Archive | July, 2012

Family Life in Australia

26 Jul

Had a good chat with friends in our life group a few Saturdays ago.. Our life group is composed mainly of Singaporeans and Malaysian-Chinese couples with children. I was able to get a picture of how family life here in Australia is and thought of sharing with you.

FAMILY TIME

I’ve mentioned in my earlier post about how most of Australia has a good work-life balance (and so there my disclaimer goes πŸ˜‰ ). So that translates to more quantity and quality in family time. [And if I may respond to those who frown upon stores closing so early here, even on weekends, this is so you can spend more time with your family and not on retail, don’t you think? ;)]

There are also flexible work options that one can avail of, such as part-time work or work from home on selected days of the week of your choice. I was pleasantly surprised by this. Most Asian employers would frown upon such an arrangement (though they won’t admit that :)). With such a large supply of applicants clambering for each job opening, who will hire someone who can just commit part-time when there are a lot who are available full-time?

Where I used to work in before in Singapore, there is also such a thing as a part-time arrangement, but it is not encouraged. For both the Philippines and Singapore, you would rarely hear of having a work-from-home arrangement that’s based on employee’s choice. It would usually be based on project demand.

So these work options in Australia are definitely a plus for professionals with kids.

There may be a downside, though, when both parents are professionals and the kids are still young. Child care is quite expensive. The salary for a nanny is quite high (around $15-$25 per hour) and child care centres charge a lot as well (about $60 and above per day). So if you are not willing to spend as much, you will need to brace yourself for some serious hands-on parenting πŸ™‚ And you have to do your house work on top of that. House help is also available, though. The charge is about the same as what you pay for nannies.

HEALTH CARE

The first thing a family should do after landing in Australia as migrants is get their Medicare card. This is because immediately after getting your health card, you’re immediately insured in case anything happens to you. Medicare usually pays for most consultations and treatments.

BUT.. Yes, there is a big BUT.. your Medicare insurance is good only if you are willing to consult only bulk-billed doctors and go into a long queue (which can last several months) for non-life threatening medical procedures. If you want to be able to choose your doctor, be covered under immediate ambulance care, have good dental health coverage, maternity coverage, etc., you will need to avail private health insurance. For a couple/family, this costs about $200/month or higher, depending on the cover that you want.

Most people here don’t mind having just Medicare, though. And the important thing, as many can attest, is that for life-threatening scenarios, Medicare actually covers almost all your expenses for that.

Don’t be misled that everything’s free, however. Upon filing of taxes, there is what they call a medical levy, based on your income tax. So, at least for those who are working, you are actually contributing to medicare. So I guess we can say that health care is free for the underprivileged. For me it’s a good thing, if I may say… One can just think of it as helping others in need πŸ˜‰

By the way, if you are paying for private health insurance, you get to pay less for medical levy πŸ™‚

EDUCATION

Asia and Australia are definitely worlds apart when it comes to children’s studies.

Educational institutions create a more competitive atmosphere for learning for the kids. The teaching method is more rigid – most of the time, the case is that the teacher educates, while the students listen.

In Australia, on the other hand, the study culture is more relaxed. Homework is uncommon, and I’ve been told that it’s only when a student reaches year 11 or 12 that homework pour in and children feel the pressure to keep up in school. But students are encouraged to speak up and express themselves. Kids grow up to be more confident of themselves, and are quick to quip and react on scenarios that face them. Having said this, I now understand how people at work seemed such good conversationalists and why I feel such a snob compared to how people here are so good in ‘small talk’.

Asian parents would admit that they are afraid that if the kids are suddenly relocated back to their home countries, they may not be able to cope well. This has actually been tackled on air when a documentary in TV tells of how there is concern that education in pre-tertiary schooling here is behind its counterparts in Asia. It also talks about how Asians are the ones who seem to be finding themselves on top in schools here, as Asian parents tend to put higher premium on having good grades in school than locals here do.

I believe it’s a matter of a difference in culture. People here are allowed to explore where they are good at from the time that they were kids. You won’t feel the usual premium people in Asia would put in ‘prime/prestigious’ jobs here in Australia. There aren’t jobs that are looked down upon, people just do what they’re good at or enjoy doing.

As for the cost of schooling, I’ve been told that private schools can charge up to $10,000/annum for one student. The same friend who told me this says she pays the same amount, however, in total for her three children combined (they go to a private Christian school). Public schooling is the popular choice, as public institutions here are not so bad, anyway.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Unlike in the Philippines, where you can’t imagine where your taxes are all going to, here you can actually see where your taxes are being used.

There is a baby bonus for each child given birth to here (like in Singapore) and depending on the combined household income, each of the kids will have monetary support until they are 18 years of age. There are allowances for low-income families such as subsidies for those who could not find work, and rental assistance. For children going into tertiary education, there is a ‘study now, pay later’ scheme.

The bad thing about this is that it encourages laziness among many. Some tend to rely on the government for support even though they should be able to support themselves on their own. Parents would opt to work up to a certain extent only, in an effort to keep the combined earnings from reaching the income ceiling and lose their financial support. The good thing about this is that you have a security blanket which takes away financial worries, in case something unfortunate happens to the family.

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Travelling Along the Great Ocean Road

22 Jul

If there is one tourist spot that visitors to Melbourne should not miss, it’s the Great Ocean Road. This 240-kilometer scenic road is definitely a must-see. And if I were to give you an advice on the best way to go here, it would be to join any Great Ocean Road day tour.

The drive going to the ocean road itself is about over an hour from the city center of Melbourne. But going to the popular Twelve ApostlesΒ will take about two more hours. Some of the roads are winding and are so narrow, with parts that seem like cliffs hanging above sea (our tour guide tells us workers have actually died in building these parts of the road). So driving yourself, in my opinion, is not really a good idea, especially if it’s your first time and you want to enjoy the scenic, relaxing coastal view.

Gray Line tour bus. We didn’t actually book a tour under Gray Line coz it was too expensive. But the tour company merges their tours with Gray Line. Just paid $99 each. If interested, you can check the booking desk at Federation Square’s tourist centre.

Our day tour departed from Federation Square at past 8 AM. After the long drive, we stopped for morning tea at the little town of Colac. It was a funny moment for us when we realized that our morning tea was served from a portable table set up by our bus driver (who also happens to be our tour guide.. yes it is a one-man show, kudos to these tour guides who seem to be doing everything to run the show) and consisted of lamingtons, vegemite on crackers and Billy tea. It was my first time to try lamingtons (small sponge cakes covered with chocolate and coconut flakes), which I found quite nice. I’ve had a taste of vegemite before and did not attempt to have it again this time (yes, it entails an acquired taste). Billy tea is named aptly after the Billy tin can where it is served from. Our guide tells us that we were having a feel of how miners in Australia used to prepare tea, from big cans originally used for storage of meat.

Our first scenic stop was at the Gibson Steps. It’s quite a long descent, though, so for those weak in the knees, going down may not be a good idea.

View on top of Gibson Steps

Gibson Steps

The view of one of the 12 Apostles after going down Gibson Steps


Our lunch stop was Port Campbell Park. We only spent less than an hour here, and much of the time was spent for lunch. There’s not much to see anyway. But had a fun time having a picnic at the park beside the ocean. The rush of waves really have a calming effect, and though the winds are chilly, the flavors of home-cooked adobo and pinakbet in the cold weather in a foreign land just warms the belly, and the heart πŸ™‚

Lunch picnic at Port Campbell

Law and myself at Port Campbell

We went on to see the blowhole panorama next to the Razorback at Loch Ard Gorge and moved on toΒ the magnificent rock formations named the Twelve Apostles.

Myself, Tita Fe, Atheena and Papa enjoying the blowhole panorama

The Razorback

Long walkway with an amazing view of the Twelve Apostles

The Twelve Apostles

View of a few more of the Twelve Apostles

The remaining time in our tour was spent on driving along the the ocean road. I’d have to agree that this long road should be one of the most scenic ones in the world. I think you just cannot soak in enough of the view of the ocean πŸ™‚ We passed by a lot of small towns along the coastline and we thought that if you have the time to just rest and relax, staying in one of these towns (like Lorne and Apollo Bay) would be quite nice. In case we do get that chance, I’ll surely post them here next time.