Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 10:21 GMT
Australian sun lures in the Brits
By Nick Bryant
BBC Sydney correspondent
Christmas at the beach. How very, un-British
With at least 1.3 million resident Britons, Australia is the leading destination for UK expats. And many of those who go say they won't be coming back.
Australia is a lifestyle superpower. The stunning climate, the celebrated beaches, the foaming surf, the carefree joy of tossing a marinated shrimp onto a glowing barbeque.
No wonder that so many Brits dream of making the fabled 'Lucky Country' their adopted home.
Australia certainly has it problems. There are water shortages, surprisingly high rates of depressive illnesses and a real gambling habit. But they do not appear to loom large in weighing the well-known pros of an Australian existence with the less-publicised cons.
Better still, the Australian government is being particularly welcoming right now to Brits with the right qualifications wanting to live the Aussie dream.
Hunt for skills
With a population of just 20 million people, the economy faces a chronic skills shortage. To sustain its present levels of growth, the economy needs an influx of skilled workers – skilled workers who ideally speak fluent English. With Britain offering that pool of labour, it is a win-win for both parties.
(BRITS ABROAD DATA
See where Britons live around the world
So Australia has been welcoming British skilled workers in record numbers over the past three years.
In 2005, 21,780 UK nationals left Britain to settle in Australia, a 30% rise on the year before.
The number has doubled over the past three years. Three out of every four migrants who arrive here from Europe are British, and for the past three years the United Kingdom has been the major source country for migrants coming to live in Australia.
Australia's point-style system of immigration, soon to be adopted by the UK itself, acts both as a bridge and a barrier.
Workers with trades and skills, from electricians and plumbers to doctors and mechanical engineers, are given additional points and priority processing by the Australian Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA).
Workers lacking the correct skills – like journalists, for instance – have to find others routes of entry, such as being sponsored by an Australian company or falling in love with an Australian partner or spouse.
Immigration laws have also been relaxed to allow foreign students at Australian universities to settle in the country if they can arrange a job for themselves after graduating.
'Walked into a job'
Shaun Quigley and his wife Rachel emigrated to Cairns, Queensland, almost five years ago, and have not regretted it for one moment. With a family of three, they are convinced Australia is the ideal place to bring up their children.
We even made the mistake of leaving our front door open when we went home for five weeks to Britain – when we got back things were just as we'd left them
(Shaun Quigley, expat in Australia: Shaun works as an air charter broker for Independent Aviation, a position he describes as his dream job. Rachel is a physiotherapist.)
“Rachel first came here when she was in her early twenties as a trained physio,” says Shaun.
“She got about the maximum score under the points system. She literally walked into a job and got residency in Australia.”
Rachel's hospital has been particularly active in recruiting Brits. This October, when a hospital in Stoke-on-Trent announced job cuts, it moved quickly to offer posts to laid-off staff. After placing advertisements in the local paper, which attracted a hundred applicants, 84 people were eventually offered posts.
“Cairns is hardly the big smoke but it's pretty idyllic,” says Shaun. “There's no graffiti and you never hear about knifings and stabbings. We even made the mistake of leaving our front door open when we went home for five weeks to Britain.
“When we got back things were just as we'd left them.”
Disenchantment with UK
Dr Peter Logan moved to Australia in March last year. An accident and emergency consultant, he had grown increasingly disillusioned with the National Health Service back in Britain and decided on a new life in Queensland.
(Photograph: Logan family: Attracted to Australian health service
His wife, Sarah, an intensive care nurse, is Australian, and they now plan to spend the rest of their lives in her homeland rather than his.)
Thanks to his qualifications, getting a job in Australia was straightforward. Queensland welcomes British medical care staff with open arms. Only the other day, Peter was working in the Accident and Emergency Department of the Royal Brisbane Hospital alongside three other Brits.
“There's definitely been a marked increase in UK doctors showing up in Queensland,” says Peter. “I think my peer group is pretty disillusioned with the state of things at home [in the NHS].
“The pay is about 15-20% better and that buys you significantly more. Back home, all we could afford was a box on a housing estate.
“Recently, we have just bought a big plot of land, 20 minutes from the centre of Brisbane, where we now plan to build a house with its own pool. We can even afford a private education for our two children.”
(AUSTRALIA WANTS …(CRICKET FANS NOT INCLUDED)
Source: Australian Dept for Immigration. List of in-demand workers changed twice yearly)
He admits there are downsides to living in Australia. “Obviously, we are a long way from home, and even though I get to see more of the children now, the children don't get to see much of their grandparents.
“The culture here is slightly homogeneous. You can't nip off to Paris for the weekend. And I really miss old architecture, walking past a medieval church.”
Relaxing at his home overlooking the ocean just after completing a round of golf, Andy Griffiths described how his new life differed from his old. He worked as a youth and community manager in Derby, where he was the victim of assault in the workplace and a victim of crime at home. He is now an assistant manager at the National Geographic store in a Sydney suburb.
“Compared to life back home, this is idyllic,” he says. “We sometimes look at the website of the local paper back home and see all the assaults and all the vandalism. You don't get any of that here.”
Andy's wife, Lesley, is a nurse, and interviewed for a job on a four-way conference call while sitting in her dressing gown on a cold night in Britain. Some 80% of the nurses that she works alongside at her hospital in Sydney are immigrants.
And the most interesting thing to about all of the people we interviewed? None of them plan to return home.