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Hi there! I guess if you’re reading this then you’re considering moving your family to Australia. It’s a huge move, I won’t lie. For me, the move has been life-changing, inspiring and exciting. Life’s what you make it, regardless of where you live, but you have the power to make it even better if you follow through with your dreams.

If moving to Australia is the right move for you, I’m here to help you break it down into manageable chunks and encourage you to see it through. If you aren’t sure, I’m here to help you decide one way or the other.

(You can read a bit more about our migration journey in the August 2016 issue of Australia and New Zealand magazine: Australia and New Zealand magazine – reader story)

Where it all began
I want to give you the background about how I came to set up Smart Steps to Australia, so you can see that I’m just like you. It doesn’t take a special kind of person to move to the other side of the world – it just takes action and determination. Here’s my story.

My husband Matt and I always wanted to travel, so after we got married we spent a couple of years saving for a round-the-world backpacking trip. It was epic – we spent three months island hopping in the South Pacific, we drove around New Zealand in a camper van, then we drove up the east coast and down the west coast of Australia with a brief stop in the centre, before island hopping around Thailand and the Maldives.

Karen Bleakley in front of Uluru - image for Founder of Smart Steps to Australia

We arrived back in the UK with plans to migrate to Australia. We also came back expecting a baby. A few weeks later we found out that ‘baby’ was twin boys.

We still had the travel bug, but having two babies changed our minds because we wanted our parents to see our kids grow up. Less than three years later our boys were joined by their little sister.

We thought we’d made our peace with the idea of moving, but it never really went away. We still lusted after programs like Wanted Down Under (have you Googled how to submit a Wanted Down Under application? I bet you have!) and read Australia and New Zealand magazine every month (which I’m now a regular writer for). In 2013, we learned that Matt’s job was going to be ending in a few years. It gave us the kick to re-evaluate our lives.

It would have been easy to not make any decision and wait for the redundancy a few years later but we knew that making no decision would really be making a decision not to go. If we didn’t do it right away then the chance could be gone forever. Matt needed to be the main applicant as his avionics job was on the Skilled Occupation List and if he moved up one more age bracket we wouldn’t have enough points to make the move plus we knew occupations on the list changed annually so there was no guarantee how long his job would be needed.

I was bored with the uncertainty, so I set a time limit on the decision. We booked a holiday to Cornwall and agreed we’d decide one way or the other what we were going to do during our week away.

Before we went away, we narrowed down three options that appealed to us: 1) Move to Cornwall – a place we loved visiting on holiday. 2) Move to the Isle of Wight, just across the water from where we lived in Hampshire. And 3) Move to Australia – either Perth or Brisbane.

On the holiday, we spent our evenings debating the options and writing lists of pros and cons, and our days exploring and checking out the job and housing market in Cornwall. After exploring Cornwall in the freezing cold summer weather, we realised that house prices weren’t much cheaper than in Hampshire, but with no chance of earning a similar level of salary. And that was even assuming Matt could find an aviation job there. We also ruled out the Isle of Wight pretty easily, because of easy access to work for Matt. A few days into the holiday and it was obvious that Australia was the right path for us. It wasn’t just because the other two options weren’t going to work; the decision just hit us one morning and we knew it was the right one for us. We were sick of the cold weather, feeling frustrated by the lack of work opportunities as so many companies were closing down or laying off staff and we wanted a different kind of lifestyle for our kids.

As soon as we got home, I started contacting migration agents and realised that Matt’s occupation in avionics had literally just been removed from the Skilled Occupation List. I spoke to lots of agents before finding Sort Out My Visa. After chatting to us a few times and reviewing Matt’s CV, they told us we could apply under a slightly different electrical occupation as there was another role on the list that matched his skills, qualifications and experience. It was such a relief. We began talking to Sort Out My Visa in July 2013 and were granted our permanent residency visas in March 2014 – with the skills assessment, IELTS test and medicals all going smoothly in between. We then sold our house, threw a leaving party and moved to Brisbane in September 2014.

I love our lives here and Australia is home now. It scares me to think that fear of making the move almost stopped us from going through with it.

We could so easily still be living in our cramped house in Hampshire wondering whether to move or not, and letting the time tick by. Our boys could have been going to the nearby school with little chance of choosing a different school due to catchment restrictions (it was a great school but I’d have liked to have options). We could have accepted that we were going to spend at least six months of every year cooped up indoors because it was too cold or wet to go out (my kids hate cold weather even when wrapped up!) We could have tried to enjoy our few weeks of summer each year and been happy with that. I know that wouldn’t have suited us though.

Thankfully, we had the confidence to take the plunge and move to Australia. We’re living in a much bigger house than we could ever afford in the UK, we earn more than we did in the UK, I’m setting up this business which has been funded by two government grants (grant funding was severely limited in the UK), we can be outdoors all year round, we have barbecues all the time, our kids go to the most amazing school (which we chose from a selection of great nearby schools) – there are too many positives to list. Of course we miss friends and family, but the world has never been so small and we do what we can to stay in touch.

I want to add a quick note that the move has been amazing for us, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone or that everyone will settle in like we have. I know lots of people who’ve struggled finding work and others who are really homesick too. Everyone’s experience is different. Also, I’m not knocking life in the UK at all – I love so much about the UK and I’m sure we’d have been happy if we’d stayed there too. It’s just Australia suits our lifestyle better, so please don’t take any offence 🙂

I’ll share more details about our migration experience in future blog posts, but I hope that gives you an idea of how we got here.

Who am I and why should you listen to me?

Picture of Karen Bleakley, Founder of Smart Steps to Australia

I’m not a migration agent, a finance expert or a relocation consultant. I don’t promise to know everything about moving to Australia and I won’t be giving you any technical advice. But I’ve been through the move with my family and I know how challenging, time-consuming and terrifying it is. I’m working hard to compile a directory of trusted experts and resources so that whatever your questions, I have someone on hand who can give you an honest answer.

I’ve been self-employed since 2005, working as a freelance writer and a creative project manager. I’ve travelled extensively around Australia and have been blogging since 2008, first with a travel blog and then with my family blog. I started writing for Australia and New Zealand magazine (the UK’s only magazine dedicated to travel and migration to this part of the world) back in 2009, and over the past three years have had lots of articles published in the magazine (read some of them here). I now write a monthly lifestyle column for them too.

My project management background was a huge help when it came to planning our move as there is so much admin to do. I’m hoping to make the move easier for other families by pulling everything together in one place, breaking it down into manageable chunks and finding a range of top experts who can answer all of your questions. There’s going to be plenty of free content you will find useful in the blog. When you’re ready to take things up a notch and really make your dream happen, you might find it saves you time to buy my Ultimate Emigration Checklist where I’ve pulled together everything you need to do before, during and after your move to save you trawling the internet for hours, days and weeks hunting for the information.

I hope you enjoy reading. Please leave a comment below and tell me what stage you’re at. Are you just starting to think about the move or are you well underway planning your new life in Australia? I’d love to hear from you. And if you have any particular questions, please fire away as I’m here to help.

If you’re a brand that is interested in working with me, please visit the Work With Me page.



  1. Rhys Piggon

    Hi Karen,

    I’m currently a Lecturer in the UK I teach carpentry and joinery and have 8 years experience as a Lecturer and 20 as a carpenter and joiner, we have recently been to a live down under show which we felt was a good experience but a bit overwhelming with information, would advise us (my wife and 3 children) to go with an agent? One of my wife’s friends said try and apply for jobs out there and they might help you with the whole process ( she knows someone who did this) to me it’s seems almost impossible to secure a job without going through an agent, so just after some advise really, love the website!!

    Kind regards,


    • KarenB

      Hi Rhys, Thanks for your comment. I’m really glad you feel the site is helpful. Personally, I used an agent as I wanted an expert handling our application as we wanted to move quickly and not have the risk of doing any of the applications wrong. But even if you still aren’t sure whether you need an agent or not you can speak to an agent for free to get some basic advice about your eligibility. It’s worth speaking to a few agents so you can find one that you like – I’m a big fan of Veronika Hurbis from Sort Out My Visa (that’s the company we used when we moved out here) – you can find her details over on my Trusted Experts page on the main navigation. I’ve just published an interview with her on the blog too which you might find helpful You may find after speaking to someone that you feel confident in tackling the paperwork yourself, or it might help you realise that you’d like someone to help you with it.

      I’ve got a closed Facebook group you might find useful too – visit – I only launched it last week and it’s already proving a great space to bounce ideas around and for people to ask questions. Good luck with the planning!

  2. Trudy Caira

    HI Karen,

    Thank you for all your advice, it is so helpful. I have been in the undecided category for many years and now that im 47 it really is now or never! As a secondary school teacher my job is on the Skilled Occupation List and hopefully i have enough points. I have contacted Veronika so will find out soon enough. Thanks again for inspiring people like me to take the plunge!

    Best wishes

    • KarenB

      Hi Trudy, Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. It’s so tough when you’re undecided but I think you sometimes just need that push to make a decision one way or the other. I love to think that my words could be helping to encourage people to follow their dreams after being undecided for so long! Best of luck with it all and keep in touch to let me know how you’re getting on. Hopefully Veronika can give you some positive news. Karen

  3. Benjamin Boateng

    Hello Karen my name is Benjamin Boateng and I come from Ghana. Please what cretirials need to enable me migrate to Australia and also how can I find a Facebook group or family who can assist my travelling to Australia thank you and counting on you.

    • KarenB

      Hi Benjamin, The first place to start is to work out what visa you could obtain with your skills. This site takes you through your options: The process is usually – figure out your eligibility, ensure you have the finances you need to make the move and get settled, have your skills assessed by the appropriate skills authority, take the English language test, put in an Expression of Interest, be invited to apply for your visa and submit your application and then complete police checks and medicals when they are requested. A migration agent will be able to lead you through the whole process. Here is a link to finding a local MARA registered agent as this will be easier than using the UK-agent I partner with. I have a Facebook group too Best of luck!

  4. Carole Howard

    Hi Karen
    I am currently reading through your website which is so helpful. I am gathering all the information I need as I hope to emigrate to join my two children and their families. I have been visiting the country for the last 15 years but circumstances have arisen that I can now hope to make the move permanent.. I have been advised that I qualify for a Contributory AgedParent Visa (sub class 864). Thank you for making the information so clear as I found the agent I contacted was so confusing and I was even more confused. I will carry on reading ………l

    • KarenB

      Hi Carole, I’m glad you’re finding the site helpful. I always advise getting up to date information from an agent as content online can get out of date very quickly but I know what you mean about how some agents can make it sound very complicated! I partner with Veronika Hurbis from Sort Out My Visa – you can find her details on this page: and she is great at explaining things in plain English! Good luck.


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