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 😉 ). 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 🙂 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 😉

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

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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One Response to “Family Life in Australia”

  1. matthew quek June 16, 2014 at 3:29 PM #

    Dear Denny
    I am Matthew Quek from Singapore. I see you are a christian too? My wife and I have been praying about applying for PR in Australia. We hope to settle in Melbourne actually.
    We have both been school teachers and we may be able to secure some jobs teaching English to foreign students.
    Are you and your family contented and living well in Melbourne? Are you all able to find a good Christian congregation to worship and fellowship in?
    I am also a singer, composer and vocal coach. One reason why I want to move out of Singapore is because I am absolutely disillusioned with the lack of support for my passion here.
    Would really love to hear from you.
    Matthew Quek
    mquek7@gmail.com
    96556540
    http://www.matthewquekonline.com

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