One thing that I have almost forgotten with the ordinary and enjoyable day to day life here are the many adventures and complications that brought us here. What I mean, of course, is that immigrating isn't an easy thing. We seem to have fallen on our feet on the other end. Good jobs, wonderful people, a great church, a good community. It's not everyone's experience.
The journey here wasn't quite as smooth and was filled with a huge sense of risk. For a start, being a New Zealander immigrating to Australia is a somewhat risky thing. There are many New Zealanders going back to the land of the long white cloud because they have run out of money. In simple words, they lost their jobs or never got one after immigrating, and the government here will not support any New Zealanders on Newstart. Unless they've been unemployed for years. Then to the best of my knowledge, they give you Newstart for perhaps six weeks. And after that, you're on your own again. So both of us giving up very decent jobs in New Zealand to immigrate to a place on a set schedule without knowing whether we would have jobs by the time our flights came around was pretty daunting.
It was made less daunting by the fact that I am an Australian citizen, though. If either of us run into financial hardship, our income should drop below the threshold enough for me to get a little help from the government. So that is good. But it would be just enough for one person to live on. Better than nothing, but not necessarily everything needed in a tough time.
Once upon a time, New Zealanders flocked to Australia in hordes. It was a land of better pay and opportunities for many. New Zealanders even used to be allowed to collect the dole here in Australia, well over a decade ago. Then the Australian government changed the rules. They allowed New Zealanders to keep living here indefinitely. But they cut most of them out of opportunities for citizenship. So many tax paying New Zealanders here cannot vote and cannot get income support while they are jobless. They are entitled to Medicare cards, but apparently (I've not ascertained how true all this is yet, but it's something I've heard) Australians still get more perks. Some New Zealanders insist they've been denied some healthcare subsidies that other medicare card holders have gotten. Who knows? Time will tell for us. It's still a privilege to be allowed to live here.
We were advised quite strongly by a few people not to go, and I certainly did take that to heart. I never do something without worrying about it ten times first. But at the end of the day, both of us felt the urge for a big change. We made a decision that we hope will benefit us and possibly any children we have (who will be allowed dual citizenship because of me).
The first step on our journey was to check what sort of teaching job my husband could get. As I'm self-employed, I need to build up my income over time. Not all Australian states accept New Zealand qualified teachers indiscriminately. For some of the states, you have to do a whole lot of extra paperwork to get in. So that narrowed down our choices.
Originally, we looked at most of Australia - excepting Tasmania (too cold) and Northern Territory (too many crocs). Then we cut out the states that didn't offer mutual recognition for New Zealand teachers. That unfortunately knocked out New South Wales and Victoria. After that, it was a serious toss up between Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland. We had our sights set on Adelaide for a while. Then we wondered about Perth - less hay fever and warmer seas. At last, we settled on Queensland somewhat reluctantly. The jobs were better around Brisbane, with more plentiful opportunities. I was concerned about the humidity and the termites, which are sometimes worse in the North.
We looked specifically at Brisbane but also looked at towns scattered around about it, which was how we came up with Chinchilla. A job at the Christian College was being advertised. Chinchilla looked like a great place to live - comfortable, cozy, and outfitted with everything anyone needs for day to day life (except a maternity ward, but thankfully people here don't pop out a baby every other day). Michael's mutual recognition had come through by the time he applied for this job, and he had paid for Queensland Teachers' Registration. It was quite extraordinary to see this all come through in the mail. So he emailed a few recruiters and applied for the Chinchilla job. He was accepted for the Christian College here relatively quickly. It was extraordinary that by the end of August, he had a job to go to, and we knew we were going to be financially okay in a new country. The relief was immense. We had already committed to immigrating (he had resigned from his previous job), so it was good to know things were looking positive on the other side. Much later in the year, the recruiters got back to Michael and offered him a potential position in Townsville (which is probably still partially underwater currently) or Mount Isa (which is so remote it may as well be on another planet). Chinchilla is probably the place for us. Besides which, Townsville has crocodiles, and I'm not quite ready to go level up on my Australian challenge yet.
After Michael got the job, I was also offered work at the college teaching singing and piano. This meant a lot of paperwork for me. In Australia, everyone is required to pay for a blue card when working with children. It's like getting police vetted in New Zealand, but it's not free. It costs a decent amount every three years. So that was step number one. Then to get an ABN (Australian Business Number) and a TFN (Tax File Number) all so that I could get personal indemnities insurance. This is so that if I accidentally burn the school down, I'm covered for the damages. All this took quite a bit of time.
We visited Australia in September and stayed in Chinchilla for a few days. Unfortunately, one of our first introductions to living in the town was viewing rentals in the newer areas of Chinchilla. It's not all bad, but it is worth saying that some places were built pretty quickly during a mining boom, and it does show. I felt thoroughly depressed after viewing a couple of places.
I'm pleased to say our current rental (an older home) is a better fit for us. It's better built and more solid.
Before we visited Chinchilla in September last year, I had this not-so-bright idea. If we bought a car, we wouldn't need to pay for a rental. So we bought a car, literally over the phone. It's actually an excellent car, so we were pretty lucky. But the major issue came when we wanted to drive it away. I didn't have an Australian driver's license or address, so I had none of the vital identification documents to register as the car's official owner - and most of my New Zealand ID did not count. A friend let us park our car at her place for two months while we were back in New Zealand prior to moving, and I had luckily put her address on the insurance documents for the car (which were hopelessly difficult to get from NZ as few companies wish to insure a car when the owners are still living in another country for a few months). So with the digital copy of my insurance statement and my Australian citizenship certificate, we pulled through, after about an hour of waiting at a government agency. My writer friend Russell Proctor kindly drove us to the government agency and then also took us to town where we verified my bank account in Australia. The Commonwealth Bank here allows you to set up from another country. But you still have to verify your account in the middle of a large city. However, it did mean we could transfer funds into our account before arriving, meaning we had money to spend.
Without good friends letting us park our car at their place or driving us around in Brisbane CBD, we would never have made it through.
After our return to New Zealand, we spent most of three months preparing to move and finishing up our work. We had originally chosen to leave our dog behind, but I wound up deciding I would miss her too much. The day before she traveled, we received an invoice for her flight, detailing a transit to Melbourne. That freaked me out, and I got on the phone really quickly.
"Oh, it was just a mistake," the pet transporter told me, rather casually. "I meant to write Brisbane."
The good news about transporting a dog from New Zealand to Australia is that there is no quarantine for pets from New Zealand. The main reason for this, I suppose, is because New Zealand is so busy being clean and green. And it has way fewer pests than Australia overall. No poisonous spiders. No snakes. No termites. No biting ants. And so on. So we got to pick Peyton up the same day she traveled.
There was a time when I spent every available moment researching how New Zealanders immigrate to Australia. Now we're here. When I look back, it seems awfully hectic. But we're still here and settling into our beautiful new home in Queensland.