Settling in

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Living in Sydney

Sydney is a vibrant, international city. With a population of four million people from over 180 countries and speaking over 140 languages, it is truly multicultural.

Situated on one of the world’s most beautiful and natural harbours, Sydney provides a unique outdoor lifestyle, offering a variety of alfresco dining venues, parks and an exhaustive choice of outdoor leisure activities. ‘Sydney Siders’ also have access to more than 70 beaches spread along the city’s coastline.

Sydney’s natural beauty is enhanced by the rich and vibrant arts and entertainment scene with new concerts, opera, jazz, theatre and cinema regularly available. The many lively shopping and dining precincts (including its very own Chinatown) offer variety and ensure you’ll never be bored.

Above all, Sydney is home to a relaxed and friendly community who live, work and play together in this unique international city.

To learn more about Sydney go to:

Cost of living

Living in Australia is cost-effective when compared to other western countries. Sydney caters for all socioeconomic groups. You can determine your budget depending on the type of lifestyle you choose to lead and the location of your accommodation. We anticipate that an international student will require approximately AUD $25000 for living expenses each year (not including tuition fees).

Weather and Seasons

Sydney has a temperate climate. The warmest months are January and February, with temperatures between 18 and 36 degrees. The coldest months are June and July however daytime temperatures rarely fall below 10 degrees. The average rainfall is 1,200mm per year and the average humidity is 62%.

Summer in Sydney is hot and can be humid. Many students wear shorts, skirts, t-shirts and sport shoes/running shoes. You may require a light jacket or jumper.

Winter is generally mild but you will need warm clothing if arriving in July. Most private housing is not centrally heated, so it may not be as warm as what you are used to. It does not snow in Sydney, but a warm coat or jacket is recommended.

For the latest Sydney weather refer to


Sydney is on Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) – the equivalent of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) +10 hours. Daylight saving is from the first Sunday in October until early April (GMT +11 hours). Compare Sydney’s time zone with your country’s time zone.

Types of accomodation Permanent/Rental


Most students want to live within walking distance of TMT but this is not always possible and is usually determined by availability and cost. Often it is more convenient and more cost-effective to live further from TMT but closer to shops and public transport.


When you sign a new lease and move in to your new rented home, you will have a number of one-off and on-going expenses.

Your one-off expenses could include:

  • Setting up an account with an electricity provider
  • If the property has gas connected, setting up an account with agas provider
  • Setting up an account with a telephone/internet service provider:
  • If the property does not have a phone/internet connection you must get permission from the landlord before making arrangements for connections to be made.
  • You’re on-going expenses will include paying rent, paying other bills such as electricity and may involve paying water/sewerage charges.

Where to look for accommodation

The following is a list of places where you can go to find advertisements for accommodation:

Real Estate websites:

Online student accommodation services

Related information:
Energy and Utilities – contact details for electricity and gas providers in NSW

Things to keep in mind when renting


The owner or agent of an owner who has the right to rent you a property is called the landlord. A landlord will ask you for money before you move into an apartment. This is called a security deposit or bond, and may amount to more than AU$1,000 dollars. The bond is usually set at four weeks’ rent. A bond/”security deposit” is an amount of money that is supposed to guarantee that the tenant will care for the dwelling. If the tenant does not care for the property or clean it before leaving, the landlord has a legal right to keep the security deposit. Otherwise, the landlord must return the security deposit within a month after the tenant leaves.


The landlord or agent must send any bond paid to the Office of Fair Trading, within 7 days. A lodgement form is needed to do this and can be obtained from any Fair Trading Centre or by calling 13 32 20. Lodgement forms cannot be downloaded from this website as they have a unique barcode.

Bonds can be lodged by posting the Lodgement Form along with a cheque/money order for the bond amount to Renting Services, Locked Bag 19 Darlinghurst, 1300. Bonds can also be lodged in person at any Fair Trading Centre during office hours, 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday.

After the bond is lodged, all parties should receive an advice of lodgement that includes the unique rental bond number. If the advice is not received, the tenant should contact Fair Trading to confirm that the bond had been lodged. It is an offence for a landlord/agent to request a rental bond from their tenant and then not lodge it with Fair Trading.

During the tenancy, the bond is held by the Rental Bond Board and accumulates interest. The Rental Bond Board is the independent custodian of rental bonds paid by tenants to

landlords for residential tenancies. The Office of Fair Trading administers the day to day functions of the Board, providing rental bond lodgement, custody and refund and information services.


At the end of the tenancy, after the final inspection, a Claim for Refund of Bond Money form must be submitted to Fair Trading before the bond money can be refunded. You should not sign the form if it is blank or incomplete. The landlord or agent may want to claim some or all of the bond for themselves if they believe you have damaged the premises, breached your agreement or owe rent.

Any disagreement over how the bond is to be refunded should first be discussed between the parties. If agreement cannot be reached, either party may send a Claim for refund of bond money form to the Office of Fair Trading without the signature of the other party. The bond will not be paid out straight away. A letter will be sent to the other party advising them of the claim and giving them 14 days to apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal to dispute the claim. If no reply is received within 14 days the bond will then be paid out. Tell Fair Trading your new address so we can advise you if the landlord claims your bond.

No matter who applies to the Tribunal, it is always up to the landlord to prove any claim on the bond.

If you have any questions about rental bonds, or the progress of your bond refund, call Fair Trading on 13 32 20.


In most cases, the landlord will require the tenant to sign a lease. A lease is a written agreement between a tenant and a landlord that describes the responsibilities of each party. This is a binding legal document that commits the student to a specific period of residency in the unit.


Most landlords will inspect the property with you on commencement of your tenancy. This is done with a list of furniture and fittings in each room of the property so that the two of you can agree on the condition of the property at the commencement of the tenancy. You should note on this document anything you notice during the inspection that is not already listed, and keep a copy that has been signed by both of you. Once you are the tenant, the condition of these things will be your responsibility. This will be done again at the end of your tenancy and the final condition of the property may determine the return of your full security deposit. If this inspection is not suggested, you might suggest it yourself as a means of ensuring fair treatment for all parties involved.


Unless someone is already living in the dwelling, the new tenant must start utility services, such as telephone, electricity, and gas. This requires contacting each individual company and arranging for the services to be connected from a specified date. The companies providing these utilities also require a small security deposit. In some cities, instead of making numerous calls to different companies, there may be a utility provider company. If someone has vacated the property before you, contacting these utility companies for connection of services will ensure all previous accounts have been finalised and paid for by the previous tenant.

{‘Direct Connect’ will help you by arranging your Phone, Electricity, Gas, Internet and Pay TV – at no cost. For more information visit: or phone 1300 739 758. You can get the process started straight away by clicking the ‘Get Connected’ icon on their homepage.}


The lease may contain restrictions, such as not permitting animals or children in the dwelling. Ask the landlord about his/her particular requirements. Make sure that you know and understand these restrictions before signing the lease. If you do not obey the restrictions on the lease, the landlord can ask you to leave.


It’s a good idea to take notes of each property you inspect. As well as the address, rent, and agent take notes of the details:

  • Are there laundry facilities?
  • Is there a telephone line already connected?
  • Do the light fittings work?
  • Is the oven/stove, gas or electrical?
  • Do the toilet and shower all work?
  • Is there damp or mould on the walls?
  • Is there painting required?
  • Is the place furnished? What kind of furniture?
  • What kind of heating/cooling is there?
  • Is there an insect/pest problem?
  • Is it close to transport, shops, and campus?
  • Will the area be noisy? Is it on a busy road?
  • Is there good security?
  • Will the landlord carry out any repairs before you move in?
  • How are repairs made once you live there, and who pays for which repairs?

Click here for Student Property Checklist


The task of choosing a roommate needs to be taken very seriously. The person or persons with whom you decide to live can affect the quality and productiveness of your international student experience in Australia. When the moment comes for you to make your decision concerning roommates, remember these tips: don’t panic, take your time, and don’t compromise on important principles.


Do you and your roommates expect to share the costs of buying toilet paper, washing powder for clothes and dishes, cleaning supplies etc. which is used by everyone?

If you are answering an advertisement for a roommate; what does the rental price cover? Does it include utilities, or are they split equally when the accounts are due? Who will pay them and how will you all know they have been paid?

A small notebook which is signed by everyone who hands over their share of the costs and signed by the person the money is given to is a good idea.

FOOD Do you and your roommates expect to share the costs of buying food and share in the preparation? Do you have specific food needs (allergies, preparation needs)?

If your needs are for halal and your roommates are not, can you agree on respecting and upholding each other’s needs?

CLEANING Who will clean what? How often? Decide exactly what “clean and tidy” means to you. Will you hire a cleaning company to keep things under control?

PERSONAL HABITS & INDIVIDUAL NEEDS How much privacy do you need? What hours do you usually sleep? Study? Relax? Socialise? Shower? Wash clothing?

SMOKING & DRUGS Do you prefer to have a smoker or non-smoker as a roommate?

Is a smoker all right as long as they smoke outside the residence?

(Many rental agreements will forbid smoking inside the premises) Clarify your stance on the use of alcohol and/or illicit substances.

MUSIC & TELEVISION What are your musical likes and dislikes? Do you watch TV every day or just once in a while? Do you like to study with or without music/TV?

PERSONALITY TRAITS & COMMUNICATION How do you perceive yourself? How do others perceive you? Do you enjoy being around a lot of people – or just a few friends? Are you more comfortable by yourself? What about overnight visitors? When conflicts arise, how do you go about resolving them? How do you behave when you’re happy – angry? What are the things that bother you the most?

Please keep in mind that not everyone can be trusted! Follow your instincts and do not room with someone you do not trust.


Some international students who come to Australia have never had the need to do their own shopping, cooking, and housecleaning. If these activities are new to you, you will need to understand that in Australia unless you choose to hire someone from a home services company to do some of these things for you; these are the responsibility of each individual and are a sign of personal independence and becoming an adult.

Most Australians, especially landlords and rental agencies, believe it is very important for one’s living environment to be kept clean. Our concern for cleanliness is evident when you visit the supermarket, where many varieties of cleaning products are sold.


Kitchen stoves may be either electric or gas. It is important to keep the burners and oven of an electric range clean so that they may operate safely and efficiently. Tenants should clean electric stove burners after each use to prevent food from hardening on them. The electric oven should also be cleaned periodically with an oven-cleaning product unless it is a “self-cleaning” oven, for which you should follow directions carefully.


Refrigerators should be defrosted periodically when ice or frost in or around the freezing unit becomes evident. To defrost a refrigerator, one should turn it off, empty it, and allow the water from the melting frost to drip into a pan or the tray beneath the freezer. This may take overnight, but can be done more rapidly if one puts a pan of hot water in the freezer. When the ice has melted, one should empty the tray of water into the sink. It is not a good idea to use sharp instruments to chip off the ice as they may damage the freezer and your eyes. A solution of baking soda and water can be used to clean the inside of the refrigerator. Some refrigerators automatically defrost themselves. The cooling grills on the back of a refrigerator should be vacuumed periodically to remove dust build-up, to enable the unit to refrigerate more efficiently. A refrigerator that does not work efficiently will cost you more on your electric utility bill.


Because insects such as ants and flies can be a problem, it is important for tenants to empty their rubbish every one to two days into the wheelie bins provided outside your accommodation. You will then put the wheelie bin/s out on the footpath once a week to be collected by council rubbish trucks. The landlord will inform the tenant about the way to dispose of garbage particularly with regards to recycling and the days your rubbish is collected.


Grease and oil from cooking collects on the cabinet and refrigerator tops and walls, especially if occupants fry foods often. These areas should be cleaned often in order to avoid unpleasant odours and fire hazards.


Sinks, showers, and tubs may be cleaned with bathroom cleaning products from the supermarket. If a sink does not drain properly, ask the landlord or manager to look at it. Toilet bowls should be cleaned with a special toilet cleaning solution. A plunger may also be used for toilets that do not flush properly. Do not put any items or paper other than toilet paper in the toilet as this may block the pipes. If it is obvious that misuse of the unit has caused the need for repair, the landlord will charge you for the cost of repair or cleaning.


Different types of floors will require different kinds of care. A landlord can recommend the way he/she prefers to have the floors cleaned. In apartments, the managers often maintain vacuum cleaners for tenant use. You can also buy vacuum cleaners at department stores. Upon leaving a dwelling, the occupant is usually expected to have the carpet professionally cleaned. The landlord can inform the tenant about proper cleaning procedures.


Grocery stores and supermarkets stock many different products for cleaning. It is important to read labels carefully in order to understand the proper uses and dangers of the products. (Warning: Keep all cleaning products out of reach of children and do not mix products!


You will be expected to replace light globes and keep fittings in your accommodation clean. If repairs or maintenance are required for example; a blocked toilet, the landlord should be consulted at the time. Generally, repairs will be the responsibility of the owner/landlord, unless caused by misuse of the item by the tenant or their visitors.


Smoke alarms are devices that detect smoke and sound an alarm. Smoke alarms alert and wake people allowing valuable time to get out of a house during a fire. When you go to sleep, your sense of smell also goes to sleep. If there is a fire, toxic fumes may overcome you before you wake up. For your protection, a smoke alarm must be installed in your home.


  • Once a month you should check the battery by pressing the test button on the smoke alarm. If you cannot reach the button easily, use a broom handle to press the test button
  • Keep them clean. Dust and debris can interfere with their operation, so vacuum over and around your smoke alarm regularly
  • Replace the batteries yearly. Pick a public holiday or your birthday and replace the batteries each year on that day.
  • When the battery is low the smoke alarm will sound a short ‘BEEP’ every minute or so. This is to alert you the battery is low and needs replacing.
  • Smoke alarms must never be painted
  • If cooking and smoke sets off the alarm, do not disable it. Turn on the range fan, open a window or wave a towel near the alarm
  • Do not remove the batteries from your smoke alarm or cover your smoke alarm to prevent it from operating. (Source: Fire and Rescue, NSW)


For help with your rental property contact The Tenants Union of NSW.



Calling Emergency Services Dial 000

In Australia dial 000 from any phone for fire, police or ambulance services. 112 may also be dialled from mobile phones. Dialling 112 will override key locks on mobile phones and therefore save time. Emergency Services operators answer this number quickly and to save time will say, “Police, Fire, or Ambulance”. If you are unsure of what emergency service you need to tell the operator what the emergency is. You will then be connected to the appropriate service to assist. It is wise to think ahead with the most important information which will help them to respond. Where you are; (note street names and the closest intersection), what has happened and to whom; what their condition is. The operator may then ask you to stay on the phone until the emergency services arrive. In a life threatening situations, the operator may also give you some instructions to assist until the emergency unit arrives. If you are concerned about your English, remain calm and work with the operators who are very experienced with all cultures. (See also: Health – Emergencies)


To make international phone calls:

Dial – international access code (0011) + the country code + the area code (if required) + phone number (when adding a country code to a number, any leading 0 (zero) on the area code following it is NOT dialled

To make domestic phone calls:
Dial – the area code + phone number (if calling interstate)

NSW (02)
VIC & TAS (03)
QLD (07)
WA & NT & SA (08)

Visit and for directories of residential, commercial and government phone numbers in Australia; and for a list of country codes and area codes for international calls.


To contact Australia, first dial the international access code from that country (this will vary in each country), then Australia’s country code prefix (61) followed by the area code without the first zero (for instance Sydney would be 2 instead of 02), and then dial the required number. Example: International access number +61 2 9999 3662


Before bringing your mobile phone to Australia check with the Australian Communications and Media Authority to make sure it can operate here. Some countries, such as Japan and the USA, use mobile phone networks that are not available in Australia. If not, you can buy your mobile phone in Australia. Australian telecommunications providers offer a wide range of services which provide a mobile phone within the cost of using that service. There are many differences between the services provided. You should understand what deal you are accepting before signing a contract with a provider. For a comparison of mobile phone plans in Australia see:


Many of the above companies will also provide you with internet access. In fact, you may be able to make arrangements with a company where you can get cheaper rates if you have internet and mobile phone through the one service provider. In addition, with providers Telstra and Optus, you could get a packaged deal for your home phone, internet and mobile phone.


Australia Post is one of our nation’s largest communications, logistics and distribution businesses; and is committed to providing high-quality mail and parcel services to all people within Australia.

The cost of posting a small letter for distribution in Australia is an AU$1.10 postage stamp which you affix to the envelope.

A small letter has the following characteristics:

  • No larger than 130mm x 240mm
  • No thicker than 5mm
  • Maximum weight 250g.

Australia Post uses advanced letter sorting technology to read the address on each envelope electronically. These machines work best when address formats are structured in a consistent manner. That is why it is necessary to address your mail clearly and correctly.

Getting around


Transport Infoline – 131500 Trains, Buses & Ferries


  • Legion Cabs: +61-2 13 1451 or +61-2 9289-9000
  • Premier Cabs: +61-2 13 1017 or +61-2 9897-4000
  • Taxis Combined Services: +61-2 13-1008 or +61-2 9332-8888
  • RSL Cabs: +61-2 13 1581 or +61-2 9699-0144
  • Wheelchair Taxis are available at: 1-800-043-187 or +61-2 9332-0200

Customers should be aware that there may be a surcharge for using a credit card to pay for taxis.

For information about driving in NSW Australia, visit



Monday – Wednesday, Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm
Thursday 9:00am – 9:00pm
Saturday 9:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday 10:00am – 4:00pm



When shopping in Australia, you generally don’t bargain or barter (also called haggling) for the price of an item. The displayed price for items is fixed and if Australian GST (Goods & Services Tax) is applicable it will already be included in the displayed price. However, there are exceptions to this rule. There are places and circumstances in which it is perfectly acceptable to barter for the best price possible. These may include: at garage sales, community markets, second-hand dealerships, or at electrical goods’ stores, furniture shops, or when purchasing a motor vehicle if you are offering to pay in cash, or have seen the item at a competitor store for a better price.

If you are paying by CASH and, if you are buying more than one item, you may have more bargaining power. Begin the bargaining process by asking: “What’s the best price you can give me?”

Or at a garage sale, you might pick up several items whose combined total is $50 and say: “I’ll offer you $30 for all of these.”


The most common methods of purchasing items are by cash or EFTPOS. EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) allows you to use the card attached to your Australian bank account to make purchases and withdraw cash at the same time (at the retailer’s discretion) from more than 103,000 merchants across Australia. Just swipe your key card through the EFTPOS card reader, select your account type and enter your PIN number. EFTPOS is available at most supermarkets, petrol stations and retail outlets. Just look for the EFTPOS sign. You can choose to make the EFTPOS transaction from your savings account, cheque account or credit card. You receive a printed receipt after each purchase and the transaction appears on your statement.



The Triple Zero (000) service is the quickest way to get the right emergency service to help you. It should be used to contact Police, Fire or Ambulance services in life threatening or emergency situations only. Emergency 000 lines should not be used for general medical assistance.


In Australia police protect people and properties, detect and prevent crime, and preserve peace for everyone. They are not connected to the military or politics. The police can help you feel safe. In a non-emergency situation, you can contact the local police station directly on: (02) 9265 4144 – Surry Hills Police Station Goulburn St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010


The fire brigade extinguishes fires, rescues people from fires in cars and buildings, and helps in situations where gas or chemicals become a danger. As soon as a fire starts call 000no matter how small or large the fire may be.


Ambulances provide immediate medical attention and emergency transportation to hospital. Dial 000


The State Emergency Service (SES) is an emergency and rescue service dedicated to providing assistance in natural disasters, rescues, road crashes and extreme weather conditions. It is made up almost entirely of volunteers and operates in all States and Territories in Australia. For emergency assistance in a FLOOD or STORM dial 132 500.


Lifeline’s 13 11 14 services is staffed by trained volunteer telephone counsellors who are ready to take calls 24-hour a day, any day of the week from anywhere in Australia. These volunteers operate from Lifeline Centres in every State and Territory around Australia.

Anyone can call Lifeline. The service offers a counselling service that respects everyone’s right to be heard, understood and cared for. They also provide information about other support services that are available in communities around Australia. Lifeline telephone counsellors are ready to talk and listen no matter how big or how small the problem might seem. They are trained to offer emotional support in times of crisis or when callers may be feeling low or in need of advice.


The poisons information line provides the public and health professionals with prompt, up-to-date and appropriate information, and advice to assist in the management of poisonings and suspected poisonings. The seriousness of a poisoning situation is assessed after a detailed history is obtained from the caller. Members of the public may be then given first aid instructions, information on possible symptoms, and advised on the need for assessment by a doctor or referral to hospital. The Australia-wide Poisons Information Centre’s have a common telephone number: 131 126.


For translation service in an emergency situation dial 1300 655 010


Overseas student health cover (OSHC) is insurance that provides cover for the costs of medical and hospital care which international students may need while in Australia and is mandatory for international student visa holders. OSHC will also cover the cost of emergency ambulance transport and most prescription drugs.


You may be or have been asked for an OSHC payment in the education offer package you receive from your chosen education provider if they have a preferred provider agreement and don’t need to complete a formal application form. If not, you may need to complete an Application for OSHC which is available from registered OSHC providers and most educational institutions. Your local education adviser can lodge your OSHC form and payment at the time of processing your enrolment to study in Australia.

Only Australian health funds that have signed an agreement with the Australian Government can provide OSHC. Most Australian education institutions have a preferred OSHC provider. Depending on the institution you will be attending you will be required to join one of these four registered health funds. You may choose to change your health fund at any time but will need to abide by the conditions of change of the health fund provider you are leaving.

Students may also take out additional cover in the form of Extra OSHC and students who could not previously access OSHC may now be able to access Optional OSHC. Some students may be exempt from enrolling in the OSHC such as students from countries whose Governments may have Reciprocal Health Agreements for students in Australia. Note: only some reciprocal health agreements cover students in Australia, some will only cover visitors. You should determine if you are eligible before you apply for your visa to come to Australia.


Medibank Private

Allianz Global Assistance


Australian Health Management

If you come to Australia on a visa other than a student visa and undertake a short course of study of three months’ duration or less you will not be eligible for OSHC. It is wise to purchase travel or private medical insurance in this case.


OSHC provides a safety net for medical expenses for international students, similar to that provided to Australians through Medicare. Additionally, OSHC includes access to some private hospitals and day surgeries, ambulance cover and benefits for pharmaceuticals.

Our Preferred Provider Medibank Overseas Students (OSHC) 1300 307 440


If you need to visit a doctor or medical centre, show your card at the end of the visit. You will be charged the doctor’s fee and the government fee component of that may be processed by the medical centre. If the medical centre is not able to process the government fee, pay the total amount, keep the receipt and you can claim the government fee back from your OSHC provider.


You can renew your Medibank Private OSHC online. However, if you don’t know your membership expiry date, please call us on 132 331 (+61 3 8622 5780 outside Australia) to renew your OSHC. When you renew your OSHC student insurance, this payment will cover the period from the date your membership is currently paid to.

Remember – if you renew your OSHC student insurance for 2 years or more (up to 5 years) you’ll get a 5% discount!

For more information, please email us or phone us on 132 331 (+61 3 8622 5780 outside Australia), Monday to Friday, 8am – 8pm or on Saturday 8am – 4pm, Eastern Standard Time, Sydney, Australia.

You must fill out the fields with Medibank reserves the right to request proof of resident status if required.


The Australian healthcare system is mixed. Responsibilities for healthcare are divided between the Federal and State governments, and both the public and the private sectors play a role. Government programs underpin the key aspects of healthcare. Medicare, which is funded out of general tax revenue, pays for hospital and medical services. Medicare covers all Australian citizens, pays the entire cost of treatment in a public hospital, and reimburses for visits to doctors.


The major provider of healthcare services in Australia is the Public Health System (Medicare). The Public Health System provides a comprehensive free-of-charge healthcare service for all Australian citizens covering both hospital-based and community-based medical services. Public hospitals are owned by the State. One of the problems with such a system is that waiting times in public hospitals can be extensive due to a shortage of healthcare professionals and facilities.

See also: Attending an Australian hospital


Private hospitals provide about a quarter of all hospital beds in Australia. Private medical practitioners provide most non-bed medical services and perform a large proportion of hospital services alongside salaried doctors. Most dental services are provided by private practitioners. For Australians who take out private health insurance a range of services can be covered, such as access to your own Doctor in a private hospital, and extra services such as dental, optical and physiotherapy.


Few private hospitals have emergency departments, so, in an emergency, most Australians rely on the public hospital system. If you attend an Emergency Department in a hospital you will be attended to immediately by a triage nurse for information about you, your cover, and your current health condition. The triage nurse will determine the urgency of your condition in comparison to others in need in the emergency room and it is likely that you will remain at the emergency room for several hours. Whether you are seen immediately by a Doctor or have to wait, it is customary to keep you in the emergency room for several hours to monitor your condition before releasing you to go home, or admitting you to hospital in more severe cases.

There are extensive waiting times for elective surgeries at public hospitals, e.g. for orthopaedic surgery. One of the attractions of health insurance is the ability to bypass public hospital waiting lists and go through the private system.

Private hospitals are very expensive for treatment and hospitalisation. Your OSHC will cover some of the cost of some private hospitals but you will have to pay the difference.

Your health insurance (OSHC) covers the total cost of accommodation in a shared ward of a public hospital. It also pays for the ‘schedule fee’ for the doctor but you will have to pay the difference if the doctor’s fee is higher than the ‘schedule fee’.

See also: Public hospital waiting times.


In Australia, you do not have to go to a hospital to see a doctor. You can see a doctor (also known as a GP – General Practitioner) in their private practice or medical centre, with part of the entire doctor’s fee being covered by Medicare or OSHC. You must make an appointment to see a GP. It is important to note that some GP surgeries will request full payment from you at the time of consultation and you will need to present the receipt to claim the rebate back from your health cover provider.



Choose a doctor from the list of medical facilities in this handbook or use the Yellow Pages and phone the GP’s surgery or medical centre to make an appointment. If you have woken in the morning feeling unwell and would like to see a doctor that day, you will need to phone the doctor’s surgery early in the morning (8:00am – 8:30am) for an appointment. Please note however, that it may not be possible to get an appointment on the same day – you may have to wait one or two days before you can see a doctor (in some regional areas of Australia it may be a week or two before you can get an appointment).


When you attend your appointment, the doctor will ask you questions about your health and may give you a brief physical examination, such as checking your breathing, your throat, ears etc. The doctor will then give you some advice regarding management of your illness, and may give you a prescription for some medication. If you have had, or need to take time off studies you will need to get a medical certificate from the doctor to provide to your education provider. If your illness is more serious or the doctor is unsure of a diagnosis she or he may refer you for further tests e.g.: blood tests or x-rays, or to see a specialist Doctor. It is important to note that if you are dissatisfied with the diagnosis or service of the Doctor you see, you have the right to obtain an opinion from another Doctor.


If you cannot get an appointment with a GP and want to go to a public hospital to see a doctor, you may find a public hospital which has a general practice clinic attached. If not, and you attend an emergency room to see a Doctor, be prepared to wait a VERY long time. It is not uncommon to wait more than 3 hours, and at some hospitals you could wait as long as 5-6 hours to see a doctor. It is common practice for a doctor or a nurse to make an initial assessment of your condition when you first arrive to prioritise the emergencies in the hospital. You will be seen as soon as the most urgent patients have been attended to. It is also common to remain in the emergency room for some time after a doctor has attended to you before you are instructed you can leave. Emergency department rules may include keeping you a little longer to observe you and ensure that your condition does not change and it is safe to send you home with the recommended treatment. It is the same for all patients – international students and Australian citizens alike.


GP surgeries do not have medications to dispense to you. You must take the prescription given to you by the doctor to a Pharmacy or Chemist to obtain the medication. You will need to provide the pharmacy with your OSHC card, your full name and address. You are able to walk in off the street to any pharmacy/chemist/drug store in Australia and will only have to wait a short while for your prescription medicine to be prepared.


Medication prescribed by your doctor is not free. You must pay the pharmacy. If the cost is more than *AU$30.70 you can claim the difference back from your OSHC provider. Many pharmacists will offer you the option of having a “generic” brand of medicine. If the prescription medicine the Doctor has prescribed is also made available by a company which produces generic brands at cheaper prices, this option will be offered to you. This is ONLY offered if the content of the medicine is exactly the same as that prescribed by your Doctor. It will, however, assist you to pay less for your medicine. *2008 Applicable limit


Pharmacies/chemists also provide a variety of over-the-counter medications useful for treating colds, headaches, allergies and the like which do not require a prescription. Ask the pharmacist on duty for advice regarding the best medication for your symptoms. Ensure that you advise the pharmacist of any other medications you may be taking.


Dental and optical health services are not covered by your OSHC unless you take out extra cover. If you need to see a dentist or optometrist you will need to make an appointment (see the Yellow Pages) and pay the full fee of this service.


We are lucky in Australia to have a variety of healthcare professionals from many different cultural backgrounds, so you may be able to see a doctor who speaks your first language. However, if you are having difficulties communicating with your doctor, the Translation and Interpreter Service (TIS) can be used. For more information visit or phone 131 450



Sydney dental clinic
Suite 4 / 32a Oxford St
Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
(02) 9331 7228

Chemist Warehouse
Shop 17 175 Riley St, Darlinghurst, NSW, 2010


St Vincent’s Private Hospital
406 Victoria St,
Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
(02) 8382 1111

CBD Medical Practice
70 Pitt St,
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9231 1000‎

​China Town Medical Centre
Level 1, 768 George Street,
(02) 9212 0228

Medical Centre Sydney
Suite 1 / 32a Oxford St, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
(02) 93317228

St Vincent’s General Hospital
Victoria St,
Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
(02) 8382 9100

GENERAL HEALTH Maintaining good health is of vital importance when studying abroad.

While living in another environment is a good way to change a daily routine, it is important for students who are experiencing difficulties in their own country (relationship, health, emotional, substance abuse, etc.) not to expect a vacation from their problems.

Going abroad is not a “geographic cure” for concerns and problems at home (that is, thinking that you can solve your personal dilemmas by moving from one place to another). Sometimes students feel that a change of venue will help them to move past their current problems. However, living and studying in a foreign environment frequently creates unexpected physical and emotional stress, which can exacerbate otherwise mild disorders.

It is important that all students are able to adjust to potentially dramatic changes in climate, diet, living, and study conditions that may seriously disrupt accustomed patterns of behaviour. In particular, if students are concerned about their use of alcohol and other controlled drugs or if they have an emotional or physical health concern, they should address it honestly before making plans to travel and study abroad.

(Source: Education Abroad Program, UCLA)


Lifeline 13 11 14
Mensline 1300 78 9978
Kids Help Line 1800 551 800


A big part of staying healthy involves eating healthy foods and getting enough exercise for fitness and relaxation. Nutrition Australia provides some great information about healthy eating, exercise and lifestyle on its website

Exercise –do at least 30mins of moderate exercise a day
Sleep – get at least 8-9 hours of sleep a night
Nutrition – keep a balanced diet remembering to eat lots of vegetables and fruit every day

​Binge drinking – limit your consumption of alcohol and avoid binge drinking. Binge drinking describes the habit of drinking to excess when you do drink, with little or no understanding of your limits to accommodate the amount of alcohol in your blood.

Managing your finances


This is an example of some of the expenses you might encounter when you first come to Australia:


Estimated Cost

Temporary accommodation

Rental bond (four weeks rent @ $—/week)

Advance rent (two weeks @ $—/week)

Electricity connection

Telephone connection

Gas connection

Internet connection

Mobile phone and/or network sim card

Household items, e.g. furniture, crockery, etc.


Textbooks & Educational Expenses


Insurance – house, car, health



Once you have established yourself in accommodation, you will need to budget for ongoing costs. This is an example of monthly expenses you may have if you live in SINGLE accommodation (costs will reduce if you are in shared accommodation):


Estimated Cost

Rent (four weeks rent @ $—/week)

Food (four weeks @ $—/week)





Mobile Phone




Insurance – health, house, car




You can choose to open an account in any Bank, Credit Union or Building Society in Australia. Do your research to get the best deal.

To open a bank account you will need:

  • your passport (with arrival date stamped by Australian immigration)
  • student ID card
  • money to deposit into the account (this can be as little as $10)

Anyone who wishes to open a bank account in Australia must show several pieces of personal identification which are allotted a points system. 100 points of identification is required to establish your identity as the person who will be named in the account. Your passport and proof of your arrival date in Australia will be acceptable as 100 points IF you open an account within six weeks of arrival in Australia. After this time, you will be required to produce additional documentation. As a student, you will be able to open an account with special student benefits. Many banks have ‘Student Accounts’ which contain no or minimal fees for transactions that might normally be attached to regular savings accounts. You will also require the student ID card from your institution to prove you are a student and should have access to the benefits offered by a student bank account. For a comparison of accounts in banks throughout Australia see:

Most people in Australia enjoy the convenience of Internet banking and/or Telephone banking, which enables them to manage their money, pay bills etc. from home. At the time you are setting up your account you can request these services from your bank. For bank, locations click here.


Most bank branches are open from Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm (except on public holidays). Some branches have extended trading hours during the week and maybe open Saturdays (check with your individual bank). ATMs remain open 24 hours a day. However, you should be aware of your personal safety if accessing cash from an ATM at night in quiet areas where there are not a lot of people around.


Bank fees are the price you pay for the products and services that banks offer. Different banks charge different fees for different products and services, and the best way to find out what fees apply is simply to ask your bank. Any fees that apply to your accounts are fully disclosed in information leaflets and terms and conditions that your bank can provide before you open your account. Some banks waive some fees if you are a full-time student. The way you do your banking may also affect the fees that apply for example internet banking rather than walking into a branch. If you don’t understand any fee which has been charged, contact your bank.


Bank accounts offer lots of options for accessing your money. Some of the most popular options are described below.


ATMs can be used to withdraw cash from an account by using the ATM card which is available with most bank accounts. You can also use ATMs to get an account balance and transfer money into other accounts. Some ATMs also allow you to deposit cash and cheques into your account. Using the ATMs of your bank will generally cost less money than if you use another bank’s ATMs. Fees for using ATMs can vary between banks and between accounts. See also: Using an ATM.


Short for ‘Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale’, EFTPOS terminals can be found where goods or services are sold, for example, supermarkets, service stations, restaurants, doctors’ surgeries and gymnasiums. You can pay for goods and make payments through EFTPOS using your ATM card, rather than paying with cash. At some stores, when you use EFTPOS you can also withdraw cash from your account at the same time. You should be aware that there are some retailers who put limits on how much cash can be withdrawn which may be dependent on the amount which is spent in the store.

When paying by EFTPOS, you also use your PIN to access your account. The same rules apply about keeping the PIN confidential and never handing it over to anyone. Be careful no-one is looking over your shoulder when you enter your PIN. See: Using an ATM.


You can use telephone banking to transfer payments to and from accounts, get your account balances, get recent transaction information and pay bills. You will need to register to use telephone banking and will then be given a password or an identification number that allows you to access your accounts over the phone. It’s important never to give your password to anyone else.


Internet banking allows you to view and check your accounts, review recent transactions, apply for loans and credit cards, or transfer money and pay bills – all online. Most banks offer Internet banking facilities, but you will need to register with your bank to gain access. You will then be given a password that allows you to use your accounts on-line. Never give this password to anyone else.

There are security issues that need to be considered when using Internet banking. It is recommended that you install and keep up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall, update security patches and be suspicious of emails requesting you to hand over confidential information such as your Internet banking login password.

Your bank will never ask you for this information, especially in an email. In addition, many banks publish security guides on their websites and this provides important information on precautions that you can take to protect your information on-line. If you are unsure about any approach that appears to be from your bank to provide personal information. Refuse to provide that information until you can attend your nearest branch to discuss the request over the counter with bank staff. There is no charge for discussing your banking options at a branch.


You can also go into a branch of your bank and, with the assistance of bank staff, conduct transactions including withdrawals, deposits, transfers, and account balance checks. If you do not have a branch close by, you may be able to visit an agency of your branch, such as an Australia Post outlet, to conduct certain transactions. Bear in mind that over-the-counter transactions usually incur higher fees than electronic transactions.


Most bank accounts offer lots of easy options for paying bills. Transaction accounts with cheque book facilities allow you to pay bills by cheque, and most transaction accounts and savings accounts allow you to pay bills electronically (e.g., using facilities such as telephone banking, Internet banking) and using direct debits.

A note of caution on direct debits – they are a convenient way to pay everyday bills, but always make sure you’ve got enough money in your account to cover the cost of the debit. If you pay or allowance goes into your account on a certain date, make sure your direct debit payments are scheduled to come out of your account after your pay goes in, or you might end up with an overdrawn account or a dishonoured payment – both can cost you money.


Most banks will provide regular statements for your accounts (just how regular can depend on the type of account). On request, banks will provide statements on a deposit account at more frequent intervals, but this may attract a fee. Bank statements are your record of everything that has happened in your account over a given period – the withdrawals, deposits and transfers that were made, and any bank fees and government taxes you were charged. Telephone and Internet banking can make it easy to check your statements, and some banks even offer ‘mini statements’ through their own ATMs.

Check your statements regularly to make sure you’ve got enough money in your account to cover your expenses and keep track of your spending, as well as make sure that all transactions made in your account are legitimate. Refer to your statements to see what fees you are paying on your bank accounts and why, and to see whether a few simple changes to your banking habits could help you to reduce the fees you pay (for example, using your own bank’s ATMs instead of other banks’ ATMs). (Source: Australian Bankers’ Association Inc.)


You will be given a PIN (Personal Identification Number) which you will enter into the ATM to access your account. It is the key to your account and it is important that you never tell anyone your PIN. A bank or reputable business will never ask you for your PIN. If anyone does, be suspicious, don’t hand it over and report the incident to the bank and the police. Be careful no-one is looking over your shoulder when you enter your PIN.

These general rules should be followed for ATM safety, especially at night:

  • Minimise your time at the ATM by having your card ready when you approach the machine;
  • Take a look around as you approach the ATM and if there’s anything suspicious, don’t use the machine at that time (report any suspicions to the police);
  • If you don’t feel comfortable using a particular ATM, consider continuing on to another branch or using off-street ATMs;
  • Do remember that EFTPOS can be used to withdraw cash at many other places, like supermarkets and service stations;
  • If you simply want to check your account balance or transfer funds between accounts, telephone or Internet banking can be used instead of an ATM.


If your ATM or credit card is lost or stolen (or if your PIN has been revealed to another person), notify your bank immediately. This will enable your bank to put a stop on your card immediately so that no one else can use it and get access to your money. Most banks have a 24-hour telephone number for reporting lost cards – it’s a good idea to keep a record of this number handy at all times, just in case. If you don’t know the number, ask your bank. (Source: Australian Bankers’ Association Inc.)


The first and fundamental rule of safety when carry money is: “Don’t carry large amounts of cash!”

The second is: “Don’t advertise the fact that you are carrying money!”

  • Divide your cash into different locations on your person (front pocket, coat pocket, shoes, etc.). Keep your wallet in one of your front pockets at all times.
  • Do not carry cash in a backpack or back pocket.
  • Sew a small money pocket into the cuff of a trouser, sleeve of a shirt or even a bra.
  • Divide your bank/credit cards and keep them in separate locations.
  • Do not place money or valuables in lockers.
  • Be very careful how you carry your handbag, and never leave it open for someone to slip their hand inside.

Working in Australia


From 26 April 2008, people granted student visas will automatically receive permission to work with their visa grant. Most student visa holders will no longer need to apply separately in Australia for permission to work. Please note that you will NOT be able to work in Australian until the first official day of classes when the education provider will confirm your study commencement. Your education provider may do this automatically on the first official day of classes, or you may need to request that they do. A part-time job is not just a great way to earn yourself some extra Australian dollars, it’s also perfect for making new Australian friends, gaining insight into Sydney work-life and practising your English.


  1. You are not permitted to start work until you have commenced your course of study
  2. You can work a maximum of 20 hours per week during the term and unlimited hours when your course is not in session.
  3. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) considers your course to be ‘in-session’:
  • For the duration of the advertised semesters (including periods when exams are being held)
  • If you have completed your studies and your Confirmation of Enrolment is still in effect
  • If you are undertaking another course, during a break from your main course and the points will be credited to your main course. (Source: Department of Home Affairs)


For a full list of mandatory and discretionary student visa conditions please visit

For more information on Study, Work and Living in Australia you can refer to the official Australian Government website for advice on study in Australia (


You may find it difficult to find work in Australia as you will be joining the general Australian population in your search; therefore you should not rely on income from employment when budgeting to pay for living expenses. There is no guarantee that employment companies will find work for you.

There are many different ways to find a job in Australia:

Online – try these online companies:


Taxes are managed through the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The tax you pay depends on how much you earn.


You must obtain a Tax File Number to be able to work in Australia. A tax file number (TFN) is your unique reference number to our tax system. When you start work, your employer will ask you to complete a tax file number declaration form. If you do not provide a TFN, your employment will be taxed at the highest personal income tax rate, which will mean less money in your wages each week. You can apply for your TFN online at, or phone 13 28 61, 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. For the ATO translating and interpreter service phone: 13 14 50.


If you pay too much tax you are entitled to a refund. To get a refund you will need to lodge a tax return. You can lodge online using e-tax (free), by mailing a paper tax return, or by paying a registered tax agent to complete and lodge the return for you. If you lodge by e-tax your refund will normally be issued within 14 days.


Your employer must contribute an additional sum, currently equal to 10% of your wage, into a superannuation (pension) account for you. In most cases, you can access your contributions when you leave Australia permanently, although the contributions will be taxed.

To check your eligibility to claim your superannuation and to apply for your payment, visit: You will need to provide the details of your superannuation fund (Source: Australian Taxation Office)

Laws and Safety in Australia


One of the reasons we have such a wonderful lifestyle in Australia is due to our representative democracy, the separation of powers, and our respect for the rule of law. We have a lot of laws in Australia and as a result, society runs smoothly.

In being granted a visa to study in Australia, you signed a document (Australian Values Statement Temporary) agreeing to respect Australian values and obey the laws of Australia for the duration of your stay. Failure to comply with the laws of this land (including State and Territory laws) could result in a fine or the cancellation of your visa and possible deportation back home. If you are convicted of a serious crime, it could result in imprisonment. Nobody wants this to happen! You can find a comprehensive outline of Australian law and the legal system at


If you do break the law are arrested and need to attend a court appearance you will need legal representation to negotiate Australia’s complex legal system.


House-breaking is one of the most common crimes. Most house break-ins appear to be crimes of opportunity with entry gained through an open or unlocked window or door. Most intruders are looking for (and often find) a house left open or unlocked where they can get what they want with ease and make a quick getaway.

Some General Security Tips:

  • Your house number should be clearly visible from the street in case of an emergency.
  • Keep your front door locked when you are at the back of the house.
  • Do not leave messages on the front door. It lets people know you are not home.
  • Avoid having parcels left on the doorstep.
  • If you have to have something delivered while you are out, have the neighbours collect it.
  • When out, leave a radio or television on or a light in the evening to give the impression you are home.
  • Keep cash and valuables out of sight.

Home Security is an issue for you to consider when you are deciding on a place to live. Windows and doors should preferably have security screens or locks; doors should have dead-bolts, a security chain and a peephole; and if the property has an alarm system – that would also make it an excellent choice.


It is recommended that if you are in a rental property that you obtain Contents Insurance for your belongings. This is a form of house insurance that insures the contents of the house. Landlords will usually have House Insurance but your belongings will not be covered. Contents insurance will replace your belongings if your house is robbed and your belongings are damaged or stolen, or you have a house fire and your belongings are destroyed or damaged.

Personal Safety

When you are out and about it is important to be alert and aware of your personal safety.

If you are going out at night remember:

  • Think ahead – consider how you are going to get home – what about pre-booking a taxi or arranging transport with a friend or family member?
  • Never hitch-hike.
  • Make sure that you stay with your party and that someone knows where you are at all times.
  • Make sure you have enough money to get home or to phone.
  • Keep away from trouble – if you see any trouble or suspect that it might be about to start – move away from the scene if you can. The best thing you can do is to alert the police and keep away.
  • Walk purposely and try to appear confident. Be wary of casual requests from strangers, like someone asking for a cigarette or change – they could have ulterior motives.
  • Try not to carry your wallet in your back trouser pocket where it is vulnerable and in clear view.
  • If you are socialising in a public place never leave your drink unattended. Read about Drink Spiking under ‘Alcohol, Smoking and Drugs’.
  • If you are out and about:
  • Be alert to your surroundings and the people around you, especially if you are alone or it is dark
  • Whenever possible, travel with a friend or as part of a group
  • Stay in well-lit areas as much as possible
  • Walk confidently and at a steady pace
  • Make eye contact with people when walking – let them know that you have noticed their presence
  • Do not respond to conversation from strangers on the street or in a car – continue walking
  • Be aware of your surroundings, and avoid using personal stereos or radios – you might not hear trouble approaching
  • always keep your briefcase or bag in view and close to your body
  • Be discrete with your cash or mobile phones
  • When going to your car or home, have your keys in your hand and easily accessible
  • Consider carrying a personal attack alarm
  • If you do not have a mobile phone, make sure that you have a phone card or change to make a phone call, but remember – emergency 000 calls are free of charge. (Source: Australian Federal Police)


Travelling on public transport should be a safe and comfortable experience. Numerous security measures have been adopted to maximise the safety of travellers including security officers, police, guards, help points, good lighting and security cameras. Most drivers also have two-way radios and can call for assistance.


Waiting for a bus:

  • Avoid isolated bus stops
  • Stand away from the curb until the bus arrives
  • Don’t open your purse or wallet while boarding the bus – have your money/pass already in hand
  • At night, wait in well-lit areas and near other people
  • Check timetables to avoid long waits.

Riding on the bus:

  • Sit as close to the bus driver as possible
  • Stay alert and be aware of the people around you
  • If someone bothers you, change seats and tell the driver
  • Keep your purse/packages close by your side. Keep your wallet inside a front coat pocket
  • Check your purse/wallet if someone is jostling, crowding or pushing you
  • If you see any suspicious activity, inform the driver


  • Many of the same safety tips when travelling by bus apply for trains. In addition:
  • Most suburban trains have security cameras installed or emergency alarms that will activate the cameras
  • Carriages nearest the drivers are always left open and lit
  • Try not to become isolated. If you find yourself left in a carriage on your own or with only one other person you may feel more comfortable to move to another carriage with other people or closer to the driver.


Travelling by taxi is generally quite a safe method of public transport. To increase your confidence when travelling by taxi, consider the following suggestions:

  • Phone for a taxi in preference to hailing one on the street. A record is kept by taxi companies of all bookings made
  • You are entitled to choose the taxi/taxi driver of your preference. If a driver makes you feel uncomfortable you are within your rights to select another taxi
  • Sit wherever you feel most comfortable. This may mean travelling in the back seat of the taxi;
  • Specify to the driver the route you wish to take to reach your destination. Speak up if the driver takes a different route to the one you have specified or are familiar with
  • Take note of the Taxi Company and fleet number. This will help in identifying the taxi if required. If you are walking a friend to catch a taxi, consider letting the driver know that you have noted these details e.g., “Look after my friend, Mr/Ms Yellow Cab No.436”
  • Stay alert to your surroundings and limit your conversation to general topics
  • If you don’t want your home address known, stop a few houses away from your destination
  • If the driver harasses you when travelling in a taxi your options include:
  • Ask the driver to stop. You may choose to make up an excuse to do so;
  • Leave the taxi when it stops at a traffic sign or lights
  • Call out to someone on the street to attract attention and seek assistance. This may also cause the driver to stop
  • Read out the fleet number and advise the driver you will report him/her if they don’t stop


If you are going to drive in Australia, no matter whether you are an experienced driver and have an international drivers’ licence or not, YOU MUST KNOW THE ROAD RULES before you attempt to drive (even 10metres)! Many lives are lost on Australian roads every year and international visitors are at high risk! If you come from a country where you drive on the opposite side of the road to Australia it is sometimes helpful to have a companion drive with you to ensure you both take note of traffic conditions and signs until you are more familiar with driving on the left side of the road. A handy tip is not to think of it as the other side of the road, but to think that the “white line” (or centre dividing line on the road) is on your side as the driver, just as it is in all countries. It is recommended that you take one or two driving lessons in Australia before you begin to drive here on your own.



Any motor vehicle you own must be registered before you drive it on the road. You must register it in your name and provide the State car registration board with your driver’s licence details and your residential address in Australia.


It is recommended that you have car insurance if you own a car, this will protect you if you have an accident that is your fault as it will help pay for any damage you may have caused to your car or another car.


There are very obvious reasons for having speeding and traffic rules. The risk of being involved in an accident increases with the speed a vehicle is being driven because there is less time to react, less control of the vehicle and the distance needed to stop is longer. The higher the speed a vehicle is travelling when it hits a pedestrian, the greater the chance of a fatality occurring. Speed kills.


The use of mobile phones when driving is dangerous, against the law if it’s not hands-free, and potentially fatal. This applies to sending or receiving text messages as well as calls. Operating a mobile phone while driving makes you nine times more likely to be killed in a collision. Police actively target the use of mobile phones by motorists. Fines are considerable and demerit point’s penalties do apply. You should be aware of how to legally use a mobile phone while driving.


The Demerit Points Scheme is a national program that allocates penalty points (demerits) for a range of driving offences. The scheme is designed to encourage safe and responsible driving. Along with financial penalties, demerit points provide a strong incentive to drive within the law. Different offences have a different number of demerit points. A complete list of all offences, demerit points and fines can be downloaded from the related links section.

(Source: Roads and Traffic Authority, NSW)


In most States/Territories of Australia if you hold a current driver license from another country, you are allowed to drive on your overseas license as long as:

  • You remain a temporary overseas visitor
  • Your overseas licence remains current
  • You have not been disqualified from driving in that State or elsewhere and
  • You have not had your licence suspended or cancelled or your visiting driver privileges withdrawn.

Most overseas visitors are not required to obtain an Australian licence if you comply with these conditions and can continue to prove your genuine visitor status to State Police if required.

Note: If you are a licence holder from New Zealand, you must obtain an Australian driver licence within three months of residing in Australia or you must stop driving.

When driving in NSW you must carry your overseas driver licence. Your licence must be written in English or, if the licence is not in English, you must either carry an English translation or an International Driving Permit. An International Driving Permit is not a license to drive. It should still be accompanied by a current driving license.

If you are a temporary overseas visitor and you wish to obtain an Australian licence seek advice from your local Police Station.

(Source: Roads and Traffic Authority, NSW)


If you are going to drink alcohol, don’t drive. If you are going to drive, don’t drink alcohol. Anything else is a risk, not only to you, but also to other motorists and pedestrians. Alcohol is involved in about one-third of all serious motor vehicle accidents. As the level of alcohol increases in your body, you have more risk of being involved in an accident. Driving with a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit is dangerous to others as well as yourself and severe legal penalties apply. If you are above the prescribed blood alcohol content level, as the level of alcohol in your body increases, so does the severity of your fine and/or jail term.


The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. A BAC of 0.05 means you have 0.05 grams of alcohol in every 100ml of your blood. As the liver metabolises alcohol at around one standard drink per hour, the BAC level drops unless more alcohol is consumed. BAC is measured with a breathalyser, or by analysing a sample of blood.


There are legal limits as to the BAC level permissible if you are driving.


The more you drink, the higher your BAC. But two people who drink the same amount might register quite different BACs. There are many factors that will affect this, including:

  • Body size: A smaller person will have a higher BAC than a larger person because the alcohol is concentrated in a smaller body mass.
  • Empty stomach: Someone with an empty stomach will reach a higher BAC sooner than someone who has just eaten a meal. Food in the stomach slows down the rate at which alcohol passes into the bloodstream.
  • Body fat: People with a lot of body fat tend to have higher BACs because alcohol is not absorbed into fatty tissue, so alcohol is concentrated in a smaller body mass.
  • Women: After drinking the same amount of alcohol, a woman will almost always have a higher BAC than a male.

Because of all these variable factors, counting the number of standard drinks you consume can only give a rough guide to your BAC. For more detailed information about alcohol and how it effects you, please see the Australian Drug Foundation website:


To stay below 0.05 BAC, drivers are advised to limit their drinking to:

  • For men: No more than two standard drinks in the first hour and no more than one standard drink every hour after that.
  • For women: No more than one standard drink in the first hour and no more than one every hour after that.


Random breath testing of drivers for blood alcohol levels and drug use is common at any time of the day or night. Police officers have the right to stop any vehicle at any time and require the driver to supply samples for screening. Any person driving a motor vehicle is required by law to have less than a specified amount of alcohol in their blood. If a driver exceeds the level which applies to them the driver has committed an offence.


It is safest not to drink alcohol at all if you are going to drive. The more alcohol you have in your body, the more risk you have of being involved in an accident.

  • At 0.05% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), your risk of being involved in a road accident is double that of a 0.00% reading.
  • At 0.1% BAC your risk is more than seven times as high of being involved in a road accident, than at 0.00%.
  • At 0.15% your risk increases to 25 times that of driving at 0.00%. (Source: Australian Federal Police)



Alcohol use is legal for those aged 18 years or over. There are laws governing how alcohol may be used in each State and Territory of Australia.


The use of standard drinks can help people to monitor their alcohol consumption and exercise control over the amount they drink.

Different types of alcoholic drinks contain different amounts of pure alcohol. A standard drink is defined as one that contains 10 grams of pure alcohol.

These are all equal to approximately one standard drink:

A middy of beer (285ml) = a nip (30ml) of spirits = a small glass (100ml) of wine = a small glass (60ml) of fortified wine such as sherry.

Please keep in mind:

  • Some hotels don’t serve standard drinks – they might be bigger. Large wine glasses can hold two standard drinks – or even more!
  • Drinks served at home often contain more alcohol than a standard drink.
  • Cocktails can contain as many as five or six standard drinks, depending on the recipe.
  • Pre mixed bottled drinks often contain more alcohol than a standard drink.


Australian law makes it an offence to sell or supply tobacco products to a person under the age of 18 years. It is illegal for anyone under 18 to purchase tobacco products. There are also a number of laws regulating and restricting the advertising, promotion and packaging of tobacco products. Regulations have been introduced to restrict smoking in public areas such as shopping centres, hotels, restaurants and dining areas, and in some workplaces.


Each State and Territory has laws governing the manufacture, possession, distribution and use of drugs, both legal and illegal. Drug laws in Australia distinguish between those who use drugs and those who supply or traffic drugs. The Federal Customs Act covers the importing of drugs, while each State has laws governing the manufacture, possession, distribution and use of drugs, both legal and illegal.

DANGER: Drink Spiking! Whether you are drinking alcohol or not, keep your drink close to you and watch it at all times. Drink spiking (putting extra alcohol or other drugs into a person’s drink without their knowledge) is an unfortunate risk to people who are out trying to have a good time. Drink spiking can happen to anyone: male or female, young or old whether they are drinking alcohol or not. Never accept an open container of drink if you did not see it being poured and if you suspect you or your friends have had a drink spiked, call 000 (zero zero zero) immediately to report it and get help.

(Source: Australian Drug Foundation)


A person who waves at unknown drivers from the side of the road to request a ride with a driver further along the road is called a Hitch-hiker. Hitchhiking is illegal in Queensland and Victoria. Elsewhere in Australia it is illegal to hitchhike on motorways (where pedestrians are prohibited and where cars are not allowed to stop). Some travel companies promote hitchhiking as an inexpensive means of travelling around Australia.

HOWEVER: Many crimes have been committed against innocent hitchhikers including violent personal crimes and abductions. You do not know anything about the person whose car you get into.

Our advice to you is: DON’T HITCHHIKE! It simply is not worth the risk.


It is important to always be alert and aware of your surroundings and to avoid dangerous areas and activities, particularly at night.

A public place can vary through the course of the day. It may be used by different groups of people at different times. It may be busy at certain times and isolated at others. It may be different during the day than it is at night. These differences can have a very different impact on the way you feel when you are in them

For example:

The street outside a hotel in the morning is likely to be used by people going to and from work or shopping. At night however, the people most likely to be on the street are hotel patrons. Alcohol consumption has now become a factor in these places, and for many (particularly for women), some areas may become less safe.

A shopping mall during the day has lots of different people using it. Once it closes, it is often isolated and usually dark.

A school between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm is usually lively and active. After 5 pm or during school holidays however, it may be isolated or dominated by particular groups of people. Being in a place when it is busy is very different from when the place is isolated. There is often no reason to be afraid, but – be alert, be aware, and be careful.

Making new friends


There is no magic trick to making friends. And if you are in a foreign culture it can seem more difficult than usual to find people who you really “get along” with. Be kind to yourself – remember that making friends takes time. If you make the most of social opportunities during your life in Australia, just as you would back home, it will be quicker and easier for you to fit in, make friends and feel at home.

However you meet people, remember to be careful. When you meet someone new, be cautious until you get to know the person better and feel you can trust him or her. If a stranger starts talking to you, they are probably just being friendly. But be safe, and don’t give them any of your personal details like your full name, your phone number or your address. With people you don’t know well; always arrange to meet them in a public place, like a café or a park, instead of inviting them to your home or going to theirs, until you feel you have built a relationship with them, know more about them and feel comfortable with them.

Many international students spend time socialising with other students and people from their own country and culture while they’re in Australia. These people can make you feel accepted and you may be able to communicate much more easily with them than you can with the locals, particularly when you have just arrived. When everything around you is new and different, it can feel like a big relief to find people from your own country and cultural background. But remember, you need to be careful at first, until you get to know them better, just as you should with anyone else. Even though you may feel like you have a lot in common, remain cautious until you feel you know them reasonably well and can trust them. Crimes against international students are sometimes committed by people from their own culture.

If you have any concerns or questions about someone you have met, or want to talk to someone about Australian mannerisms and communication “norms” (widely acceptable behaviour), make an appointment to talk it over with your International Student Advisor.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a criminal offence. It includes sexual harassment, unwanted touching, indecent assault and penetration of any kind. It is important to remember that it can happen to anyone and at any time but certain precautions may make it more difficult for a possible perpetrator:

  • When socialising, be smart. Drink in a way that leaves you in control. Leaving drinks unattended leaves, them open to being spiked quite easily.
  • Walk with confidence and purpose.
  • Avoid lonely or dark places.
  • Be wary of strangers, whether they are on foot, in cars or at parties.
  • Be aware of the people around you.
  • Respect your intuition.
  • If placed in a situation where you feel uncomfortable say “No!” loudly and with conviction.

What do I do if I am assaulted?

It is very difficult to tell someone that you have been sexually assaulted. It is important to remember that sexual assault is a serious crime and can happen to people regardless of their gender or sexuality. Your first point of contact should be the Police or you’re closest Sexual Assault Service.

From a public phone or mobile phone, ring the police on 000.

  1. Do not wash, shower, change clothes or clean up in any way until after talking to the police and going to the hospital. You could destroy vital evidence. Don’t drink alcohol or take tranquillisers or other drugs as you will have to give a clear account of what has happened.Try to remember everything you can about your attacker.
  2. Remember, you are the victim. You have nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. Police officers are aware that a person, who has been assaulted, sexually or otherwise, is likely to be suffering from emotional shock. They will do all they can to make things as easy as possible for you. It is likely they will provide a female police officer for a female victim. If not, you have the right to request one. You can also ask the police to contact a friend, family member, interpreter or religious adviser to be in attendance with you when you are dealing with the circumstances surrounding the report of an assault.