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For this week’s Reader Story feature, I’m going to share MY story of moving to Brisbane with my family! I know I share snippets about our moving to Brisbane story all over the blog and social media, but I thought writing it up like this might be fun to share and it might highlight some of the realities of moving across the world, especially when you’re doing it with a bunch of kids in tow!

I’m always on the look out for great migration stories. If you’d like to learn more about being featured in this section of the blog, check out the Write for Us page here

In this post about moving to Brisbane, you’ll learn: 

  • Why we chose to move to Brisbane
  • How important mindset and determination was in us making the move to Brisbane
  • My favourite experiences since moving to Brisbane
  • How our kids settled into life in Brisbane
  • And so much more! 

A family receiving their Australian citizenship certificates at an Australian citizenship ceremony

Whether you’re planning on moving to Brisbane, or you’re just interested in learning more about relocating to Australia with kids, I hope you find this article useful! 

Moving to Brisbane | My story

The Brisbane sign after moving to Brisbane

Want my top tips to choose the best migration services? Find out more here!

Moving to Brisbane: How did our visa, occupations and skills assessment look?

Before we moved from the UK to Brisbane, I was a freelance writer, project manager and blogger. My husband Matt worked in avionics, working on military helicopters as a civilian. When we finally decided to move to Australia (after 5 years of debating!), our plan was to apply under his avionics occupation but just as we decided to get the ball rolling, the skill was removed from the skilled occupation list. It was still on the list for a couple of states, but we didn’t really want to move to either of them so we spoke to lots of different agents until we found one that was willing to help us figure out if his skills could cross over to other similar occupations that would allow us to apply for a 189 Skilled Independent Visa. 

Lots of agents told us we weren’t eligible and there were no options open to us. Some told us incorrect information about the states sponsoring this skill. Some offered to help if we paid a large chunk of money for them to look at his resume. Eventually, my perseverance paid off and we found an agent that was willing to look at his resume, skills and education. They had a look and agreed that it looked like he also met the criteria for Electrical Engineering Technician. They helped us to put our application together and collate all of the evidence required. 

We used Sort Out My Visa (they’re now only working on partner and parent visas so are no longer offering support for Skilled Visas, unfortunately). We felt it was important to use an agent as our situation was a bit tricky and we didn’t want to waste time – we really wanted to be able to move before our twins started school. It really helped us to know that our skills assessment application was being submitted to the best of our ability as we knew this would give us the best possible chance of being approved. We were very relieved when it was accepted and we were able to move through all of the stages without any delays. 

Matt had to do the English language test (he did the IELTS). He spent a few weeks studying during his lunch breaks. Thankfully he got enough marks on his first test, but that really was thanks to all of the hard work he put in preparing and doing lots of practice tests. He met lots of people at the test centre who were re-taking it due to not getting enough marks, so we were really pleased he didn’t have to.

We decided to make the move to Australia in June (that’s when I began calling around migration agents) and we received our visa grant the following March so it was nine months all in. We didn’t actually submit any of the paperwork until September – the first few weeks was me calling around and emailing to try to find an agent, followed by us spending time gathering the evidence we needed to begin the skills assessment.

For his skills assessment, it was purely a paperwork assessment so we had to gather evidence of his work experience, job and certificates that proved his qualifications in this area (there was no practical test for his skill). We also added supporting paperwork like an employer letter and a stat dec to allow us the opportunity to demonstrate the electrical and electronic projects he had been involved in. 

Matt now works for a commercial airline as an aircraft maintenance engineer, and I run this website and I’m a freelance writer creating travel and parenting content on sites like Kidspot! 

What made you want to move to Australia and how did you decide to move to Brisbane?

Matt and I had been travelling around the world before we had kids and we fell in love with Australia, especially Western Australia. When we went back to the UK (expecting twins!), we kept thinking about it and eventually decided that we would regret it if we didn’t give it a try. We found it really difficult to make the decision to leave because we knew we’d be taking the grandkids away from their grandparents. 

Initially, our plan was to move to Perth where I have family – we really loved it there. We had friends who’d moved to Brisbane though (who Matt had worked with in the UK), and that gave us a work contact which we knew would be really useful. During our planning, Matt looked for work around Perth and tried to make some contacts online but didn’t have any luck so a few weeks before we moved, we decided to move to Brisbane as we felt it would be the most practical location for his work. We also knew that if we couldn’t find work in Brisbane, it gave us more opportunities up and down the coast.

We had driven through Brisbane on our travels but hadn’t stopped there (we’d stopped on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast) but we knew enough to know it would be a good location for our family to settle and we liked how much there was to do for families in the region. 

As part of our decision about where to move, we thought about the weather (we definitely didn’t want to move anywhere that got too cold!), house prices and the lifestyle. We felt confident that Queensland or Western Australia would offer us what we wanted. Moving to Brisbane worked out really well for us and we love it here (although I also think we’d have loved Perth too!)

How did family and friends react when you told them you were moving to Brisbane? 

On the most part, family were supportive of our move as they could see we had itchy feet and we wanted more out of our lives. Not everyone agreed with it, but we knew it was the right move for our family. Those who didn’t want us to go only wanted us to stay as they loved us and didn’t want us to leave. 

We did have some negative comments (like: where will you live when you move back if you sell your house?) and also some guilt trips around leaving but not everybody understands how determined you are or how important it is to live your life your way. We knew that we weren’t going back to Hampshire. If moving to Brisbane hadn’t worked out, we’d have tried a different city. If that hadn’t worked out, we’d have tried a different country. We were just happy to be moving forward towards a new adventure and we knew that no matter what happened everything would work out perfectly. Life is for living and you can’t live yours for somebody else as you only get one go at it. 

How did the kids cope with relocating to Brisbane? 

Our kids were only 2, 4 and 4 when we moved so they weren’t really old enough to understand. One of our twins did pick up on family members being upset, and briefly he felt a bit sad about saying goodbye but when we got here and they jumped in the ocean they all loved it straight away. We made the effort to do some fun things as a family when we got here, even though we were busy with lots of admin tasks. Things like going to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Australia Zoo, eating fish and chips on the beach in the evening and going to lots of playgrounds. The kids settled in immediately. 

We knew we wanted to be on the north side of Brisbane as that would make it easier for Matt to get to work at the airport which was where we hoped he’d find a job, and we also wanted to be close to the ocean so we initially rented in Scarborough – a pretty suburb on the Redcliffe Peninsula. It’s a great area for families.

We viewed a few schools in the area and chose one that we loved and booked our twins to begin prep there a few weeks later. There was also a daycare on site so we got all three kids booked in so the boys could begin meeting friends at the kindy and it gave us a bit of freedom to get our lives set up. It also added a bit of routine back to our lives as it had already been four months since the kids had broken up from pre-school for the summer holidays in England. 

Our kids made friends here really easily – it definitely helped that they were so little as they took it all in their strides. This is also the only school they’ve ever known, so it was really handy that we were able to move just before our boys started prep. 

Who was the driving force behind you moving to Brisbane?

Brisbane River
I would say Matt was the driving force, but in a good way. He knew that I wanted to move but I kept trying to avoid thinking about it as I was sad at the thought of leaving our parents and taking the kids from their grandparents. He kept encouraging me to think about it and I’m so grateful he did. He was always up for the adventure – it just took me some time before things just felt right and the decision fell into place for me. I’m not always quick at making decisions, but when I do, I go all in on them. 

I’m glad that I had time to come around as I think it was really important that we both really wanted to make the move. Relocating is challenging, and if one of your hearts isn’t fully in it I can imagine it would cause arguments between a couple. 

How did you go about finding jobs when you moved to Brisbane?

I helped Matt organise his job hunting by researching possible companies and tracking his contact with them on a spreadsheet. He sent so many emails and follow up emails, but didn’t get many replies back. We were very lucky that his ex-work colleague was able to put his resume in front of her manager and talk him up! He had the same training and skills as his friend and she had become an integral part of the team in Brisbane so they trusted her recommendation and brought him in for an interview.

They started him off on an ad hoc contract within about six weeks of us arriving which was a great relief as moving without a job is a bit scary when you’ve got a family relying on an income. 

A few months later, work got quieter and he was able to find other work through an agency but he stayed connected with the first company doing occasional shifts and went back to them when a longer contract position became available. A while after, he was made permanent and he’s been there ever since and loves it. 

We realised that work in Australia (in his industry at least) is very much about who you know as many jobs never get advertised. Sending emails doesn’t always get you very far – it’s much better if you can go in and hand in your resume in person so you can meet people and start up a conversation. While he wasn’t on LinkedIn, I think that would have been helpful too. 

I was able to pick up some freelance writing contracts online, so we were able to get settled with work really quickly and my flexible work allowed me to be there for the kids and school runs.  

Did you sell your house, or did you choose to rent it out?

We fully renovated our home in the UK during the months before we moved and we sold it. We didn’t even consider keeping it and renting it out – partly as we wanted the equity to fund the move and a new home in Brisbane, but it also felt like it would complicate things. We didn’t have any plans to go back to that house, and selling from a distance later on seemed like it would be difficult as we’d seen friends go through it. Selling it just seemed the most logical thing for us and having the money from the house sale really helped us to establish ourselves in Brisbane and it took the pressure off us around finding work too. 

I’m a big believer in just taking the leap and getting rid of that safety net too. 

How easy was it to find a rental in Brisbane? 

We quickly realised that rentals in Australia involve open homes where lots of people look around at the same time. We found homes at the cheaper end of the market had a lot more competition so adding another $50 a week to our budget made a big difference to the amount of competition.

We were honestly just very lucky to find a home for rent that had been on for a couple of weeks and the agents weren’t local so they found it difficult to set up viewings. When we finally got them locked in to show us around (as we were completely flexible to view when it suited them) we made an instant decision and put our application in and it was accepted. It was the only home we looked at where we viewed it on our own so it didn’t feel like there was much competition for it. 

I think the fact we were ready to move in straight away and we had bank statements showing the proceeds of our house sale both helped.

Now, things are a lot more competitive and expensive but I think a positive mindset really helps, being open to opportunities, being flexible to view when you can and doing what you can to make your application stand out. I know lots of people who’ve been able to find rentals quickly this year, so although the market is competitive right now it is still possible. 

Can you describe what the weather is like where you live? What things do new arrivals need to be aware of when it comes to the weather when moving to Brisbane?

We definitely weren’t prepared for the extreme weather when we moved to Brisbane! In summer, we have high humidity and it can get very hot. In winter, it cools down and while the outdoor temp can be warm, inside houses tend to feel very cold. Winter is very dry here – summer is our storm season when we can get really bad storms. It can rain insanely heavy and places can and do flood. Then there are bushfires! Plus there are mad hail storms with hail stones that are as big as your fist! When you’re looking at homes, you need to consider all of this. 

When you’re looking at rentals, do your research as to which areas flood (including which roads flood as roads do get cut off here). We quickly realised the road between our home and school usually gets cut off during bad storms – this means we choose to stay home on stormy days so the kids don’t end up trapped.

Some suburbs are renowned for getting completely cut off as soon as bad weather begins – we knew that for Matt’s work moving somewhere like that would be no good so we avoided those areas. 

Of course, the extreme heat and sun are risks that we’ve had to get used to. The kids always wear sunscreen and hats, and in the pool they wear rash vests/rash guards to protect their skin. You quickly adapt to the new way of life. In the UK, we always had to take a coat and umbrella with us, here it’s a hat, sunscreen and bottle of water!

What amazing wildlife experiences have you had since moving to Brisbane? 

Three kids feeding a kangaroo at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

We LOVE nature and wildlife and we’ve had some great experiences since moving to Brisbane. We often get to see wild koalas locally, and I never get bored of seeing kangaroos in the wild (although these are around less and less as the region gets more and more developed). We’ve had some incredible wildlife opportunities like visiting O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, Tangalooma Island Resort and wild dolphin feeding at Tin Can Bay. We saw turtles laying their eggs at Bundaberg. We see kookaburras and rainbow lorikeets all over the place. It’s very special. 

Occasionally, we see spiders but we used to get a lot more of them in our home in the UK than we do here (you can get your home sprayed though if they bother you). I’ve only seen a couple of wild snakes and these have been on bush walks and none of them have been dangerous ones. The wildlife here doesn’t scare me as I know it’s more afraid of me than I am of it! 

What things do you wish you’d known before you started the process of relocating to Brisbane?

I wish that I hadn’t built up the decision of moving to Brisbane to be such a huge thing. It took so long for me to agree to come out here, but really I don’t know what was stopping me. We just live in another country – it’s not that big a deal but I made it feel like it was. We can go back for visits, people can come out to visit and stay with us for a few weeks at a time so we get to enjoy quality time together. 

What are you loving about your new life in Australia since moving to Brisbane?

Karen Bleakley and her family surrounded by cactus plants

We settled straight in and it felt like home right away. I feel more at home here than I ever did in Hampshire where we moved from, although I do miss Lincoln sometimes – the city where I grew up and where my parents and one of my brothers still live.

I do feel homesick from time to time like everybody, but I love so much about living here. I love the wide open spaces, the hot weather, the bright blue skies (every morning when we arrived we would laugh at the fact there were never any clouds in the sky!), the beaches, the wildlife, the opportunities …I love the city of Brisbane.

It was a great choice for us to move to Brisbane as it’s such a laid-back, pretty, clean, modern city and as it is growing it holds lots of opportunities for our kids if they decide to stay here when they grow up. I also love how well-connected Brisbane is – you can explore the coast easily, or hop on a flight and you’re in New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu…

I can’t imagine us ever moving from Australia, but maybe at some point we might leave Brisbane to head to the Sunshine Coast or Airlie Beach or somewhere up the coast. I really love Queensland so can’t see us living outside the Sunshine State now. 

If a friend of yours was considering moving to Australia, what advice would you give them?

Find your people! We connected online with another family who were moving to Brisbane at the same time as us and we arranged to meet up in the UK and then again when we got out here. We’ve stayed great friends and become one another’s support network.

When you get over here, make the effort to make friends – invite people for coffee, chat to strangers, join local FB groups. Everything is so much easier when you’ve got friends to talk to. It also helps to know others who are going through what you’re going through as your friends and family back home won’t understand. Facebook groups (like my Move to Australia group!) are a great place to meet other people who are heading to the same place as you. 

I think it’s important to acknowledge that you won’t always feel positive. Some days I had really down days when the kids were fighting and jet lagged, and I was exhausted and frustrated at our lack of progress. On those days, Matt lifted me up and didn’t let me wallow in it. On his down days, I lifted him up – it was definitely a partnership and it helped that our difficult days alternated so one of us always had a positive head on!

So much about making this work is about your mindset – moving your attention to positive things is really important as if you spend your time focusing on the people you’re missing and what you’ve lost then it will be really difficult to see the incredible opportunities that are right in front of you.

In terms of moving with little kids, we found it easier to ship our things over as I couldn’t face attempting to shop for EVERYTHING with three under fives! It would have been really tricky. It also helped them (and us!) settle in by having things they recognised.

Finally, I would say to just go for it. If you can’t stop thinking about whether to make the move or not, it’s in your heart that you want to do it. It’s OK to be scared about doing it, but do it anyway. It doesn’t have to be a forever move, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you really can’t stop thinking about it, you’re likely to regret it if you don’t give it a try.  

What are you most looking forward to doing over the coming weeks/months/years? 

We bought a house soon after arriving, but it’s a slow renovation project so I’m looking to getting further ahead with it. With Matt working in aviation, COVID had a huge impact on us financially so I’m really pleased that is over with and we can start looking to the future and get back into doing more travel.

At some point, we’d like to buy a caravan and eventually, Matt and I will do the big lap when the kids have finished school (they’re 10, 13 and 13 now and I couldn’t face home schooling them on the road or living in a confined space with them as teenagers!) We have already driven from Sydney to Port Douglas, and from Broome down around the South West when we were backpacking but there is just so much to see here and Australia travel is something that really gets me excited.

We got a dog a couple of years ago and we’d also like to get another one or two (how many chihuahuas is too many?! Asking for a friend!) 

To be honest, we’re just content and happy. Our kids are enjoying school. Life is good and I don’t want to wish any of it away or rush ahead – I just want to enjoy each day as it comes!

Moving to Brisbane 

I hope our moving to Brisbane experience has been a useful read! Don’t forget, if you’re keen to share your story, you can check out the Write for Us page here

You can also read about Gemma’s experience moving to Adelaide here and Becky’s experience of moving as a single mum here.