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Australia, the epic Baz Luhrmann film, portrayed the story of an English woman leaving her home country to start a new life in a most stunning and awe-inspiring land. Luke and Kim Brill took a similar giant leap – with two children in tow. They now reflect on their new life . . .

My husband, Luke, had spent a few years travelling in Australia when he was younger and caught the surfing bug! When we were dating I knew it was Luke’s grand plan to move back at some point. I had been to Australia once for a couple of weeks and never really understood what people raved about, however I did know that I wanted to live abroad at some point in my life so when the opportunity arose to move out it wasn’t a question of will we go or won’t we, more like we will go but for how long? Initial thoughts were two to three years. We have been here two years now and don’t feel ready to move back yet.

When we moved to Australia in February 2006, Lola was three and Evan was one. We nearly moved to Darwin in 2004 and were so disappointed when it fell through but it was not to be and shortly after I found out I was pregnant with Evan so the focus moved off Australia for a while. In June 2005, Luke sent his CV to a recruitment consultant and 6 months later after numerous phone interviews he was offered the job and we moved the following February.

What was it like when you first arrived?

I was petrified when we left. I was excited about it and Luke and I definitely felt up for the challenge as a family and as a couple. However, leaving my family, my sister and her kids was awful. We are all so close. Driving up to Heathrow was hellish. The prospect of not seeing family for a year or more was horrible but a reality that I had not really considered until I said my goodbyes. Luckily my wonderful Mum booked a flight before we left the UK so I knew she would be out the following month.

I felt very close to Luke and the kids and felt that as a family we were part of an invincible team on a big mission but at the expense of not seeing all our family. I still struggle to reconcile this feeling.

Did you receive advice on the move?

We looked for information before we left but there is not a lot out there (or not that I found). Other families have documented their journey and in some cases even detail household bills but I didn’t find anyone living in Sydney which meant that the information was quite irrelevant as all states operate slightly differently. Luke’s HR manager was fantastic and shegave us most of our information on where to live etc. The company rented us a furnished apartment while we waited for the contents of our house to be shipped out. The rest we just picked up as we went along.

We have made lots of lovely friends who all have moved here from somewhere. I think that common thread really unites people. Sydney truly is a diverse and cosmopolitan place

Once we moved out, I found that people were so friendly and helpful. I would take Lola and Evan to the local parks and all the Mums/Dads/Grannies got chatting and so I found out a bulk of information that way. The local mums were so open and welcoming. For the first week, each day I came home from the park with a new phone number from a mum offering to help us settle in, whether it be advice on good parks, nursery schools etc. I think Sydney is like London as it has a very transient population but differs in that everyone bonds over their recent or upcoming moves and upheavals. I left the UK thinking we were making a huge, rare, life-changing journey and then arrived here and realised that nearly everyone I met had done exactly the same. Two years on we have made lots of lovely friends who all have moved here from somewhere. I think that common thread really unites people. Sydney truly is a diverse and cosmopolitan place.

How did the children adapt and how did you settle in?

The kids have been wonderful and settled in really well. I think they were young enough for the move not to be too traumatic. After a couple of weeks, Lola asked where her friends were which broke our hearts. We then launched ourselves into finding playgroups, swimming lessons and generally setting a routine so she could make some friends.

I felt very close to Luke and the kids and felt that as a family we were part of an invincible team on a big mission but at the expense of not seeing all our family. I still struggle to reconcile this feeling

I found it hard to settle in and despite throwing myself into it. It took at least 4 months before I really felt like it was the right choice. The time difference plays a huge part. In the day when you are feeling a bit lonely there really is no one to call. Luke was at work and everyone I wanted to speak to was asleep. I wish I had joined up with Facebook earlier! I think that would have really helped me feel connected in the early months.

I am now studying for an MTEACH (Master of Teaching – Primary) to become a primary school teacher, although I am currently taking a 6 month leave from the course. It is very expensive to study as an international student and with month and term long practicals around the corner it might be wise to wait until both kids are at school and childcare is not going to be an issue. It is at times like these I really miss not having a family support network around the corner.


What is your lifestyle like now?

We have a fabulous lifestyle at the moment. Lola is about to start school and Evan is really happy and settled in a lovely nursery round the corner 2 days a week. I have been studying for my MTEACH distance learning and part time. Luke’s job is going really well. We live in a lovely rental house 15 minutes walk from the beach. Luke surfs before work (instead of having a 2.5 hour commute to London each way). During the week we swim in our pool, go to the beach, visit the numerous and wonderful parks. It is so laidback and kid friendly. The weather really helps bring people together. I found in the UK I would visit parks to let the kids have a quick run around and usually not talk to anyone. Here we go for hours, take picnics and invariably get chatting to other mums. The fact that near most parks is a cafe serving excellent coffee and banana bread is also a huge bonus!

The weather really helps bring people together and the fact that near most parks is a cafe serving excellent coffee and banana bread is also a huge bonus!

It does seem healthier out here. People live outdoors and there is such drivel on TV it is not worth watching it anyway. (My Dad kindly records and sends out DVDs of UK telly to watch . . . and then it gets sent round a circle of expats . . .) Lola is now a really competent swimmer doing freestyle and backstroke and Evan started swimming unaided at two. If nothing else this lifestyle has taught them that important skill.

At the weekend or weekday evenings we go to the beach. It’s no big deal, just part of life. On those days we have to pinch ourselves and remind ourselves that we are on a journey and at the moment it is really fabulous.


On the days that Luke is not surfing I go running on the beach and it is as busy at 6am as it is at 11am. Everyone is up and running, doing yoga on the beach, surfing, fishing, flying kites all before they go to work. Everyone seems to really make the most of the environment and what it has to offer.

What is Sydney itself like as a city to live in and to bring up children in?

Sydney is a great city and being such a tourist destination it gets all the good theatre, opera, and exhibitions while still having fabulous beaches and a laidback vibe. There are so many things to do you can do as little or as much as you like. For example, climb the bridge, have cocktails in one of the revolving bars (Summit is the best – Australia Square) or eat pretty much any type of food you fancy (Chinese in Chinatown, modern Australian, Thai, Brazilian). At weekends you can browse around the local markets (Glebe, Paddington and Bondi are the best) and pick up some clothes, jewellery, books and paintings. Great restaurants include Icebergs on Bondi beach, the North Bondi Italian, Toko, Bills . . . too many to list really! It is just so easy to get around town. We drive over the bridge and past the Opera House. They are so beautiful, iconic and accessible.

If you have more than a day in Sydney you can visit the Blue Mountains for great walks, the Hunter Valley for great wines or just escape south of Sydney to the National Park for unspoilt empty beaches like Garie beach. At Christmas we took the sea plane from Rose Bay up to the north shore and went out for a very lovely lunch and then caught the seaplane home. We were trying to work out what we could do in the UK with the same budget and same time allowance (5 hrs). We couldn’t think of anything to come close!

Not so appealing are the bugs and spiders but in two years we have only had to remove two handsized Huntsman spiders from the house.

How easy has it been to integrate?

I was quite nervous about making friends and assumed it would be tough. How wrong was I! Having the kids has been the greatest ice-breaker. Everyone is ready to stop and have a chat. Kids are welcomed everywhere you go so with the little ones in tow making friends has been very easy. Lola and Evan started nursery after about 6 months of being in Australia and through the nursery we have made some really wonderful friends – strangely, lots of English people!

Was it easier for Luke with regards to jobs and settling in?

Initially, it was easier for Luke when we first arrived as he had a purpose every day of getting up and going to work but on the flip side I was quite homesick so that must have been hard for him. Two years down the line I think it is much harder for Luke as he goes off to work knowing I am going to spend the day at the beach and swimming in the pool while he is at work . . . while this whole trip was Luke’s dream it is certainly becoming mine as well now.


With your children starting school or nursery – how did you find out about what to do?

Finding daycare in Sydney is ridiculously hard. All childcare providers are massively oversubscribed. If you call the local council they send you a list of daycare facilities. It is then up to you to find a place. Most places rejected me as they were full and as a stay at home mum it would be unlikely I would get a place as I was low priority. Others let me put Lola’s name on a waitlist – some of which are now calling me offering a place – one and a half years later! We were very lucky to get Lola and Evan in daycare together and on the same days and within 6 months. The family we rent our house from knew a lady opening a centre round the corner. I met them and put Lola’s name on the waitlist before it opened and so when it did open Lola started straight away. Once Evan turned two he started as well.

In Sydney, daycare is split into home daycare (like a childminder), long daycare which is open from 8am until 6pm, (you pay one flat rate and you can drop off and pick up when you like) or alternatively, preschool which runs like UK preschools, where they follow school hours and school holidays (which are virtually impossible to get places at).

Evan’s daycare is fantastic. It is small and caters for 28 children per day. They split the groups into caterpillars (2-3s) and butterflies (4-5s). They have a lovely outdoor space and engage the children in interesting play. They have recently run a unit on astronomy to see how much the butterflies enjoy it – considering Lola comes home explaining how stars are formed and die, I think it is fair to say that, even at five, children can grasp enormous concepts!

Lola starts primary school this year. We are on a business sponsored 457 work visa so we have to pay for schooling (regardless of state, independent or religious). There is no free schooling option on this visa. Lola will be going to a Catholic school called St Brigids in Coogee, the next suburb (5 minutes by car from home) which seemed to be a better fit for Lola than our local Catholic school. It is a co-ed school and so Evan will also follow there.

In Australia, there are no league tables and so finding schools is done on local knowledge and reading annual reports. I found this tough as I had no local knowledge and canvassing other parents is worthwhile to a point but views vary so much and so drastically we just had to look around schools and make some gut decisions. Lola’s school is considered small with 180 students. Each year has one class. The state primary schools are usually well over 500 students and easily up to 1000. Each year may have 5-7 classes. The education system is not wildly different. A huge percentage of my readings for my teaching course are from UK research so it would seem to be taking a lead from UK. The focus on sport does seem to be much higher.

What do you think are the main differences between the UK and Oz?

I might have to quote Luke here – “I am living the life I chose”. We feel we are getting the most we can out of life here and that we are having a great experience. Lola and Evan are having a lovely relaxed outdoorsy childhood. As a couple, I think the move has brought us closer than if we had not made the move. However, we both have to balance this with how much we miss our families. Luckily, our families have either been out or are planning to come out this year. That said, we have days when we wonder if we are doing the wrong thing – lovely lifestyle but with no grandparents and aunties/uncles around. Is it fair? The only way I can get around this is to think we are not here forever (Luke would have to differ on that!)

“I am living the life I chose”

Without a shadow of a doubt, the hardest thing was leaving my family and especially my nephews and still is. The best thing has been realising that as a little family unit we can move and make it work. We have made some excellent friends and are definitely more ‘why not?’ than ‘what if’ in our outlook.

LINKS - Information on living and cultural diversity in Australia
- Information about travelling to and living in Australia - Forum for advice, tips and shortcuts to living in Australia - “Road Map” to all the twists and turns you have to navigate to enter Australia “The Art of Living in Australia” by Philip Edward Muskett