Expat Vets Working in Australia

Working as a Pommie in Aussie!

Dr Catrina Durose joined us in early 2014, and we loved her immediately! But in February 2017, her time with us will sadly be coming to an end, as she returns home to the UK.

Here, she shares her journey of working as an English expat veterinarian in Australia. And she has even put together a very handy guide with documentation and travel advice.

Coming to work in Australia was never part of my original life plan but I can say it is genuinely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. In April 2014 I took the scary step to quit my job back in the UK and embark on a once in a life time round the world trip for six months. Over two and a half years later I still haven’t returned back to the homeland!

My first experience of Australia was in June 2014, I did the typical tourist thing and spent eight weeks travelling the East Coast from Cairns to Melbourne on the Greyhound. I snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef, sailed around the Whitsundays and learnt to surf at Agnes Water. It was never my intention at this stage to ever return. I continued my journey over the next few months stopping at New Zealand, China, Japan, Thailand and Cambodia. Then my money pot started to dry up so I made a spur of the moment decision to head back to Aus to work and travel for a few months before returning back to England.

I applied for a Working/Holiday 417 Tourist Visa. The process was really quick and easy. I set up an ImmiAccount online, filled in the application whilst I was in Cambodia, paid the $440 fee and within an hour my visa had been granted! This gave me the ability to work anywhere in Australia for up to 12 months. As a vet I had a couple more hurdles to overcome to be able to officially work in my professional field. I needed to register with the Veterinary practitioners Board for NSW, get a radiation license from the EPA, get an Australian bank account and Tax File number. Then I was ready to roll! I registered with two veterinary recruitment companies who helped me secure my first locum job. I was so excited but a bit nervous too at the prospect of working in a new country where everything seemingly wants to kill pets! I started working at the RSPCA hospital in Sydney which was a great first job to get me back into the swing of things after six months of gallivanting around the globe.

I quickly realised that Sydney was not the place for me. As a country girl from a quaint rural village back in England I was not cut out for the hustle and bustle of such a big city. I started looking for new temporary work positions elsewhere and saw an advert for a 6 month maternity cover at an emergency practice in Newcastle. I had actually visited Newie on my travels and stayed for a few days with a friend. I liked the slower pace, nice close beaches and open plan ‘town’ feel of the place. Even though its NSW’s second largest city it just never felt as congested or claustrophobic but had the convenience of everything you need such as shopping malls, cinemas and pubs. The job advert ticked all my boxes. I was essentially a GP vet with some limited emergency experience; I had worked on call and provided my own out of hours at my old job so I knew I like the work but needed to gain more experience to become more confident. Luckily AREC are always keen to train newbies into fully fledged ER vets. I remember at my interview being blown away by the modern new facilities and vast array of equipment and services they can offer such as a CT scanner, endoscopes, high spec ultrasound and arterial blood gas analysis. I got the job and started working in November 2014.

It was a steep learning curve but with the unwavering support and guidance from everyone here my medical and surgical skills have improved ten-fold.  I feel super proud of the vet I am today. I’ve seen and done things I would never have got the chance to do in the UK; from blood transfusing snake bites, mechanically ventilating and placing tracheostomy tubes in tick paralysis patients, treating weird toxicities such a puffer fish and being confident to tackle mega surgeries like GDVs.

My six month stint was nearing the end. My bosses Wendy and David were sad at the prospect of me returning home and desperately wanted me to stay as they considered me to be a valued member of the AREC team. They kindly offered to pay to sponsor me, pay for my visa and encouraged me to do an extra qualification; my ANZCVs memberships in emergency and critical care, which are equivalent to certificate and recognised by the UK veterinary board, the RCVS. A steak dinner overlooking the ocean at Merewether beach with David was enough to twist my arm to stay! The process of getting sponsorship and changing Visas took a couple of months to complete. I applied online for a Skilled Working Visa 457. I was transferred a bridging visa initially so I could continue working at AREC past my six months until my 457 Visa was granted in July 2015. This allows me to live in Australia for up to four years as a temporary visitor whilst working at AREC. After two years working on this visa I can apply for residency.

Since then I have made the most of my time in Newcastle and at AREC. With the help of the practice study group I have completed and passed my membership exams this July which gained me a few extra letters of the alphabet after my name! I’ve enjoyed several holidays over the last couple of years including a 5 week break back to England using my annual leave, CPD allowance & study leave to go to BSAVA congress and catch up with friends and family. The flexibility of my roster means I elected to work essentially one week on one week off so I’ve managed between shifts to squeeze in a few short trips including; campervanning along the Great Ocean Road, hiking Kakadu, the Kimberley’s, Tassie to name but a few places I’ve managed to tick off the bucket list. I think I’ve managed to see more of Aus than most Aussies! However there are so many great places to see my list only seems to get longer not shorter!

I am a very sporty outdoorsy person and Newcastle has great safe cycle lanes, beautiful beaches and plenty of sport clubs. I play at a badminton club and joined a local gym. Newie is also easy driving distance to some great spots; I’ve been wine tasting in the Hunter Valley, Kayaking at Barrington tops, canyoning in Blue Mountains and whale watching at Port Stephens. My second passion after sport is food, so I have also thoroughly enjoyed searching out all the best restaurants to eat at! My favourite time of year is spring, its green, blossom is out and the weather is predictably sunny but not too hot. I will admit I’m not the biggest fan of the intense summer heat and humidity over here but an air conditioned room and car have been my saviour. The one thing that has failed to live up to my expectations is the tea! I’m sad sad to say terrible is the only word to describe it, but luckily I found you can cheaply import 1000 bags of Typhoo or PG tips from the UK on Ebay so I can enjoy a decent brew whilst down under!