Is it for me?
Thinking about going to Australia but not yet decided? We think it’s a great place to work and live. But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s some more information and resources from others, including GPs who’ve made the move already:
What's it like to be a GP in Australia?
What’s it like to work as a GP in Australia?
GP practice in Australia is very similar to the UK & Ireland in terms of clinical work. Practices are generally modern and have good nursing support. Some have physiotherapy, pathology, ultrasound, CT and / or ECG too. Usually the practices have 6 to 10 doctors on site. Typically, they are open 12 hours a day, for 5 /6 days per week and often Sundays too. They may ask you to work a rota to help them cover these hours but there are locations where you can work part time or just Monday to Friday. (Unfortunately, these options are unlikely in Melbourne or Sydney at the moment)
The practices can be situated as standalone premises or in shopping centres or next door to a pharmacy.
A lot of GP practices are owned by “corporates” – companies set up to run a number of practices either within a State or nationally. Generally well run and with a clear understanding of the needs of doctors coming from the UK & Ireland, they make a good place to start off a career in Australia. They’re not the only option though, as there are quite a few privately owned practices who are also looking for GPs.
The main difference between GPs in the UK & Ireland and Australia is in the way you get paid. For the typical jobs that we have, you’ll get a “percentage of billings”. GP practices bill patients or Medicare (their version of the NHS) for each consultation. This money is then split between the practice and you. The percentage you get is important – called the percentage of billings but of at least equal and perhaps more importance is to know that you’ll be busy with a steady stream of patients.
You’ll be an independent practitioner and so self-employed. You’ll get paid gross and then, most likely with the help of a local accountant, you’ll need to sort out your tax (after allowing for expenses such as MDU, travel costs, some home office costs etc and pension).
Australia itself is still doing well. Despite the general downbeat feeling in Europe, Australia is still growing and a great place to be.
Many of the GP jobs we have are in these high growth areas – Perth & Western Australia for example. There are some jobs in the traditional destinations of Brisbane and Sydney as well but these tend to be in the suburbs. There are also jobs available in more rural and remotes areas. Here you’ll need to be independent and able to cope with emergencies as well as handle the standard GP fare.
All of the main cities and their suburbs are pretty cosmopolitan, though less so than what you might be used to if you live in one of the UK’s bigger cities. While overwhelmingly “British” in background, there are a lot of Asian influences in Australia, reflecting the cultures brought in by far eastern and Indian immigrants over the past few decades. Small towns and rural communities are more conservative and have long-standing links with the UK and Ireland
The Australian way of life is relaxed. Perhaps a bit rough around the edges but more than made up for with an easy going friendship and resilience to the difficulties life might throw at them.
Physically, weather and distance are the overwhelming differences between us and Australia. Warmer than the UK, it’s rare for any of the main cities in Australia to have snow in the winter. And in summer, it can get hot and humid, particularly north of Brisbane Queensland. Distance is perhaps the overriding difference though. Not only to get there – it is still 18 hours flying (and you have to stop) between the UK and say, Perth (longer to Sydney) – but also within Australia. It’s not surprising that the longest straight stretch of railway is in Australia. What is surprising is that it goes for 297 miles without a bend or curve. That’s about the same distance as London to Carlisle
See here for guide to different parts of Australia
Any real life stories from GPs who've moved to Australia?
We’ve found a few resources online about being a GP in Australia.
- Part 6 of an 8 part TV series called Keeping Australia Alive – Front Line GP vs Emergency. This was made by ABC TV in Australia and aired in 2016. There’s a copy of the video on You Tube here: Keeping Australia Alive Part 6 It features a GP in Canberra and shows the daily work he is undertaking. This is the link for the broadcaster: ABC TV series on the Australian Health service
- Video diaries: Here’s a few from UK GPs who’ve moved to Australia. Although they are for doctors in more rural areas, they do give a flavour of what GP work is like and how it compares with their old life in the UK.
- Dr Shaun has gone to rural Western Australia to work. It was been produced by Rural Health West and while it is intended to promote their more rural vacancies, it does a good job of explaining the benefits for a UK GP (called Dr Shaun Millns Sizer) of moving to Australia. It’s on You Tube here: Dr Millns Sizer Video Diary
- Dr Robin Williams. He works in New South Wales and this is his video diary: Dr Williams Video Diary produced by the NSW Rural Doctors Network
- Dr Dunston Thompson. He also works in New South Wales. His video, again produced by the NSW Rural Doctors Network is here: Dr Thompson Video Diary
- And this web page by Dr Mark McCartney, a UK GP who has worked in both the UK (in Cornwall) and Australia, gives his detailed view on the benefits & disadvantages for each system: Dr Mark McCartney
When Captain Cook first landed in Australia in 1770 there were about 350,000 Aborigines living across the continent. Over the next 100 years they were joined by 161,000 convicts shipped from Britain and Ireland. In 1852, gold was discovered in New South Wales and this sparked a “gold rush” of new colonists from Britain, Ireland, continental Europe, North America and China. The population of the Colony in Victoria grew from 76,000 in 1850 to 530,000 in less than a decade.
By 1900, the rapidly expanding population (excluding the original Aborigine populations) had risen to 3.7 million, with a quarter of them living in just two cities – Melbourne and Sydney. But this was small beer compared to the number of sheep, which had reached 100 million!
In 1901 a law was passed restricting immigration from China and other Asian countries and for the next 50 years, Australia pursued an immigration policy giving preference to Europeans, particularly British and Irish nationals. This changed in the late 1950s as Australia opened the door to firstly southern Europeans and Russian migrants to help build the post war Australia.
By 1972 what was effectively the “White Australia Policy” officially ended. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Australia experienced the largest intake of Asian immigrants since the arrival of the Chinese gold miners during the gold rush of the 1850s and 1860s. In 1983, the level of British immigration was below the level of Asian immigration for the first time in Australian history.
So, how multicultural is Australia? And is it OK for doctors with an Asian background to go there?
The main cities are multicultural, ethnically reasonably diverse and tolerant of minorities. Once into more rural areas, Australia is predominantly white and much less diverse.
For Asian doctors, as long as you have UK or Irish GP qualifications and MRCGP / MICGP, then registration will be straightforward – even if it is time consuming. You’ll also find that the majority of employers across Australia will welcome you. From the point of meeting others with a similar background or just to find shops selling Asian food, you’ll need to pick one of the main cities
Make up of the population
In 2008, the main countries of birth for Australia’s population were:
- United Kingdom: 1.16 million
- New Zealand: 495,000
- China: 314,000
- India: 239,000
- Italy: 222,000
- Vietnam: 193,000
- South Africa: 136,000
- Greece: 130,000
- Germany: 126,000
- Malaysia: 120,000
- Netherlands: 90,000
- Lebanon: 90,000
- Hong Kong: 87,000
- Pakistan: 28,0001
- Other nationals: 1.46 million
A total of 5.486 million out of 21.4 million were born outside of Australia, the balance, 15.95 million were born in Australia
1 (estimate based on2001 figures in Lal & Mahoub paper and extrapolated to 2008)
Main population centres in the country
Most of Australia’s population is concentrated in two widely separated coastal regions – the south-east and east, and the south-west. Of the two regions, the south-east and east is by far the largest in area and population. The population within these regions is concentrated in urban centres, particularly the state and territory capital cities.
The populations of the main cities in 2008 were:
|Sydney||4 399 722|
|Melbourne||3 892 419|
|Brisbane||1 945 639|
|Adelaide||1 172 105|
|Perth||1 602 559|
|Greater Hobart||209 287|
In terms of religious affiliation, in 2006, the estimates were:
Christian: 12.7 million
Australian citizenship is voluntary for people born overseas but all eligible migrants are encouraged to apply. Legislative changes in 2002 have made it possible for Australian citizens to hold dual citizenship, when previously this would have meant forfeiting their Australian citizenship when taking up another country’s citizenship.
Australia is primarily a liberal western European culture – tolerant and egalitarian but with their own brand of informality and sense of humour – coupled with Asian influences on food, arts and business.
How old is too old to get a GP job in Australia?
There is no age limit for doctors to get a working visa (the 457 Business Visa is the normal one). So, in theory you can register to be a GP and work in Australia right the way through to retirement. However, it does get more difficult to get Permanent Residency as you get older (and thus be able to stay when you’ve retired). PR for doctors is usually via the general skilled migration programme. This is a points based system, with points awarded for youthfulness. Once you are over 44 it gets harder. Once you are over 50, there are no points for your age and you are likely to need the support of the practice you work for in order to get PR. This can be arranged with some employers – please ask. This page on the BobinOz website is helpful in explaining how things work: Bob in Oz Visa advice He also has a useful points calculator: Bob in Oz Points Calculator
Will I be able to come back and work in the UK?
The short answer is yes. But.
The rules have recently changed on how the NHS looks at doctors returning to general practice in the UK.
In brief, if you have worked in Australia for less than 2 years, then you can come back to the UK without further ado. You will be admitted back onto a Performers’ List and you can go from there. You will need to make sure that you have maintained your GMC registration and have a licence to practice. And you will need a certificate of good standing and various other (relatively straightforward) documents.
If you have worked for more than 2 years in Australia but fewer than 5 years, and you had worked in the UK for more than 2 years before going to Australia, then you can still come back to the UK but you will need to submit a portfolio detailing the work you have been doing. This is then assessed by the RCGP in London
If you have been in Australia for more than 5 years or if more than 2 years but you had worked for less than 2 years before going to Australia, then you will need to re-enter the UK via the full Induction & Refresher scheme. This does involve one or possibly two exams with a period of supervised training. There is more information here: NHS Induction & Refresher Scheme
Can I work part time?
Yes, in some places. Perth, in particular, should be able to offer this option.
In other cities / areas, it may be possible
It is normally easier for female rather than male GPs to get part time work
Where can I work as a GP in Australia?
Perth is the one major city in Australia with DWS areas relatively close to the CBD (Central Business District). You can live and work within 30 minutes of the centre. Or you can be on the coast 40 minutes or so north or south of the Swan River.
Perth is a growth city and so there are quite a few GP jobs available. Would it suit you to work as a General Practitioner in Perth, Western Australia? Read on…
There are DWS GP jobs on the southern side of Brisbane, about 30 minutes or so from the CBD (Central Business District). On the north side, Caboolture and Morayfield, which are 45 minutes or so away are also options.
Brisbane is the third largest city in Australia with a population of around 2 million. It is the capital of Queensland and situated in the south east corner of the state. Read on…
See our Brisbane and Queensland jobs
The main areas for jobs in New South Wales are on the coastal strip north and south of Sydney. Usually, these jobs are in urban areas and you’ll be able to live in a decent area and be within striking distance of Sydney. There are a couple of jobs in the southern outskirts of Sydney itself – about 45 mins to 1 hr from the CBD (Central Business District).
New South Wales is the most populous part of Australia with a total of 7 million (30% of the population). Read on
See our Sydney and NSW jobs
Melbourne has been a popular place for Brits going downunder. A busy, cosmopolitan city with good beaches and mountains nearby. There are usually only a few vacancies in the outer suburbs as most of Melbourne is non-DWS now. However, there are some great towns (and jobs) further afield in Victoria – in Ballarat and Wodongo
A cooler more temperate climate makes Melbourne seem closer to home (the UK) than other cities. Read on
See our Melbourne and Victoria jobs
Who can apply?
Our clients in Australia are primarily looking for GPs who can get “Category 1” registration with the RACGP (Royal Australian College of GPs). They have a self-assessment section on their website where you can check if your qualifications meet their guidelines: https://www.racgp.org.au/selfassess
In brief, if you have MRCGP from the UK or MICGP from Ireland or FRNZGP from New Zealand then you will be eligible
What if I don't have MRCGP or haven't trained in the UK, Ireland or New Zealand?
If you trained in the UK or Ireland and don’t have MICGP or MRCGP, then you are likely to be given Category 2 registration. Equally, if you are a GP who trained in some of the EU countries (eg Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia etc) or in South Africa, then you may also get Category 2 registration. The self-assessment tool will help confirm whether you can get Category 2 registrationfor you: https://www.racgp.org.au/selfassess
If this applies to you, we should still be able to help as we usually have vacancies for doctors who can get Category 2 registration. Currently, we have jobs in Tasmania, Western Australia (about 50 miles from Perth) and potentially New South Wales, where category 2 registration will be fine. Please email or call me for more details
For more information on registration please click here.
Please note that we are not able to help doctors with Category 3 registration or who are looking for GP training in Australia