Print this page

Settling in Australia

The International Student Support Service (ISSS) is here to assist international students with any matters, inclusive of life outside of study. For specific information on those areas outlined below, please click on the accordions.

For information and tips about on-campus safety, please read our Safety on Campus page. Please note that in the case of emergencies or critical incident on campus please contact UC Security immediately on 6201 2222 (or extension 2222 from a campus phone). 

When you are out and about, particularly at night, it is important to be alert and aware of your personal safety. In particular:

  • think ahead; consider how you are going to get home (e.g. taxi, friend, etc)
  • try to remain with friends at all times
  • if you are going somewhere alone, ensure some is aware of your movements 
  • make sure you carry your mobile phone at all times in case of emergencies
  • be wary of casual requests from strangers, like someone asking for a cigarette or money - they could have ulterior motives
  • try not to carry your wallet or valuables in a way that might attract the attention of others
  • be alert to your surroundings and the people around you, especially if you are alone or it is dark
  • stay in well-lit areas, as much as possible
  • walk confidently and at a steady pace
  • make eye contact with people when walking - let them know that you have noticed their presence
  • do not respond to conversation from strangers on the street or in a car - continue walking
  • when going to your car or home, have your keys in your hand and easily accessible
  • consider carrying a personal attack alarm
  • ensure that key contact information such as police and security are either in your mobile phone or in your purse/wallet.

In the case of emergencies of critical incidents on campus please contact UC Security immediately on 6201 2222 (or extension 2222 from a campus phone). 

Calling Emergency Services (Dial 000)

Triple Zero (000) - or 112 from your mobile phone - is the quickest way to get the right emergency service to help you. It should be used to contact Fire, Police or Ambulance services in life threatening or emergency situations only. Emergency 000 lines should not be used for general medical assistance. 

When the Emergency Services operators answer this number you can save time by saying, “Police", "Fire", or "Ambulance”. If you are unsure of what emergency service you need tell the operator what the emergency is, explaining where you are, what has happened and if relevant to whom.  The operator may then ask you to stay on the phone until the emergency services arrive. In life threatening situations the operator may also give you some instructions to assist until the emergency unit arrives. 

Police

In Australia police protect people and properties, detect and prevent crime, and preserve peace for everyone. They are not connected to the military or politics. The police can help you feel safe. In a non-emergency situation you can contact the local police station directly on (02) 6256 7777.

Fire

The fire brigade extinguishes fires, rescues people from fires in cars and buildings, and helps in situations where gas or chemicals become a danger. As soon as a fire starts call 000 no matter how small or large the fire may be.

Ambulance

Ambulances provide immediate medical attention and emergency transportation to hospital. Dial 000

State Emergency Service

The State Emergency Service (SES) is an emergency and rescue service dedicated to providing assistance in natural disasters, rescues, road crashes and extreme weather conditions. It is made up almost entirely of volunteers and operates in all States and Territories in Australia. For emergency assistance in a flood or storm dial 132 500

Lifeline

Lifeline’s 13 11 14 service is staffed by trained volunteer telephone counsellors who are ready to take calls 24-hour a day, any day of the week from anywhere in Australia. These volunteers operate from Lifeline Centres in every State and Territory around Australia.  The service offers a counselling service that respects everyone’s right to be heard, understood and cared for. They also provide information about other support services that are available in communities around Australia. 

Poisons Information Line

The poisons information line provides the public and health professionals with prompt, up-to-date and appropriate information, and advice to assist in the management of poisonings and suspected poisonings. Members of the public may be then given first aid instructions, information on possible symptoms, and advised on the need for assessment by a doctor or referral to hospital. The Australia-wide Poisons Information Centres telephone number is 131 126.

Healthdirect

Healthdirect Australia is a free 24-hour telephone health advice line staffed by Registered Nurses to provide expert health advice. It is currently available to residents of the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. Telephone them on 1800 022 222 or visit the Healthdirect Australia website.

Almost all International students go through a turbulent period while adjusting to life in a new environment. During this time you may go through a wide range of emotions, from fascination and excitement, to loneliness and frustration.

Leaving all that is familiar in your own culture and trying to adapt to a new cultural, social and academic environment is often a challenging experience. However, research indicates that those who are more flexible, adaptable, with a high level of tolerance and good social skills are better in dealing with these challenges.

Challenges of living and studying in a new country

  • separation from your loved ones
  • adapting to a new academic, social, cultural and political context
  • feeling that you are expected to change all the usual ways of doing things in order to fit into a new culture
  • feeling that you have lost your cultural identity

Phases of adjustment

Your ability to adapt culturally leads to a more successful academic, social, and personal life. However, settling-in and adjusting to a new environment takes time for everyone. Although there is not a time frame for how long cultural adjustment may take, there are three main stages that everyone goes through.

Honeymoon phase: This is a stage of extreme happiness, fascination and excitement. You are independent as you have control over your life. You are very positive about being in a new cultural environment and confident in yourself.

Distress phase: This is the time when you begin to interact with the culture. Coming across unusual and unpredictable behaviours of people, you begin to question or even dislike the culture. You may feel frustrated with the unknown and disappointed with your new environment and yourself. You may also feel confused and anxious about who you are and how you behave. You may feel lonely, homesick and question your decision about coming to study in Australia. All these feelings and symptoms are a result of culture shock.

Adjustment phase: You begin to know people and the culture better. You start making more sense of the culture and feel more comfortable in living in your new environment. This is also a stage when you notice that right and wrong are subjective to different cultures. In time you adopt certain behaviours and may even prefer certain aspects of the new culture to your home culture.

Symptoms of Culture Shock

  • Cultural isolation
  • Loss of identity and importance
  • Extreme homesickness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Overeating/ loss of appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Excessive sleepiness/ deprivation of sleep
  • Frustration with the unfamiliar
  • Inexplicable stress or sadness
  • Aches and pains
  • Panic

Some socio-cultural competences to overcome culture shock

Regardless of how painful the adjustment period may be, your experiences during this time broaden your horizons and contribute to your personal growth.

  • Learn more about Australian social customs. The more you know the easier it will be to understand the way people behave and their expectations
  • Don’t idealise home, nor criticise everything in the new culture
  • Be prepared for the ups and downs of the adjustment period and keep in mind that it is a process every student goes through
  • Be proactive and initiate conversations with people
  • Be flexible and adaptable - Remember that there is not necessarily only one way of doing things
  • Eat a well balanced diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Remember that too much alcohol consumption can contribute to depression and too  much caffeine can increase your level of anxiety
  • Join social clubs, participate in social activities and events in and off campus, try to meet different people from different cultures and share your culture and life with others
  • Keep in touch with fellow students from your own culture. It is often very comforting to be able to talk in your mother tongue
  • Share your feelings with friends who are exactly in the same position
  • Visit ISAs, counsellors, your personal adviser, staff at multi-faith centre who can help you adjust to your new environment
  • Watch signs of culture shock which may lead to depression, and immediately seek help from a counsellor

Tips to improve your Academic success

  • Make sure you attend all orientation sessions and activities. This will enable you to familiarise your self with the campus, meet staff from different areas and learn about support services available.
  • Improve your English skills. Not being able to communicate can create a feeling of loneliness and isolation
  • Teaching and learning style in your new academic environment may be different from your previous experience. Most International students find it academically more challenging to study in Australia as there is a greater demand for student responsibility. So it is important that you prepare yourself for the academic challenges and improving your study skills by participating in the Academic Skills Program workshops, as well as making use of other resources available on campus (please refer to Guide to Student Support Services).
  • Know your resources and expand your support system.
  • Actively participate in lectures and tutorials and group work by freely expressing your views.

UC is located in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. It is a friendly and safe city. Canberra is ranked as the city with the highest quality of living worldwide. This is the 5th time Canberra has scooped the prestigious top place and reinforces the OECD’s 2014 report which positions Canberra as the best place to live in the world. Canberra also has the highest average earnings, one of the lowest unemployment rates, and has a lower cost of living compared to Australia’s other big cities.

Canberra offers sophistication and style without the inconveniences of a big metropolis. A blossoming food and wine scene, a multitude of galleries and museums and accessibility to a series of beautiful national parks make Canberra and the greater Australian Capital Territory the perfect base to live and study.

Canberra is considered one of the best places for family services and education.

  • Childcare & pre-school: UC offers campus based childcare and pre-school service for the community and students of UC. Further information about the service can be found here If you wish to find a service that is closer to your place, the Childcare Finder tool can be handy.
  • Parent room: As part of the innovative one-stop shop Student Central, we now offer a parent room with nappy changing bench, children's toilet and wash basin at room 1B23A near the concourse.
  • Schools: Canberra’s school system is recognised as the best in Australia. ACT Government schools and Independent schools offer high quality learning in modern, well-equipped and supportive environments.

Students enjoy a balanced education with opportunities for intellectual, sporting and cultural development. Schools also cater for the diverse needs of a multicultural student population, including intensive English language tuition.

Canberra schools are designed to complement our city’s bush surroundings and are located on extensive grounds, incorporating playing fields and recreational facilities.

Education in state schools is free for Australian citizens and permanent residents. Non state schools are generally fee paying. As an International student you need to pay International fees for your child’s education in public schools. For more information on the enrolment process, please visit the ACT Department of Education and Training International Students Enrolment page.

Children’s education in the ACT is currently organised as follows:

 Year(s)Age(s) 
Pre-School 4 
Primary SchoolKindergarten- year 65-12COMPULSORY
High School7-1012-16COMPULSORY
College11-1216-18COMPULSORY

The school year runs from late January/ early February to December.

If you have kids at school age, you may contact the closest public school in your suburb to enrol your kids to school.

A full list of government schools with their contact addresses is available from the ACT Department of Education and Training website.

You must comply with the state and territory laws of Australia. The number of hours you can work in Australia can be found in your visa conditions.

Work limitations:

You and your dependants (if any) can only work after you have commenced your course. You and your dependants (if any) must adhere to the work hour restrictions:

Information for:

Course in session

Course not in session

Students who have started a coursework degree
Subclass: 500, 573, 575 and 576

40 hours per fortnight

Unlimited hours

Students who have started a research degree
Subclass: 500 or 574

Unlimited hours

Dependants of a student visa holder enrolled in a Master or Doctorate degree

Unlimited hours

All other dependants

40 hours per fortnight

* DIBP considers your course to be 'in session':

  • for the duration of the advertised semesters, including examination periods
  • if you have completed your studies and your Confirmation of Enrolment is still valid (with the exception of masters by research or PhD students who have submitted their thesis for marking)
  • when you are undertaking another course, during a break from your main course and points from that course will be credited to your main course.

Your rights at work:

It is very important to know your rights at work and ensure that you are fairly treated by your employers. There have been many cases where international students become targets for labour abuse due to their lack of knowledge and information.

There are general conditions that most workers are entitled to in Australia, you should check your award or agreement for the specific conditions that apply to you.

Be aware of:

Unpaid trials are against the law. You should be paid for all hours you work, including trial shifts, meetings or training. Your employer should pay you at least the legal minimum rate shown in your award or agreement. Your employer can pay you more than the minimum rate, but not less. The Fair Work Ombudsman website has a section called PayCheckPlus where you can search for awards and pay rates online. Please vist: www.fairwork.gov.au/pay/paycheckplus/pages/default.aspx.

Think twice if your employer wants to have you as an independent contractor. You must have an Australian Business Number (ABN) to work as an independent contractor; you are also liable for your own tax, superannuation and workplace insurance; you have fewer workplace rights and entitlements such as paid leave.

Under no circumstance employers are allowed to take money out of your pay to cover customers who leave without paying or if the tills are down.

You should always receive a pay slip for every pay period if you work for a registered business. If you are not getting a pay slip ask your employer.

You might be entitled to penalty rates (more money) for overtime, nights, weekends or public holidays work. Ask your employer or check your agreement.

If you are getting paid in cash, check your pay slip to make sure you have received the minimum legal entitlements and that tax has been deducted out of your pay. ‘Cash in hand’ means that you are paid in cash without tax being taken from your earnings. Being paid ‘cash in hand’ is against the law.

You cannot be dismissed if you were sick or injured or on the basis of your gender, race, colour, marital status, pregnancy or religion.

Shifts and holidays:

You should start and finish your shift at the rostered time regardless of the workload, unless you and your employer agree otherwise.

You should get a 30 minute unpaid break after every five hours work.

You can refuse to working on a public holiday if you have reasonable grounds. What is considered reasonable grounds depends on the kind of work you do, along with your personal circumstances, including family responsibilities, and other relevant factors.

Terminating a job:

If you want to resign, you usually have to inform your employer in advance. If not enough notice is given, they may be able to keep some of your pay to cover the period.

If you are a casual worker your employment may be ceased, by you or your employer, at one hour’s notice.

Seeking help:

One of the reasons we have such a wonderful lifestyle in Australia is due to our representative democracy, the separation of powers, and our respect for the rule of law. We have a lot of laws in Australia and as a result, society runs smoothly.

In being granted a visa to study in Australia, you signed a document (Australian Values Statement Temporary) agreeing to respect Australian values and obey the laws of Australia for the duration of your stay. Failure to comply with the laws of this land (including State and Territory laws) could result in a fine or the cancellation of your visa and possible deportation back home. If you are convicted of a serious crime, it could result in imprisonment. Nobody wants this to happen!

You can find a comprehensive outline of Australian laws online.

Your rights

Your most basic right is to be considered innocent until proven guilty in court. If you are arrested, you need not answer any police questions or make any statement- unless it is a traffic offence. Nor are you obliged to hand over your passport.

Police

If you are arrested, the police should allow you to make one phone call. You also have a right to ask for bail. The police cannot threaten or injure you, or force you to go with them unless it is an arrest. It is wise to cooperate with the police; if you remain polite and calm, you can explain the position clearly.

Do not attempt to bribe anyone, especially a policeman.

Purchasing

Make sure you understand any agreement you make when you sign for purchases including coupons you cut out from magazines, any hire-purchases or rentals.

Remember to always ask for a receipt for any payment made!

Child Protection Laws

In Australia, child protection is the responsibility of the community services departments in each State and Territory. Departments are responsible for the protection of children who have been abused or neglected, or whose parents cannot provide adequate care or protection for them. Information about the States and Territories responsible for protecting children is provided by the National Child Protection Clearinghouse.

Free and confidential legal advice services in the ACT

Legal Aid:

The Legal Aid Commission of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is established under the Legal Aid Act 1977. The aim of the Commission is to work to inform people of their legal rights and obligations and to improve their access to the justice system. The ACT Legal Aid Office is able to provide one free consultation to students. Appointments can be made through the International Student Adviser. The Legal Aid office may not represent you in Court but you will receive free advice on what to do about your matter.

Main Office:

Main Office Address: 4 Mort Street Civic
Postal Address: GPO Box 512 Canberra ACT 2601
Phone: (02) 6243 3471
E-mail: legalaid@legalaidact.org.au
Website: Legal Aid ACT

Woden Office:

Woden Office Address: PA Chambers 18 Corinna Street Woden ACT 2606

The office at Woden provides free legal advice. Appointments can be made by telephoning (02) 6243 3471.

Legal Aid Helpline

Help with legal problems is available through the Legal Aid Helpline on 1300 654 314 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

The After Hours Legal Aid Helpline for people in custody or other urgent matters, is available from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. Mondays to Thursdays, and 6 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Monday on 0429 440 084.

Domestic Violence and Personal Protection Order Unit

The Domestic Violence and Personal Protection Order Unit is located at the Magistrates Court. Telephone (02) 6207 1874 for information and appointments.

Youth Law Centre

The Youth Law Centre (YLC) is a free and confidential legal advice and referral service for young people aged between 12 - 25. The Centre operates a drop-in centre in Civic which is open each weekday afternoon between 1-5pm. The YLC also provides assistance over the phone and by e-mail.

The YLC provides one-off advice and assistance in a wide range of areas, including:

  • car accidents
  • consumer issues
  • debt
  • residential tenancy
  • criminal matters
  • traffic offences
  • employment and apprenticeships
  • discrimination, and
  • protection orders.

Opening hours: 1-5pm, Monday to Friday
Address: Level 1 Savings House, 8-10 Petrie Plaza, Canberra, ACT   
Ph: (02) 6262 7077
Email: contact@youthlawact.org.au
Website: Youth Law Centre ACT

Other helpful Links:

Office for Children, Youth and Family Support

The Office for Children, Youth and Family Support works in partnership with the community to provide care and protection services to children and young people, and family and community support to meet the needs of the people of Canberra. In addition, the Office is responsible for youth justice services and the monitoring and licensing of children's services.

The Office for Children, Youth and Family Support contracts a range of services from the non-government sector to meet the needs of young people. These services include:

  • Youth Centres
  • Youth Support Services
  • Youth development programs and
  • Youth Plan and Sector development

Care and Protection services are responsible for facilitating coordination across government for the care and protection of children and young people. Care and Protection services include three Regional Offices and an After Hours service, who provide a continuum of service delivery to children and young people considered 'at risk' of serious harm.

Ph: 133 427
Website: Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services ACT

Other non-profit legal services in the ACT

Returning home after many years studying abroad is an exciting event that you should certainly look forward to; proud family & friends, home-cooked meals, delicious authentic food - home sweet home!

Much as you are eager and probably overwhelmed with farewell parties, planning in advance will save you a lot of troubles in the future and enable you to leave Australia with only happy memories.

Early planning:

  • update your completion date via your MyUC portal
  • if your visa expires before your graduation ceremony in Australia, apply for an alternate visa
  • if you need a copy of your transcript after you have been course completed but before graduation, please see the Academic Transcript page of our website
  • ensure your passport and visa date is valid. Contact your embassy or DIBP if you need to renew your passport. Make sure you have the right visa(s) if you stop over in other countries
  • book your flights home and confirm travel arrangements
  • allow 4 to 6 weeks to sort out and pack your belongings
  • if you have earned an income and paid tax, lodge a tax return. Contact your super fund to find out how to make a claim after you depart Australia
  • if applicable, notify the school or childcare centre of your family's departure date
  • organise to take pets with you or give them away to a good home
  • notify your landlord or estate agent in writing at least 4 weeks before you plan to move out

In the months leading to departure time:

  • check freight costs and organise how to send your belongings home if necessary
  • check customs and quarantine rules to see what you can take home
  • pay any unpaid university fees or fines
  • submit any outstanding OSHC claims and/or apply for a refund
  • organise rental inspection before you return the keys and request a bond refund
  • arrange to have all phone, gas, water, and electricity bill schedules disconnected & pay all outstanding bills

Last few days:

  • update your MyUC Portal with your overseas address
  • ask the Post Office to forward your mail (fees may apply)
  • register your details with the Alumni Office
  • close your Australian bank accounts
  • return borrowed library books, videos, household items, etc.
  • make time to say goodbye to friends that you've made here, staff that you know and people that you adore

Now that you've done all of those, tell the world you are coming home!