Saturday, January 25, 2014

Australia – For Expats and Visitors

By Jamie Douglas

Australia for expats

Australia has been the dream destination for people all over the world, representing something that the United States once was: the land of freedom, wide-open spaces and unlimited opportunity.

Well, things have changed a bit since the 1950s and 60s, when Australia had still adhered strictly to a “White Australia” policy. That racist policy was officially established when Australia became a federation in 1901 and pretty much favored Anglo-Saxons, making migration to the continent very difficult even for Italian, Greek and Slavic people. Apparently, they failed to take into account the tragic fact that the British stole the entire continent from the Aborigines who had made it their home for at least 60,000 years.

After the federation was formed, one of the first acts was to pass the “Immigration Restriction Act.” It was not until 1975 that the laws were changed to allow for a multicultural nation to prosper.

Little did the Aussies realize that this multiculturalism would bring in masses of people from the Orient, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam and more. The new arrivals, for the most part, did not want to assimilate, with the immigrants from Pakistan, in particular, keeping to the tradition of oppressing their women. Not very may new arrivals adopted the Anglican Church as their house of worship, instead, building mosques and living in Islamic enclaves,  rejecting the cherished Australian way of life, which includes mass consumption of beer (not Fosters, which is scorned), a healthy amount of hard liquor and all assorted hard drugs.

Gaining residency on the isolated continent has become a process of insanely bureaucratic hoops you have to jump through. And you better have a job waiting for you and register with the police, telling them where you live, who lives with you, all of your personal data (numbers) where you work, etc...

And as part of their social program, they have an inordinate amount of police, who can come to your house anytime they want. All major areas are completely under live video surveillance – sort of like in the USA, but not as intrusive as in the UK.

If you are a retiree, they definitely don’t want you because you may become a burden as you age, even if you have a decent stash of retirement funds.

What they are looking for are young and strong bodies – male and female – to work in and around the remote mines in the outback (lesbians and gays gladly accepted): miners, mechanics, heavy machinery operators, truck drivers, cooks, etc. McDonald’s pays $35 per hour, and regular miners and truck drivers make $85 per hour, with generous raises, if they sign up for a second year. They have regular breaks about every two weeks, when they are flown to Perth or Melbourne, where they just drink and drink and drink and, of course, chase every skirt. The best way to get one of those jobs is to go to the mine of your choice and apply. If you have a pulse, you are hired. Then, the mining company will use their inside track to get you legal residency almost immediately.

Australia for visitors

Australia is a drinking nation with a work problem. Almost the entire population lives within 50 miles of an ocean – the Pacific, Indian and Great Southern – or the Coral Sea in the north.

The southeastern part of the continent is home to Sydney and its suburbs, but not far away are the Blue Mountains and the quaint, small city of Katoomba, where those expensive cockatoos fly freely and take pleasure in waking you at dawn. And not far from there are the Jenolan Caves . You can drive there. Or better yet, take a train from Sydney’s Central Station.

Australia is blessed with two transcontinental railroads: The Indian Pacific connects Sydney with Perth, with a few-hour layover in Adelaide. The entire trip takes four days and three nights. Then there is the Ghan, which goes from Adelaide to Darwin – the southern coast to the Northern Territory. Leaving Adelaide either way, heading north on the Ghan or west to Perth, you will get to experience the desolation of the outback, also referred to in places as the Nullarbor, or “no trees.” The nearest town from Cook to the mining town of Kalgoorlie is 775 km. The train stops in Cook for a couple of hours – but beware. They have recorded temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit regularly. But this humongous woman who is famous all across Australia for her obesity sells candy, snacks and cold drinks to the passengers on the train, which stops by four times a week. She apparently makes enough to sustain herself.

If you go to Australia, even as a tourist, go to the Sydney Hostel by the central train station and get yourself a Hostelling International Card, and your train ride will be half-price. My recommendation is to leave Sydney and get off in Adelaide, spend a few days in this splendid city, and then take the Ghan round-trip to Darwin. Now, I know it’s costly, but remember: You are just spending your kids’ inheritance. After returning to Adelaide, be sure to visit the Central Market, and after perusing the wonders there, exit out the back of the building, where you will find the best Italian restaurant I have found so far – sidewalk seating, weather permitting.

Perhaps the most touristy place in all of Oz is the Gold Coast, which stretches north of Sydney. It’s overbuilt and overcrowded – much worse than Miami Beach or Uruguay’s famous Punta del Este. But if you want to go to the amazing Great Barrier Reef, you have to go there.

Farther north, you start running into the dreaded man-eating crocs. They are very aggressive, and they love pets and children.

So yeah, Australia is a lovely place, kind of over-policed but no more than England, Switzerland or Singapore. It is very expensive to visit and you should be prepared to spend many thousands of US dollars to really explore the place – much of which will be spent on transportation between widespread locations. But it is a great country, with huge areas to discover.

Just beware of navigating the outback – it has taken many an adventurer! Hire a guide, but ask around first if he has ever lost anyone.

Jamie Douglas
At large in the universe

[Photo by Jamie Douglas]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.