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Finding work

There are a number of ways to find work in Australia. You’ll find job advertisements in local newspapers and on websites like www.seek.com.au, www.careerone.com.au and www.mycareer.com

It is also a good idea to contact your institution’s careers office or student centre. They might have information on local businesses that are known to hire international students. Local businesses might also place advertisements on school noticeboards and in their stores. Keep a look out for these position vacant notices.

Another way to find a job is through word-of-mouth – that is, through your friends. It’s a good idea to let your friends know that you are looking for a job. They might know of a friend’s business that’s looking for another staff member. At the very least, they’ll be able to let you know if they see a job advertised that you might like.

Types of work for international students

International students often find work in retail, hospitality and administration. The wage you receive will depend on the kind of work you do and your age. Tutoring younger students in the field you are studying or in your native language may also be a good way to earn money. You may be paid more for working on Sundays and public holidays. Remember that your first priority in Australia should be your studies. If you decide to take on the challenge of part-time work, start with a few hours until you are able to find a balance with your studies.

Applying for a Job

Once you find an advertisement for a job you want to apply for, you’ll probably have to submit a resume, also known as a Curriculum Vitae or CV. Your resume’s job is to sell your skills to the employer. It should outline your work history, skills and experience, and detail your performance in these jobs.

While it might take you a few hours to prepare a resume, the truth is that employers may only spend a few minutes scanning it before deciding whether to read more or move on to the next resume. For this reason, you have to make a resume stand out.

  • Organise your resume in a logical order. Put your personal details and contact information first, followed by your work history, education and skills. If you speak a language in addition to English, provide these details;
  • Use headings for each section so that the employer can quickly locate the information they need; and
  • Provide just enough detail to assure the employer that you have the skills they need. You can go into greater detail if you get an interview.

Make sure you submit your resume by the advertised deadline.

What not to include in a resume

You might find that the acceptable style of resume in Australia is different to what you are used to at home. Some of the things to be aware of include:

  • Don't include your height, weight, marital status or religion;
  • You do not have to include your age or birth date, although many people still do;
  • You do not need to include a photo of yourself;
  • Don't discuss how much you would like to be paid, or any other benefits you would like to receive;
  • Don't make any false statements about your previous jobs or skills.

The Interview

If you are successful in getting an interview, remember to:

  • prepare yourself by re-reading your application and making sure you can back up all the claims you have made;
  • listen carefully to each question and keep your answers relevant;
  • politely ask them to repeat or rephrase any questions you don't understand, especially if English is your second language;
  • ensure you are dressed neatly; and
  • stay calm.

If you are unsuccessful in getting the job, remember to ask the employer for feedback so you can improve your interview performance for next time.

Work Entitlements

Before you start working for a new employer, it is very important that you understand exactly what your duties are, what is expected of you and how much you will be paid. You should also ask for information on things like meal breaks, completing time sheets (a record of the hours you work), what to do if you can't make it to work, and any training that you will have to undertake before you start work.

If there is anything you don't understand, ask your employer for more information or talk to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Read more about work entitlements at:


You are entitled to receive at least the basic rate of pay (minimum wage) that applies to your age and job classification. Some employers will pay you at a rate above the basic rate. The minimum wages received by employees under Australia’s national workplace relations system are reviewed by Fair Work Australia every year. Employers and employees are not allowed to agree on a rate of pay which is less than the current minimum wage. The current federal minimum wage (as at 1 October 2008) is $14.31 per hour before tax.

Read more about minimum wages in Australia at www.fairwork.gov.au

You should also note the following:

  • Your employer must pay you the correct rate of pay for all the hours you attend work;
  • They must pay you on a regular basis – casual and part-time workers are often paid either weekly or every two weeks for work they have already undertaken. That is, you are paid in arrears, not in advance;
  • Your pay slip must include your employer’s information (including their Australian Business Number, or ABN), the number of hours you are being paid for, the amount you have paid in income tax, your superannuation payment and, of course, how much you have been paid;
  • You shouldn't have money taken out of your pay to cover things like a customer leaving without paying;
  • You should be paid for 'trial work';
  • If you work on a public holiday, you may be entitled to be paid more for that day. You might also get a higher rate of pay if you work on the weekends.


If you work in Australia as an international student, and are paid $450 or more in a calendar month, you may be entitled to superannuation. Your employer is usually required by law to pay money into a superannuation or retirement savings account for you. This legal requirement is called the Superannuation Guarantee.

Your employer will probably have an existing arrangement with a superannuation provider, but you can choose a different provider if you want. Visit the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website at www.ato.gov.au for more information on superannuation providers and how to change providers.

If you are eligible, you may be entitled to receive your superannuation when you permanently leave Australia. This payment is called the Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP). You can apply online for the DASP at the ATO website.


The time you spend at work is generally known as a 'shift';. This means you must turn up to work on a predetermined day and time.

  • You should receive an unpaid break if you work more than five consecutive hours;
  • You should start and finish your shift at the time you are rostered to.

If you work extra hours, you should first have this approved by your manager or employer, and you should be paid in return.

Ending your employment

If you choose to end your employment, you must give your employer appropriate notice. That is, you must formally inform them of your intention to leave at an appropriate length of time before you actually leave. This length of time will vary depending on your employment conditions.

If your employer terminates your employment, they must do so for a lawful reason. You cannot be fired because of temporary absence from work due to illness or injury, for making a complaint against your employer, or because of your gender, race, country of origin, religious or political beliefs, marital status, or physical or mental disability.

When you leave your employment, make sure that you have been correctly paid for all the work you have done. If you need help, contact the Fair Work Ombudsman at www.fwo.gov.au

Tax Returns

As an international student you may be affected by Australia's taxation system.

You should obtain a Tax File Number (TFN) from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) if you are going to work in Australia. To apply, complete a form available from the ATO website or an Australia Post Office. If your visa allows you to work you can use the ATO's online registration system. You will need to supply your name, current address and date of birth. You may also need to supply your date of arrival in Australia, current overseas passport (with current entry permit), and proof of enrolment, such as a student card or the Confirmation of Enrolment issued by your institution.

When an employer pays you, by law they have to take tax out of your wages based on the relevant tax bracket (the amount of tax you have to pay depending on your income). If you work in Australia you will need to lodge an income tax return, either through a registered tax agent or by completing it yourself. If you can complete your own income tax return, e-tax is the fastest way to obtain a refund. In most cases this will be within 14 days. You can download e-tax from the ATO website. The tax year in Australia runs from 1 July to 30 June. Individual tax returns are generally due by 31 October. Depending on the outcome of your tax return you may be entitled to a refund or you may be required to pay additional tax.

The following table is an estimation of the amount you may be taxed on a weekly basis, based on the minimum wage and employment of 20 hours a week (the maximum number of hours you are allowed to work per week while your course is in session).

$14.31 (minimum wage) x 20 hours/week $286.20
Tax at 15c for each $1 over $6,000
(the applicable tax bracket for annual incomes
between $6,001 and $35,000 for 2009-10)
Net pay after tax 260.58

(Example based on minimum wage and tax rates as at April 2010)

For more information about tax file numbers, applicable tax rates and tax returns, phone the ATO on 13 28 61, or visit www.ato.gov.au


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