What It’s Like Being a Canadian Working in Australia

Canadian winters are beautiful and really cold! As it happens, our winters in Canada coincide perfectly with warm and gorgeous summers in a far-away land Down Under. It’s the perfect escape and a great opportunity to become a Canadian working in Australia!

Australia is a magnificent and beautiful country full of diverse landscapes and adventures!

I just finished my second Working Holiday with Stepabroad in Australia! After having lived in China, Japan and Chile, I felt like some beautiful beaches (and people) were exactly what I needed. I loved my experience living and working in Australia so much, that I wanted to help others do the same. So, read about my experience of what it’s like being a Canadian working in Australia…

Me, enjoying the sunshine on Australia’s Gold Coast during my working holiday in 2019/2020!

Getting to Australia

First things first, in order to be able to work in Australia, you need the Australia Working Holiday Visa. If you’re unfamiliar with the working holiday visa, we’ve put together a guide with everything Canadians need to know about the Australia Working Holiday Visa. There are a few requirements to meet in order to be able to apply for the visa, the main one being that you are a Canadian citizen between 18 and 35.

Once you have your visa, you’re officially a member of the Canadians Working in Australia Club – there’s a surprisingly large bunch of us!

From there, you have a few options. Unfortunately, they all include a pretty long flight. Pack some snacks, a book or two, download your fave series and bring some good headphones. From Canada, it’s pretty easy to find flights to Australia’s main cities: Sydney, Melbourne or even Brisbane.

If you’re like me, however, you might want to take a little detour…

Layover With a Twist

Spending hours in a random airport being incredibly tired, and eating questionable super pricey food, is not my jam. What’s the best way to skip that horrible layover? Book a Canada-Hawaii flight and then, a good few days later, Hawaii-Australia. Problem solved!

The cost of the flights ends up being pretty similar to a direct flight from Canada to Australia. You’ll definitely end up spending more money in Hawaii than you would have on a flight, but it’s oh so worth it!

Bonus: spending a few days on the beaches of Hawaii, eating delicious local cuisines and driving through Jurassic Park-worthy landscapes might just help you deal with jetlag once you get to Oz!

Make your trip of a lifetime to Australia extra spectacular with a stopover in Hawaii!

What does a Canadian working in Australia do exactly?

Repeat after me: you do not have to work on a farm.

There is a great misconception that if you are doing a working holiday in Australia, you must work on a farm. That’s not true!

If you want to extend your one-year working holiday visa for a second year, you do have to spend some time working in a designated industry, which includes farm work – but there are other jobs available in Australia for you!

Embrace Australia's coffee culture by working in one of Melbourne's trendy cafes

Think of getting a job in Australia like job hunting in Canada. It works in just the same way, meaning you’re likely to land a job in an industry that you already have experience in.

On the working holiday visa, you can work in several types of jobs so you can really do a bit of anything in the land Down Under. Maybe try out something new, a job you would never take in Canada, and learn some new skills. The usual gigs of working holiday-makers are in gorgeous little cafes, fun hostels, pretty boutiques, or on the expected fruit farm.

The jobs you’ll find might vary depending on the city you’re in. Don’t worry, in big cities like Melbourne and Sydney, finding a job isn’t too tricky!

Stepabroad offers Australia Working Holiday Programs for Canadians that help you through the process of finding a job. You can meet with a local job expert once you arrive to kick-start your job search – I promise they won’t force you to do work on a farm!

I myself went to the sunny Gold Coast and found a great sales and customer service job in a cute little retail shop. If I can do it, I know we can help you do it too!

What’s it like living in Australia?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend a great deal of your time being a cliché and going for long walks on the beach.

There’s so much you can do in Australia! Surfing, hiking, snorkelling, kangaroo-spotting, koala-holding, amazing-coffee-drinking, road-tripping, barbequing, bar crawling, market shopping – the options are never-ending!

My favourite part of my Australian Working Holiday was definitely snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef. Nothing quite compares to the amazing colours of corrals and the sea life surrounding you in the middle of the bluest of oceans.

Getting to pet a kangaroo was pretty cool too, I won’t lie.

The face you make when you touch a kangaroo for the first time!

What’s the work culture like in Australia?

Australia and Canada share quite a few similarities so don’t worry too much about fitting in – you’ll do just fine!

While Australians are known for being laid back, this doesn’t completely translate to the workplace. Punctuality and hard work are still expected. But Aussies definitely embody the saying work hard, party hard – so be ready for that when you start your new gig!

Australians like to enjoy their time outside of work and get more holiday time than we do in Canada. Employees are entitled to a minimum of 20 days of annual vacation for every 12 months of service. That’s four weeks of vacation per year! Nice, right? Keep in mind this is pro-rated for part-time workers.

Both countries are part of the Commonwealth, so most of our holidays are the same. However, our seasons are swapped, which means that summer in Australia is from December to February.

The holiday season in Australia may not be snowy, but it sure is busy!

Keep an eye out for the Australian school holidays. Their school year is broken up differently than ours here in Canada. Try to avoid planning any trips during these periods as prices skyrocket and you’ll be overrun with families. If you do want to do a bit of travelling during the holidays, I recommend you book your accommodation well in advance.

The Gold Coast is a beautiful spot in Queensland popular with holiday-goers. Lucky for me, I lived there!

How much money can I earn?

The great thing about being on a working holiday in Australia is that you can explore the country without going completely broke.

The even better thing for Canadians working in Australia is that the hourly minimum wage is almost $20! This means you can go on quite a few adventures if you budget right.

And the cherry on top is, for certain positions, your salary will vary depending on the day you’re working. For example, you make $20 an hour on a weekday, $22 in the evening, $25 on Saturdays, $30 on Sundays and $45 on public holidays. Yes, you’re reading that right, that’s $45 per hour. Working over the weekend has never felt so sweet!

Canadians can expect the cost of living in Australia to be slightly higher than here. Obviously, just like in Canada, certain places are a bit pricier, like major cities. However, because salaries are higher, you will likely be able to get away with saving more than you would back home!

Higher wages on the weekends is worth toasting to!

Rent is often paid weekly instead of monthly, so this is a good thing to keep in mind. Stepabroad’s programs help you with finding a place to live too.

Food, bus fare, clothes and plenty more Australian goodness easily compares at price to its Canadian counterpart… the one thing that does not compare is alcohol.

There are amazing cocktails, wines, and beers in the land down under, but oh-my are they pricey! Finding a cocktail for $20 is a good deal, to give you an idea.

Australians have a reputation to enjoy a good party, but you might want to stock up at the bottle-o (that’s Australian for liquor store) before a night out to save your Aussie dollars.

There’s always something amazing to discover while living in Australia.

Do I have to pay taxes?

Taxes: the plural of an English noun that brings dread into the heart of basically anyone.

Canadians in Australia on a working holiday visa still have to pay income taxes to the Australian government.

You’ll need a Tax File Number or TFN, for short. This is the Australian equivalent to the Canadian SIN number. Using that handy little number, your taxes will be automatically deducted from your paycheck throughout the year. Your tax assessment will be calculated at the end of the financial year – which is completely different from the Canadian one, by the way.

In Canada the tax year is January 1st to December 31st, but in Australia it’s July 1st to June 30th. And taxes are filed in October instead of April.

In addition to paying income tax, in Australia you are also required to contribute to your superannuation, or ‘super’ account. This is a mandatory payment into a retirement savings account. But wait – you’re retiring in Canada, not Australia! The good news is that you can claim your super payments back when you leave Australia.

Any of that sound a bit daunting or like a different language? We’re happy to help!

Have a question?

Australia is the perfect working holiday destination for both the uninitiated and the well-travelled. It’s simple enough to get around, everyone speaks English, and it’s full of excitement and amazing experiences – work ones and otherwise!

If you have a question about working in Australia on a working holiday, fill in the form below and we’ll be happy to get back to you to chat about how we can help!