Australia: Health and education

State health insurance covers most medical services, and the school system is also ‘free’


If you are moving to Australia on a temporary work or study visa, you won’t be covered by Australia’s public health system Medicare. That said, you will be entitled to receive immediate treatment in the public health system for any urgent health issue, as Ireland and Australia have a reciprocal agreement in this area.

You will also, however, need to purchase overseas visitors cover. Basic cover costs about A$80 to A$100 (€56 to €69) a month.

Medical costs

This insurance will cover or contribute towards other medical costs, including hospital admissions, doctors’ fees and visits to dentists, opticians, physiotherapists and other practitioners. Without it, you could end up thousands of dollars out of pocket for relatively routine medical care. You can compare costs for all private health cover on



If you become a permanent resident, you will be entitled to Medicare services in the public system and can buy the same private health insurance policies as any Australian citizen.

As in Ireland, waiting periods apply for cover for pre-existing conditions and not all policies cover the full cost of all treatments, so read the fine print carefully.


Australian children usually start primary school (foundation class to Year 6) at the age of 5 and then go on to secondary school (Year 7 to 12) at 12 years old, finishing school at 18. See

for more information. Most schools have uniforms, which often include hats and are quite jaunty looking to Irish eyes.

As in Ireland, most children attend public or state-run schools, with a minority going to private schools. Most public schools are open, meaning they take any child in their catchment area, but some (called “selective schools”) require prospective students to sit entrance exams. These schools are seen as more prestigious but are not open to temporary resident visa holders.

Be warned: although state schools are technically free, some states charge a fixed tuition fee to temporary visa holders, which can be A$4,000 a year or more for each child. Even if the fee does not apply, parents will be expected to make “voluntary” contributions of anything from A$50 to A$1,000 a year. Private school fees cost from A$20,000 a year and are usually up to 50 per cent higher for non-residents.

The third-level system has a similar structure to Ireland’s, with qualifications ranging from certificates and diplomas to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Unless your college-age children are Australian permanent residents, however, the fees will range from A$9,000 to A$16,000 a year for an undergraduate degree, depending on the type of course. See

for information on fees, subsidies and student loans.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist