In a year that has seen turmoil thrown at UK citizens in the form of Brexit, the PM resigning and now the hung parliament (and potential coalition of chaos) as a result of a snap general election, I ask, who'd actually want to stay in the UK? I for one have been left questioning more and more whether my move home late last year - after a two year stint in Melbourne - was well timed after all. My thinking was that I wanted to be home for Christmas and be back for the new year and hence a new start. But once the merriment of the season (or the effects of the mulled wine) faded, the reality of the country that I had returned to really started to set in. Home felt instead like a distant friend I'd lost touch with, one that I had to get to know all over again. It was no longer the trusty, familiar friend who would never let me down, or who I could catch up with as if no time had passed. A lot had changed.
When I think about it though, it is worth remembering that while the UK has slowly been falling apart since 2008's recession, Australia has been holding the world economic record for going the longest time without a recession - tying only with The Netherlands. In fact, Australia's economy grew a reported 0.3% in the first quarter of the year, meaning it could brag about a 26 year period without facing financial difficulties. It was these kinds of facts that Australians enjoyed recounting to me whenever I visited (before making the big move), and while I found them all annoyingly more smug for it, they did stir my curiosity around the potential opportunities awaiting me on warmer shores. And I wasn't alone.
Australia has long been an attractive prospect for UK expats seeking a "better life" Down Under - what with the weather, the lack of language barrier and the higher salaries. Australia is also the number one destination for UK expats, with an estimated 1,277,474 plus now calling Australia home. For me, I found that I enjoyed a higher quality of life during my time there, earning nearly double to what I would back home, as well as the ability to fast track my career progression; due to the wealth of opportunities in my industry. If that weren't enough, the work/life balance was, well, balanced! I often felt that I could go home and still make the most of the evening. I wasn't taking work home with me and I certainly wasn't thinking about my job - habits that have quickly resurfaced since commencing positions back here again. And most weekends, I would be able to get away to see or do something; whether it was hitting the beach, a national park or a new exhibit or show.
There was something about Aussie life that had me energised. Maybe it was the sunshine, maybe it was the culture, or maybe it was the work ethic - though likely a combination of it all - regardless, living and working in this country made me increasingly feel like an optimistic Aussie, as oppose to a frustrated, cynical Brit - a trait that has long stayed with me since leaving. And while it may seem that from the outset that Australia is just UK with better weather, I would say that Australia is so much more than that; a far cry from the place I was born and raised, that's for sure.
Having said all that - Australia's migration laws have recently come under the spotlight due to Malcolm Turnbull's recent changes, meaning migrants will have to meet a new set of criteria before becoming Australian citizens. Most notably, a change of late is the scrapping of the 457 Skilled Visa - that came into effect on 19th April 2017. This means that changes are afoot for those seeking permanent residency in Australia - though it doesn't mean that moving to Australia is now just a pipe dream either. The Consolidated Skilled Occupations List is now to be replaced by the Short Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), resulting in the removal of 200 occupations. But for the skilled individuals who still feature on the list (view the combined list of eligible skilled occupations for the exact job titles that are needed), all hope of a more permanent move to Australia are not lost!
"The new regulations will affect some of the less "in demand" occupations. Those who are under 45 years of age and are in an occupation that is considered highly employable in Australia will continue to be able to emigrate. This trend of raising the bar has been consistent over the past 20 years or so." Says Richard Gregan, Managing Director and Registered Migration Agent at OE Visas.
This means that ditching the uncertain shenanigans going on in the UK for sunnier climes and generally a better work/life balance for skilled workers is still well within reach. In fact the new Combined List makes for attractive prospects for hospitality workers, trade workers and healthcare workers; even featuring positions such as copywriter (good news for me!) and dance choreographer!
So for those thinking about making the move Down Under for a smooth transition from the UK, why not see if your skills are still needed in Australia, you may be surprised by what you find.