Living and Studying in Australia
You will need a Tax File Number if you intend to work in Australia, lodge a tax return or having savings accounts that earn interest. You can apply for a tax file number online if you are a temporary visitor and have a visa that allows you the right to work or stay permanently in Australia.
Visiting a doctor
You can find a list of doctors (general practitioners or GPs) in the yellow pages of the phone directory under “Medical Practitioners”. There are some medical centres in Wollongong where you do not need to make an appointment and where a range of services such as x-rays and blood tests are offered, for example Wollongong Medical Centre, 231 Crown Street. You can ask other students or friends if they can recommend a doctor to you. The Student Support Advisers (SSAs) have a list of doctors who speak languages other than English. The UniCentre Medical Service can arrange an appointment and free transport to see a doctor on Tuesdays or Thursdays at the Keiraville Surgery. You will need to pay for your medical consultation (about $38 for a visit). Students with OSHC can claim a refund of part or all of the scheduled fee (depending on your OSHC provider). You will need to keep your receipt when you pay for your visit to the doctor.
Unlike some countries, in Australia the Hospital Emergency Department is only for urgent attention for serious medical conditions when a GP is not available. The Wollongong Medical Centre mentioned above is open extended hours. When you need hospital care for treatment or for an operation, your GP or Specialist will make arrangements for you to be admitted. Wollongong Hospital is a large public hospital. Figtree Private Hospital is a smaller, private facility close to Wollongong. Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) pays 100% of accommodation, same-day services and accident and emergency services in a public hospital. It pays the full cost of charges for accommodation and theatre fees in private hospitals with which they have a partner arrangement. You may have to pay the balance of some of the doctor’s fees associated with your stay in hospital once the OSHC benefit is deducted.
Dentists, optometrists, physiotherapists, etc.
Other health-related services can be found in the yellow pages of the phone directory. The UniCentre Medical Service offers a range of services on campus. Some services such as dentistry can be very expensive and it is recommended that you obtain a quote from the service provider before you agree to go ahead with the treatment.
The branch of the National Australia Bank on campus handles international transactions, issues bank drafts, travellers cheques or foreign currency and accepts electronic transfers. Other banks are located in Wollongong. Banks are open from Monday to Friday except on public holidays. There are 24 hour automatic teller machines on campus which accept most credit cards. To open a bank account you will need your passport and your student ID card. The most widely accepted credit and debit cards in Australia are Visa and Mastercard.
You will find a wide range of department stores, speciality shops and boutiques in Wollongong. Several large air-conditioned shopping centres are located in nearby suburbs such as Figtree, Shellharbour, Warrawong and Corrimal and there are also shops situated around every main road in each town.
You will find supermarkets in every town and many of these open late at night and on weekends. Shops such as Woolworths and Coles sell a wide range of international groceries and there are delicatessens and Asian supermarkets in Wollongong. There is a halal butcher at Cringila and a convenience store on the corner of Keira and Market Streets, Wollongong sells halal meat. There are many fruit and vegetable markets, fish shops and butchers where you can buy fresh produce.
There are "Two Dollar Shops" in nearly every shopping centre. They sell a wide variety of items at lower prices. Discount stores such as K–Mart, Target and Woolworths regularly have lower prices than other stores because they buy in large quantities and their stores are large and economically built.
You can find second hand goods advertised in the Illawarra Mercury or the Trading Post available at the newsagent. Welfare organisations have second hand furniture, clothing and other goods, for example,
- St. Vincent de Paul Society, Montague Street, Fairy Meadow, phone 42297919
- Lifeline Furniture & Clothing Depot, 19 Auburn Street, Wollongong ph 422807022
The Salvation Army, 2 Ellen Street, Wollongong, ph 42285644
Summers in Wollongong can be hot and humid. Winters are generally mild but you will need plenty of warm clothing as most accommodation is not centrally heated and may not be as warm as you are used to. On campus, students dress casually, typically in jeans and t-shirts or shorts in the summer. A warm coat or jacket is recommended for the colder weather. It is advisable to have a set of “good” clothes for the occasional event which may be of a more formal nature. Prices for clothing varies a great deal, for example $20 to $120 for a shirt depending on whether you buy it from a larger discount store or an exclusive boutique. Look around at a variety of different shops until you find something in the price range you can afford.
You may find that some Australian rules and regulations are quite different from those that apply in your country. It is important to be aware of some common Australian laws and of the people and services that can help you. There are also some simple measures you can take to protect yourself and your property. Here are a few suggestions:
- There are State and Federal Police and other law enforcement officers concerned with issues such as tax, immigration, customs, parking, etc. The Police Department is not part of the army. They have the right to arrest in certain situations. Whether you are in trouble with the Police or whether they are helping you in a time of difficulty, things will run more smoothly if you co-operate with them and try to be calm and polite.
- It is a serious crime to bribe anyone, especially a policeman. For example don’t try to pay the policeman who gives you an "on-the-spot" fine for parking or fare evasion. It is also an offence to bribe a University Official and bribery can result in expulsion from the University.
- There are a number of agencies that offer free legal advice and help. Contact the Student Support Advisers (SSAs) for information on local services or consult the Legal Aid Office near you. You can obtain free legal advice by phone by ringing Illawarra Legal Centre phone 42761939 (Tues, Thurs 2.30-4.30pm, Wed 10-12am)
- To protect your property and belongings, make sure you lock your car and flat or house when you leave them. If you share a house with other people, consider putting a lock on your own door if you don’t have one.
- If a tradesperson knocks on your door and says they need to enter your premises to check or undertake repairs, make sure you see their identity card or check with your landlord before you let them in.
- Do not carry large amounts of cash around with you and keep your wallet or purse on you, rather than in your bag.
- If you go out at night, try to go in company with others. Keep to well-lit places with people around.
- You can ask for a safe escort at night from campus to your car or the bus stop by ringing Security on 42214555.
- Try to avoid doing part-time work in places where you might be working alone at night, for example Petrol Stations or all-night convenience stores.
There are laws in Australia to protect the rights of consumers. If you buy a product that is faulty, or if you disagree with the amount a service provider has charged you, or if you have a disagreement with a landlord, then you can get help and support to try to solve your problem. You can speak to your faculty SSA or contact the NSW Office of Fair Trading for information about your situation.
You should exercise extreme caution when purchasing a second-hand car, as there are many unreliable vehicles for sale. There are also other dangers such as buying a "rebirthed" car (a stolen car with a new identity) or buying a car on which there is still money owing to a finance company. There are ways that you can avoid buying a car with problems such as these. Please take the time to read the Office of Fair Trading fact sheet “Buying a used car” before you spend any money on a used car.
Registering a car
Every car must be registered with the State Government before it can be driven. If you buy a used car and it is already registered, you will need to transfer the registration to your own name. For more information see the Office of Fair Trading website.
A vehicle cannot be registered without firstly obtaining Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Insurance. CTP provides compensation for other people injured in an accident when you or the person driving your car is at fault. This insurance does not cover damage to property or other vehicles. You can obtain contact details of insurance and on-line quotes for insurance premiums at the Motor Accidents Authority. Third-party Property Insurance covers you for the damage your car might cause to someone else’s vehicle or property. Comprehensive Insurance covers damage to the other vehicle in an accident and also covers your car for accidental damage, theft and fire.
If you do not have insurance you can be held personally liable for any damage you cause in a car accident and this may add up to thousands of dollars. Insurance can usually be arranged over the telephone. Check the Yellow Pages of the Telephone Directory for Insurance Companies. Shop around for the best deal by asking for a quote from 2 or 3 companies. Don't delay arranging your insurance. There have been cases of students being involved in accidents the same day they bought their car – and they were not insured!
It is against the law to drive without a licence. In NSW you may drive with a current overseas or international licence during the period of your studies. If the licence is not in English you should carry an official English translation which you can arrange through the Community Relations Commission (phone 42249922). If you do not have a licence you can apply to the Roads and Traffic Authority for a learner’s permit and pass a computerised driver knowledge test.
In Australia each State has its own road laws. You need to be aware of the different laws if you are driving in a different State. You can download a copy of Australian road rules from the RTA website or pick up a copy from their nearest office. Take particular care if you are driving long distances on unfamiliar roads during vacation periods. There have been some recent very tragic accidents involving University students on country roads.
Important Australia-wide rules are:
- Always stop after an accident and give help
- Report an accident to the Police if someone is injured
- Always carry your driver’s licence with you
- You and any passengers must always wear a seat belt
You are required to obey the road rules when riding a bike. You must wear an approved helmet when riding in a public place. Ride on the left side of the road. At night your bike must display a bright or flashing white light at the front and a red light and red reflector to the rear. Your bike must be fitted with a brake and bell or horn. You must give hand signals when turning left or right or stopping. You must give way to pedestrians. You may not ride on any footpath unless signs indicate it is a "dual use" pathway. The penalty for breaking any of these rules is $45 or more.
Students should take particular care when crossing roads as cars have right of way except at marked crossings. Wollongong has a high rate of pedestrian accidents. You should use the footpath if there is one, cross at lights or crossings where possible, always look left, right and left again before crossing the road and wear light coloured clothing at night so motorists can see you better.
It is a crime to drive a car when you are affected by drugs or alcohol. Police are trained to identify people affected by either drugs or alcohol and conduct roadside random breath tests. You can be fined large sums ($1000 or more), have your licence taken away from you or be sent to prison for serious drink-driving offences. In New South Wales there is a blood alcohol limit of .05 for most drivers – this is up to 2 glasses of beer or wine in the first hour. There is a zero limit for learner or provisional "P" drivers. It is best not to drink when you drive or to make other transport arrangements. The Night Bus is a late night bus service that runs from 12 midnight until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights to provide transport for people coming home after a night of entertainment.
Drink spiking occurs when either alcohol or drugs are added to your drink without your consent or knowledge. You may not see or taste the difference. Drink spiking is illegal and dangerous. Some of the dangers are: sexual assault, rape, assault, robbery or hospitalisation from extreme symptoms. If you have a spiked drink you may feel dizzy, faint, sick, sleepy or very drunk after only one or two drinks. To avoid spiked drinks, don’t leave your drinks unattended, buy your own drinks and don’t accept drinks from anyone you don’t Know and trust. Watch out and look after your friends. If you think you or a friend has had a drink spiked, report it to the the Police or call 000.
HIV (AIDS) is present in Australia as in all other parts of the world. HIV is primarily a sexually transmitted disease. It is also spread through the sharing of needles and syringes. You cannot catch HIV, you have to let someone give it to you. As it is one’s behaviour that allows the transfer of the virus, it is essential to adopt protective behaviours. Pamphlets and additional information are available from health clinics, doctors’ surgeries and the University Counselling Service in building 11.
A perfect way to relax in Australia is to go to the beach. Although it is great fun it also presents some dangers even for experienced swimmers. Strong currents and sudden changes in beach conditions cause more than 100 deaths each year. Here are a few guidelines you should follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable day:
- always swim at places patrolled by lifeguards
- swim between the red and yellow flags, they mark a safe swimming area
- never swim alone – swim with a friend or under supervision
- read and obey any signs
- if unsure of conditions ask a lifesaver
- don’t swim directly after a meal
- never run and dive into the water – you may injure your spine causing paralysis
- if you do get into trouble, don’t panic, raise your arm, float and wait for assistance.
- Illawarra Area Health Services (IAHS) aims to promote and protect the physical and mental heath and social adjustment of the family. Family services provided by IAHS are free and include community midwives, early childhood health centres, school health service and immunisation clinics. Look in the telephone directory for a Centre near you.
- The Community Relations Commission (phone 42249922) provides interpreting and translation services for a fee. The Telephone Interpreter Service can be reached at any time by phone at the cost of a local call (phone 131450)
- Illawarra Legal Centre (phone 42761939) provides free legal advice, referrals to a Solicitor and phone advice.
- NSW Office of Fair Trading - click here to access their website - (phone 133220) offers free consumer advice and complaints procedure.
- Consulates and Embassies – click here for full contact details of countries with Consular and Embassy services in Australia. You may need to contact your Consulate to renew your passport if it is due to expire. Your Consulate may also offer support and information in times of crisis in your home country.
Government services NOT available to international students
- Migrant resources
- Social Security (Centrelink)
- Housing Department
- Health Care Card and Medicare Card
- Travel Concession Card (except for local Wollongong buses)
- Dental Hospital Service
- Financial Assistance for child care