Migration

Published on July 8th, 2016 | by john.weir

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Our idyllic new life in New South Wales

NAMES
Sarah Boyd (32) is married to Owen (28), who is Australian. They have two children,
Grace (3) and Naomi (1)

OCCUPATION
Sarah worked as a museum curator in the UK and is now a full-time mum. Owen is a newly-qualified doctor

MOVED FROM
Putney, London

MOVED TO
The couple moved to New South Wales, first to the town of Kiama, on the south coast, before eventually settling in the city of Newcastle, approximately
150 kilometres north of Sydney in the Hunter Valley region

Although well-travelled around Europe and North America, I never thought I would even visit Australia. I wasn’t particularly familiar with the country, apart from what I had seen on the TV show Neighbours, but it was love that got me there in the end.
Within just a few months in 2009 I married my Australian husband Owen and we moved to Australia, where he started medical school to train to be a doctor.
For the four years of Owen’s studies we lived in Kiama on the south coast – it is a beautiful place with a wonderful community.
While there I did some office work. Opportunities for paid employment in the museum sector were limited. It was difficult initially finding work. We were living in a relatively rural part of New South Wales and even though I was well-qualified in the museum sector in the UK, I was told by one recruitment agent that I was ‘effectively starting over again’ as my experience counted for little.
After two years our first daughter, Grace, was born and then just as Owen graduated from medical school, our second daughter, Naomi, came along.

MIGRATION PROCESS
As I was married to an Aussie, the migration process was pretty straightforward, although having a husband go through medical school after we arrived was an extremely demanding start to my migration experience. We have now moved to Newcastle, which is where Owen grew up, and where his family are.
I was able to come out initially on a working holiday visa which was quickly obtained, before securing a partner visa. The transition first to temporary and then permanent residency status was naturally a longer and tougher process, but it took place while I was already in Australia.
My application for a partner visa was submitted in May 2010. I was granted temporary partner status in December 2011 and permanent residency was awarded promptly after I submitted the follow-up application in May 2012.
The process took quite a bit of time and persistence, but I didn’t feel like I needed an agent to do the application for me – I understood why they wanted every piece of information they were asking for. Although it was a large chunk of money for the visa, I knew to expect it so it wasn’t a surprise and we prepared for the cost. The people at the Immigration Department were helpful, and replied promptly to emails.
As far as preparations for the move went, I had fewer things to do compared to others as I was coming over to join my husband, who was already settled in Australia. However, what took time and effort was tying up all the loose ends in the UK – handing over my job, packing up my belongings and getting them in storage, and saying goodbye to friends and family.

LIVING BY THE COAST
We live in the suburb of New Lamton, which is a nice, central location with attractive housing, a number of parks and green areas close by and excellent amenities. It is an older, established suburb of Newcastle. It draws lots of young families, probably for the same reasons that we chose it.
Living by the coast in a family-friendly community is an idyllic environment for young children. We have a beach only a 15-minute drive away, and throughout summer we love taking our daughters to play at the beach as often as possible.
Our home is a typical Aussie ‘bungalow’ – all on one level with a nice back garden. We love it, and I don’t miss stairs one bit!
The weather here is hot and sunny, almost all the time! I never thought I would be thankful for grey cloudy days until I moved here! Even in winter it is often hot at midday. Inside most Aussie houses I find winter chilly in comparison to a nice toasty UK house with central heating.
The frantic London commute feels like a long and distant memory. Had I moved from London to a big city like Sydney, the change may not have felt so dramatic. But moving firstly to Kiama and now to Newcastle, life is different in almost every way.
Restaurant and café food here is generally delicious. Most leisure activities are outdoor-based and enjoyable because of the weather, other than when it is just too hot! That said, I do miss the wide range of cultural activities that I had on my doorstep in the UK.
My days aren’t too dissimilar from many other mothers across the world: children’s activities, visits to the library and playground, playdates, food shopping etc.
On the weekends when Owen isn’t working, we try and balance getting errands done with doing something nice together, like going to a café or the beach, or occasionally having a daytrip out somewhere, such as to Sydney, the Hunter Valley vineyards or further along the coast.
Becoming part of the community is still a work in progress, but having children has opened up opportunities to meet other families. Looking back, I wish I had put more effort into finding interesting work and diversifying my skills when I first arrived – being unhappy in my job made settling in that bit harder.
I miss friends and family in the UK and the main downside of the move is that they are just so far away. The distance and the huge cost and effort of flying with a family is easy to underestimate until you have to live with it. As wonderful as Skype and Facetime are, they don’t come close to a proper hug or the blessing of being nearby. At the moment we are only managing to go back to the UK for visits every couple of years.
In terms of the UK itself, I miss having everything so close by – the beautiful green countryside, good old pubs, museums and galleries, historic buildings, Europe… Oh, and good TV!
As for the future, I do hope to obtain citizenship eventually. I think we will always have one foot in the UK and one in Australia. So, wherever we are, we will have to include airfares into our budget!
My advice for other British people wanting to move to Australia is to not underestimate how big Australia is!

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