Employment - working in Australia

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Also see Beginning a Life in Australia (Chapter 5 - Employment)

Everyone in Australia has the right to work and earn wealth. That wealth helps you to enjoy the benefits of a free and equal society. Australia has a wide range of successful industries that operate across all states and territories. There is a wide range of professional and industry qualifications that can help you find and keep a job. We all expect each other to contribute to and share in Australia's wealth.

Finding a job

The Australian labour market can be very competitive. How quickly you can find a job in Australia depends on economic factors, qualifications and skills, the type of work you are seeking, and particular circumstances which may affect the availability of certain types of work in different parts of the country. Australian work experience is invaluable and should be a priority if you are struggling to find work in your desired field.

If you do not already have a source of income or a job available, and provided your visa allows it, you will need to look for work. Approval to migrate, permanent residency and/or citizenship do not guarantee you a job.

Applying for a job

Your success in gaining employment depends on a number of factors. The factors include: where you plan to work, economic conditions, your skills, your qualifications and the demand for employees.

Employers advertise for employees in many places. If you are new to Australia, your best option for finding employment is to respond to job vacancy advertisements. The advertisement will inform you of the type of work required, location and other important information.

When you find a job vacancy that is suitable, the advertisement will tell you how to apply for the position and the name of a person to contact for more details. Your application will usually require:

  • a cover letter stating the position you wish to apply for and why you should be considered for the position based on your skills, experience and qualifications
  • a resume showing your personal details (name, address, phone numbers, email address etc), skills, previous jobs and experience, education and qualifications
  • copies of references from previous employers, or their contact details
  • copies of educational and trade certificates relevant to the job

jobactive can help you with writing job applications and interview techniques. Visit the jobactive site for more information.

Once you are successful at obtaining a job, you will need to supply your new employer with your bank account details and your tax file number. Refer to the Money - managing your finances page for further information about tax and superannuation.

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Employment qualifications and recognition

Some occupations have special requirements. This could include registration or licensing with a government authority and/or membership of a professional or industry association. The Qualification Recognition site (managed by the Department of Education and Training) helps you to find out how you can have your qualifications recognised.

Trade qualifications are assessed by the Department of Education and Training through Trades Recognition Australia.

Many careers will require some form of qualification for even entry level jobs. If you have a particular industry in mind, browse through ads for similar jobs or visit industry websites. The Education and Training page of this website can give you some general ideas on what sort of education is available and where to go for more information.

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Work rights in the Australian workplace

Australia has laws on minimum wages and work conditions. These laws are designed to ensure equitable working arrangements for all Australians. The laws specify the types of legal agreements that define the work relationship between employers and employees.

They vary between enterprise bargaining of whole organisations to individual common law contracts. Industrial relations law makes the workplace fair, safe and productive for both employers and employees. Protected working conditions include:

  • minimum rates of pay
  • hours worked
  • leave
  • free association with any organisation
  • occupational health, safety and welfare

These conditions can vary greatly depending on your job and industry. To ensure fairness for all employees, Australia has a Fair Work Ombudsman who monitors compliance with industrial relations laws and investigates breaches of the law. The Ombudsman provides a free service that you can access if your conditions or safety at work is a concern to you or your family. More information on the Fair Work Ombudsman and access to the services is available on the Ombudsman’s website.

The Australian Human Rights Commission investigates and resolves any complaints about discrimination in the workplace. Discrimination can come in a variety of forms on the basis of sex, race, age, disability, trade union affiliation, religion, sexual preference or political opinion.

Safe Work Australia has information on work health and safety and workers’ compensation in Australia. 

Unemployment support

If you do not have a source of income or a job, you still need to support yourself and your family while you look for work. Help is available from a number of sources for new arrivals. If you have a sponsor, ask them about the support they are willing and able to provide. If you have an 'Assurance of Support', the assurer has agreed to support you for your initial period in Australia.

Centrelink, through the Department of Human Services, is the agency that delivers social security payments and related services. Generally, you are not able to receive payment until you have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for up to four years. Age and disability pensions are available to those who have lived here for 10 years. If you are a refugee or humanitarian entrant, you do not need to wait to access social security payments.

Centrelink has a Migrants, refugees and visitors page that contains translated materials and specific information for new arrivals on how to access social security payments.

If you suffer from severe hardship during the waiting period, you may be eligible for Special Benefit. Centrelink pays the benefit if the cause of the hardship is from a major change to your life beyond your control. Centrelink does not pay any special benefits if you are unable to find a job Additional help, through the tax system, may be available to families with children. More information can be found on the Australian Taxation Office website.


All Australians will contribute to a superannuation account which is a savings and investment account for your retirement. Superannuation, or ‘super’ for short, is paid by your employer at a set percentage into a specialised account while you are working. It is only accessible after you reach the legislated retirement age. More information on super is available on the Australian Tax Office’s individual superannuation page or the MoneySmart website.

Career Pathways Pilot for Humanitarian Entrants

The Career Pathways Pilot is a new initiative to help newly arrived humanitarian entrants use their professional or trade skills and qualifications in Australia.  If you are underemployed or unemployed, you may wish to contact your local Career Pathway Advisor to find out if you are eligible to receive assistance.

For Employers

Migrants and refugees bring considerable benefits to employers and businesses.  Their skills and experiences can help you, as employers, to enhance customer service, strengthen existing market share or expand into new markets, both in Australia and overseas.

You can read more about the benefits to your business in New Arrivals New Connections: An employer’s guide to working with migrants and refugees.

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