Australia is a fascinating country.
It's so huge it crosses three times zones (four in Winter - thanks for the info Anna!), has rural frontier settlements in 'the bush' and has some of the most developed and cultured cities too, like Sydney and Melbourne. As a midwife, there are possibilities in everything from high-risk obstetric care, to homebirth (and then you can run down to the beach to surf afterwards).
Many midwives feel quite guilty at the prospect of moving and you have to make your own decision. But in my opinion there is a huge benefit to midwives spreading ideas and passion globally, not to mention adventures are good for everyone.
More on that later, but this post is all about what it takes to move to Australia as a UK midwife. Here are the top FAQs as answered by Elizabeth Cox from Ice Recruitment - and see the end of the post for a handy presentation that goes into more detail.
How hard is it to go in terms of paperwork?
There are two bits to this answer:
If you're under 30 you can get a working holiday visa, which means you can work for 6 months with one employer before moving on.
Another option is a '457' visa which allows you to work in Australia for up to 4 years. Your partner will be able to work but if you have children, you'll need to pay their school fees.
If you're under 50 you can apply for permanent residency - sometimes hospitals can help with this. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia will assess you for your skills and there are other factors involved in the points system.
You'll need to get registered with 'AHPRA', the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. They will prompt you for all the relevant details so they can assess your suitability.
Because UK midwives don't tend to have much continuity of care experience, you're likely to end up with a registration with restrictions.
Once AHPRA give you the go-ahead, you'll have three months to travel over to present your ID and 'activate' your registration, exciting!
How much is it all likely to cost?
This depends on your circumstances, but in brief:
AHPRA registration: $520
Visa: $1060 (temporary 457 visa) to $3600 (PR) for solo travellers, to Visa $2650 (Temporary 4 yr visa for 2 adults and 2 children).
Others costs for medical treatment, getting things notarised, postage of documents, and English tests* also factor in.
For a family of 4, with 2 adults and 2 children, you could be looking at $7000 - $9000, or £4202 - £5404.
*If you can provide evidence that you were educated through English from primary, secondary to third level, you should not have to sit an English test. But the English competency tests are challenging and can sometimes be difficult to get the level required by AHPRA.
Is there an age limit?
This depends on the visa you go with. As above, for a working holiday visa you can't be over 31. But with a 457 there appears to be no age limit.
There is an age limit of 50 for a permanent residency visa.
What about my children?
A sponsored permanent residency visa is probably the best way of working in Australia if you have children. This means the hospital you are working with supports your application. School fees will be reduced to the normal rate that Australians pay and if you have a partner, they will be able to work too.
What kind of school fees do I have to pay?
If you have a temporary visa, school fees will be around $5000 (£3001) a year.
It's easy to get your child into a school.
With a permenant residency visa, your school fees will be the same as for Australians.
How much post registration experience do I need?
You can register with AHPRA straight away, however, if you want to work with an employer for more than 6 months, you'll need a 457 visa and will need 2 years experience behind you.
Are there other career benefits I haven't thought of?
It's relatively easy to work in New Zealand once you've worked in Australia, based on the 'Transtasman' agreement
New Zealand has a world class caseloading model for midwifery.
There are private hospitals you can work in as well as public ones (though interestingly public ones pay better), and career advancement like being a lactation consultant, etc. is an option.
You'll also be working with a whole new culture. Australia is complicated and you'll need to do some reading about Aboriginal Australians and the race inequality issues that go on. As a midwife you'll have a chance to help level the playing field but there are complex cultural issues you should think through before interviewing.
On a final note, I'd recommend midwifery travel to anyone. Adventures are good for the soul and for the profession.
I have made some of the best friends I have through midwifery, and working in a new environment away from the country you know tends to make for strong connections. It's a great developmental experience to live so far from home.
You'll also be able to 'cross pollinate' ideas. I remember Sue*, who I worked with in my first job as a midwife. She'd worked in Australia and New Zealand before returning home to the UK. She had so much time for supporting students and newly qualifieds, I think this was because there was a different system of support in place in the Antipodean hospitals she'd worked in.
She also challenged a lot of care and decision making. I think she had the confidence to do this as she'd seen good outcomes with completely different styles of practice and therefore knew there was much more 'wiggle room' than we think.
You have to make your own decision, but to my mind, the struggles with UK midwifery are not because midwives are immigrating. The issues are far bigger than that and the challenge of immigrating is so big that only a tiny % of midwives ever complete the process and move to Australia.
You're in a privileged position as a midwife in terms of visas and jobs and there are hundreds of thousands of people around the world who can't travel because of politics and regimes. I always think we owe it to those that don't have those things, to make the most of the incredible opportunities we have.
Do you think you could be one of the midwives that makes the move?
Leave me a comment and let me know if you're considering it, putting your goals into words is proven to make them more likely to happen!
Also, I can pass on any questions you have to Australian midwives so if you'd like to leave a comment for them, please do.
Much love, and good luck if you're considering this adventure!
Huge thanks to Elizabeth Cox from ICE recruitment who offered answers here and gave us this presentation:
*I've changed Sue's name.