and languages, such as Greek, Italian, Arabic, Mandarin and Spanish. You will find that Sydney and Melbourne are very cosmopolitan cities, with the cost of tuition fees cheaper than the other cities (more colleges, more competition), but the cost of living is slightly higher.
Geography and Climate
When the Continental Drift happened some 50 million years ago, Australia became both the world’s smallest continent and its largest island.
It is the only single country to occupy an entire continent and after Russia, Canada, China, USA and Brazil, is the sixth largest country in the world.
Nearly one third of Australia lies in the tropics, though apart from the lush and fertile coastal fringes, much of the interior is desert. Some 85% of Australia’s 20 million inhabitants live within 80kms of the coast. Australia is blessed with a gorgeous climate, being comfortably warm most of the year.
There are occasional extremes of heat in Summer, but the south-eastern corner is the only region to experience snowfall in Winter, and then only at high altitudes.
The seasons are of course the reverse to the northern hemisphere; January is usually the hottest month and July the coldest time of year.
In the tropical Far North it is warm to hot all year round, the seasons being simply referred to as “Wet”or “Dry”.
Culture and Society
For the past 200 years migrants have steadily arrived in Australia, mostly from Britain and southern Europe, and many Australians still identify culturally with their European heritage.
More recently there has been a considerable increase in Asian Migration with the result Australia is now home to one of the most culturally diverse communities on earth. There is complete freedom of religious observance and Australians generally are very tolerant people.
Alternative lifestyles exits in harmony with the mainstream population and a relaxed attitude to almost everything is typical of the Australian character. People from all over the world now make up Australian society, bringing with them their art, their cooking, their traditions.
Although English is the official language and universally used in all aspects of Australian life, it is not unusual to hear a number of foreign languages, especially within community groups in the larger cities.
The Commonwealth of Australia consists of six states: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and two territories: The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
A three-tier governmental system operates: Federal, State, and Local government.
The Federal government is headed by a Prime Minister. The Federal government is responsible for matter affecting Australia as a whole such as foreign affairs, defence, telecommunications etc.
State governments headed by a Premier, control school education, law enforcement, transport etc. and local governments are concerned with such things as town planning, roads, parks, building approval and the like.
Banking services in Australia are extremely competitive with over 20 local banking groups plus numerous international ones.
The four major banks are the ANZ bank, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac.
Normal trading hours are 9:30am to 4pm Monday to Friday. In some states selected banking facilities are also available on Saturday morning.
Cost of Living
Annual living expenses for the average single student would be about $12.000 per year taking into account rent, food, local transport, telephone, gas/electricity, school stationary, clothing and entertainment.
Strict laws prohibit or restrict the entry of drugs, steroids, firearms, protected wildlife and certain other products. There is no limit on the amount of Australian and/or foreign cash that may be brought into or taken out of Australia, however amounts over $5000 must be declared.
Australian currency is decimal with dollar as the basic unit (100 cents equals one dollar). The bank notes which are plastic and not paper, are $5 (purple), $10 (blue), $20 (orange), $50 (yellow) and $100 (green).
Coins are silver-coloured for 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and gold-coloured for $1 and $2.
Australia has a modern telephone system with two major operators, Telstra and Optus. The minimum cost of a local call from a public payphone is 40 cents. Long-distance calls within Australia (STD) and international direct calling (IDD) calls can be made on public payphones.
First of all, most institutions accepting overseas students have a staff member available to assist students with accommodation. Universities, TAFE Institutes and other institutions of higher education operate internal housing offices for enrolled students. This service usually offers a wide range of accommodation including home stay, on campus residencies and a selection of rental accommodations.
Students should contact the Housing Office or the International Education Office prior to their arrival in Australia to arrange a temporary accommodation situation. This will give them time to consider where and how they would like to live for the length of their stay.
Some more expensive modes of accommodation will often be inclusive of full-board and meals. As a priority, students should be looking for a relaxed study environment but also the opportunity to meet people from other nationalities.
Most areas of Australia are 2-3 hours ahead of Asia, 9-10 hours ahead of Europe and 16-20 hours ahead of the american continent. Daylight saving in summer also operates in the majority of states from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in April.
There are three time zones in Australia;
- Eastern Standard Time (EST) which operates in New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and
- Queensland; Central Standard Time (CST) in South Australia and Northern
- Territory; and Western Standard Time (WST) in Western Australia.
CST is one half hour behind EST while WST is three hours behing EST.
Where to Live
Students arriving in Australia for the first time often experience some degree of ‘culture shock’, particularly in relation to their new living arrangements, which may be very different to accommodation at home.
However, careful selection of accommodation will ease the pressure of a new and somewhat strange environment. Accommodation in Australia is of a high standard and is available to suit many different budgets.
Below are listed a selection of websites that should give you most of the information that you require.
Dept. of Immigration: www.immi.gov.au
State Library of NSW: www.slnsw.gov.au
On-line Dictionary: www.yourdictionary.com
Dymocks Bookstores: www.dymocks.com.au
Sydney Morning Herald: www.smh.com.au
Australian Stock Exchange: www.asx.com.au
The Age: www.theage.com.au
The Australian: www.theaustralian.com.au
Australian Financial Review: www.afr.com.au
Australian Broadcasting Corporation: www.abc.net.au/news
Getting Around Sydney
Sydney Ferries: www.sydneyferries.nsw.gov.au
Sydney Buses: www.sydneybuses.nsw.gov.au
City Rail: www.cityrail.nsw.gov.au
NSW Tourism Board: www.tourism.nsw.gov.au
Lonely Planet Guidebook: www.lonelyplanet.com
Australian Tourist Commission: www.aussie.net.au
Places of Interest
Harbour Bridge Climb: www.bridgeclimb.com.au
The Opera House: www.soh.nsw.gov.au
Sydney Aquarium: www.sydneyaquarium.com.au
Taronga Zoo: www.zoo.nsw.gov.au
Art Galleries: www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au
National Parks and Wildlife: www.npws.nsw.gov.au
Australian Job Search: www.jobsearch.gov.au
Career Com Au: www.career.com.au
Career One: www.careerone.com.au
Centre Link: www.centrelink.gov.au
Employment News: http://employmentnews.com.au
Fairfax IT jobs: www.itjobs.fairfax.com.au
Future Step: www.futurestep.com
Hot Jobs: www.hotjobs.com.au
IT jobs: www.znet.com.au/jobs
Job Net: www.jobnet.com.au
Michael Page: www.michaelpage.com.au
Morgan & Banks: www.morganbanks.com.au
My Career: www.mycareer.com.au
Positions Vacant: www.positionsvacant.com.au
Top Jobs: www.topjobs.com.au
English Language Training
Most overseas students entering Australian schools or institutions of vocational or Higher Education will need some amount of English language training before they are able to properly undertake mainstream studies.
All institutions require a minimum standard of spoken and written English and the level of proficiency required will depend on the standards set by the enrolling institution and the proposed course of study.
Most institutions will offer provisional enrolment into the desired course (assuming the required level of academic achievement has been attained), once the student has reached satisfactory English language proficiency.
At the time of enrolment students will either sit an aptitude test provide documentary evidence of their proficiency in any of the internationally recognized English tests.
Students are graded on individual units or subjects leading to a final award. Australian universities normally use one or two systems: an alpha system (A,B,C etc.) with plus or minus variables. e.g.
A+ = 90% or higher
B- = 65%-70% approx
C = 55% approx
Alternatively they may give descriptive grades of which there are four: High Distinction (HD), Distinction (D), Credit (C) and Pass (P). A High Distinction will equate to an A-A+ and so on.
Private Vocational Colleges and Institutes of Tafe
Most private colleges specialize in one or more areas of study closely aligned to the industry in which the student will ultimately work. Their aim is to provide practical training to prepare students for employment in their chosen field.
Vocational studies might include tourism and hospitality, computing, photography, business, graphic arts etc.
In any diagram of the Australian education system, Institutes of Training and Further Education (TAFE) are placed between secondary school and university. In this position they offer another pathway into Higher Education.
TAFE institutes are government funded institutions with a strong vocational focus offering practical training over a wide range of occupations.
Many TAFE teachers are also employed in the industry which they teach, bringing current expertise to the classroom.
The majority of Australian universities are public, government funded institutions, though there is a small number of private universities.
Australian universities, as institutions of Higher Education confer awards ranging from Diploma to Doctorate, though not all institutions offer all disciplines or confer all awards.
A description of the awards offered by Australian universities, in ascending order of academic attainment, is as
Two years full-time study.
Six to nine months additional study beyond the Diploma. Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas are also offered by TAFE institutes and may be credited to a university degree program.
Minimum three years full-time study. Many bachelors degrees require four or more years of full-time study; e. g. Engineering, Medicine, Dentistry etc.
Post graduate (Graduate)
One semester of full-time study following a Bachelor degree.
Post graduate (Graduate)
Two semesters (one year) of full-time study following a Bachelor degree. Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas offer students greater dept of learning in an specific interest which may or may not be related to the disciplines of the Bachelor degree.
These awards may also be supporting documents to a student’s application for the enrolment in Masters or Doctorate programs.
Normally two years of study after the Bachelor degree or one year af ter and Honours Bachelor degree. The Masters
degree is offered by coursework and thesis or research and thesis.
Normally a minimum of three years full-time study. This award is by research and thesis and may be taken after succesful completion of a Masters degree or, in some instances, an Honours Bachelor degree.