Thursday, June 26, 2008

Migrating to Australia - Migration Reflections

Migration Reflections

written on Jun 26, '08 9:29 AM

i'm sleepy. and as much as i can talk for hours on end, blogging seems to be really time consuming! hahaha. so, here i am, cheating my way through. this is gonna be one long blog, but as u can see, i said 'cheating'... yes, i've modified it from an email that i sent to someone ;) but it reflects our whole journey here, and before this sentence gets lost in a jungle of words, let me say it loud and clear,

We really thank God for his grace and blessings every step of the way. Its really apparent that His hand has been upon us the whole way... (of course i have other people to thank too, but no one as much as Him, so u guys, stop saying 'how bout me!' hahaha)

oh yeah, and some pictures of our home, for those who haven't already seen it, are at

Migrating to Australia was apparently not as difficult as many people had led us to believe. Although I must admit that it will be different for everyone, I must say our family has been greatly blessed every step of our journey here. The first surprise, I guess, was that we actually got our PR approved with no complications, 10 months from the day we signed the papers after consulting with you.
Another good thing was that we were able to rent out our house just before the grant letter arrived.
From the time we got our PR approved, I resigned and we started planning our journey. The next blessing for us was that MAS decided to have their MAS travel fair, including discounted one way tickets to Melbourne! So, we didn't have to worry about trying to save money going with Airasia to Gold Coast then another flight to Melbourne (or going to Singapore and flying to Melbourne from there), although we had originally considered both options. We also sold almost everything we had through garage sales and stuff, so we managed to squeeze whatever we could in about 100kg worth of baggage. We had 4 of us traveling, with a limit of 20 (+5kg grace) each. We actually still exceeded the weight limit by 1kg, but they let us through without any charges for that =)
Accommodation was initially a huge concern for us, because we had decided to go as a family instead of the usual '1 person go first to settle everything' practice. To be honest, we did consider having one of us go down first, but during our last visit to Philippines, the pastor there told us they were sure it was meant for us to go as a family, and we took their advise. So, believing God would somehow work a miracle, we went online to and looked for a place to rent. We wanted somewhere with public transport, coz we were not planning to get a car, and so we only shortlisted places within 1.5km of a Zone 1 train station (zone 2 train stations would have meant higher cost of monthly passes). Another thing we wanted was to be within 10km radius of the CBD, with at least 3 rooms, relatively new house, gas ducted heating and rental not more than 350 weekly. One application to an old looking house in Kensington was unsuccessful, and then we came across a nice townhouse that met all our specifications. Before I got a friend to inspect the property for us, I emailed and called the agent and explained to him our situation. I told him if he could at least verify my documents to tell me if I was eligible to apply, even if he couldn't promise I would get the property, at least I can ask someone to inspect it knowing I would not be disqualified from applying. so, he agreed to look at my application. I was eligible - had to show proof of identity and proof of savings. I also included the reference letter from my previous company and explained what type of job we were going to apply for once we arrived (coz IT jobs are in high demand) so that the landlord will know we should get hired quickly. The inspection date came, and a friend viewed the place for me, and I proceeded to contact the agent to say we like it and we're offering some months advance rent to secure it. Everything worked out for us, and they were even willing to start the tenancy agreement on our arrival date.
so, we arrived at about 7am, got out of the airport with a rented car at about 9 and headed straight for the real estate agency. signed the papers, went 'home' to drop off the luggage and spent the rest of the day shopping for a fridge, washing machine, and all the necessary stuff.
we followed the online guides to starting up in Melbourne - opened a bank account, got our ATM card, registered with Centrelink, Medicare, got our Tax File Numbers, registered with VicRoads for our driving license (another long story there), and all that.
We found alot of things new at first - road signs like clearway, no standing, 2P for 2 hours parking etc... also bulk billing and paying with EFTPOS (and getting cash from the cashier at the supermarket!).... not to mention sharing roads with trams!!! we also ended up getting a car which we're very happy with. about $5.5k, 1996 Ford with dual fuel (this ended up being the best part of the car!). because of the gas tank, we're only spending like $40 a week on fuel. and talking about expenses, we're still not doing our grocery shopping at the 'right' places yet - coz we usually do grocery shopping at night and everywhere except coles and safeway already closed by then. still, we shop at coles, and groceries for a family of 4 is under $200 weekly - and that includes the lunch that we pack to work every weekday. we also eat at fastfood places and food courts during weekends when we're out, and if u're earning here, it doesn't really cost a bomb. it costs about $20 for our family in McDonalds. so, it's not like we cannot eat out at all...
I think the biggest thing to get used to is that (again, aside from coles, safeway and some kmarts) all shops close by about 5 or 6, except for thursdays and fridays where malls are open til 9pm. the good thing is, that also means most people dont work late, including us =)
which brings us to the topic of work. we were seriously job hunting from a week or two before we left Malaysia. To cut yet another long story short, I had my job offer within the first 3 weeks of arrival. Joey was trying not to start work so fast, so he turned down all interview invitations until he came across one that was close to my office. So, he agreed to go for that interview, and was hired the same day. As good as that was, it also meant we had less than a week to get the kids settled in child care. yet, even that worked out well for us, thanks to a kind lady in Coburg Childrens Centre (which we met during the first fortnight we arrived) who told us about needing to settle the childrens' immunization records (yet another long story here). she was a great help and she said it didn't matter where we ended up choosing to put our kids, but she just wanted to help in any way she could. we didn't end up there, but the child care centre that the children are at is only a few doors away from the house (seriously faster to walk then to drive).
we are staying at heidelberg heights now and we love this place. our life here for now is send the kids to day care, drive to work together, come back together, get the kids, cook dinner, and spend some time together before bedtime. weekends are for family activities, sometimes shopping, sometimes having a picnic, or baking cookies, making jelly, visiting places/sightseeing (we went to a children's farm too!) and even exploring melbourne for places where we may be able to buy our own place... which we hope to do within the first year we are here.
Church – this is once again another story, but in short, we are attending CityLife church in Manningham (although sometimes we’re in their main church in Knox). Kids love the Sunday school and we’ve got nice people to fellowship with.
by the way, even though we have only been here about 2.5 months, we've more than covered for the cost of migration. aside from the fact that we're getting better pay here (don't get me wrong, my previous job gave me the experience i need to do my current job, and its thanks to my employers for being great references that I didn't have any problems with my new i'm really really grateful to them, but its just that the whole industry average is different in Australia) we are also able to claim for the 2007-2008 financial year, for family tax benefit A and B as well as rent subsidy, which is paid to our bank account. aside from that, we are also getting child care benefits and child care tax rebates. In the coming financial year (starting 1st July), due to our combined incomes, the only thing we are eligible for is the child care tax rebate, but that is still ok with us =) so it does matter which month you arrive in australia =)
so in short, we have a place to stay, car, jobs, child care, church and even credit cards without any difficulties...
and although there are people who say we can get the PR done on our own, I'm happy to have had our agent to do it for us, because its worth the price, knowing that I wouldn't mess this opportunity up, and its been a really smooth journey.

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