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May 16, 2021

5: Migrating To Australia In A Pandemic

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Ross Johnston is a secondary school teacher from Reading who migrated to Australia with his wife and two year old daughter in September 2020. 

Within three months of arriving they had bought their five-bedroom detached home with a swimming pool in Brisbane. 

In this episode Ross discusses salary, childcare, cost of living and finding a job. 

The Johnston family document their new lives in Australia on their YouTube channel, ‘That Johnston Life’

Bullet points of key topics & time stamps:  

 ● 00:59 – Ross explains how the flight caps to Australia affected their move 

 ● 07:21 – Ross talks about how much more he earns as a teacher in Australia 

 ● 09:20 – the Australian equivalent of Ross’ three-bed semi-detached house in the UK 

 ● 11:09 – Ross talks about the cost of child care  

 ● 17:09 - how Ross found his teaching job  

List of resources mentioned in episode, suggested reading & social media handles:  

 ●  Video: We Emigrated to Australia During A Global Pandemic 

 ●Seek: Job Search Website, Australia 

 ● Realestate.com.au: Property Search Website, Australia 


This episode is sponsored by True Blue Migration Services.  

Take the FREE True Blue Migration Services assessment here to see if you’re eligible for an Australian visa: https://truebluemigration.com/assessment 

This will go straight to a MARA-registered agent who will look over the information for you.  

Find them on Facebook or email them at: info@truebluemigration.com 

True Blue offers split payment options and are one of Australia's longest-established agencies, having been around for more than 14years.  


Britstralian Producer and Host: Anna Moran 


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Britstralian acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the Land we have recorded this podcast on. The area now known as the City of Armadale was originally occupied by the Noongar people many thousands of years before European settlement. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.


NOTE: The views and opinions shared by the guest(s) in this podcast are the views and personal experiences of the guest(s) and are not necessarily representative of the views or  opinions of Britstralian and the host.

See Buzzsprout’s Privacy Policy for Privacy Information.


The views and opinions shared by the guest(s) in this podcast are the views and personal experiences of the guest(s) and are not necessarily representative of the views or  opinions of Britstralian and the host. 

Britstralian will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information.


Anna (00:13)

Whilst the UK has been suffering severe lockdown measures because of the coronavirus pandemic, our next guest has remarkably managed to move his family to the other side of the world. 


Ross (00:28)

Hi, I'm Ross Johnston. I'm a YouTuber about life Down Under. I emigrated from the UK to Brisbane with my wife and two year old daughter in the middle of a global pandemic, and I can't wait to officially become a Britstralian.


Anna (00:40)

Okay, Ross. So you've had more than 30,000 views on your YouTube video about moving to Australia in the middle of a pandemic. But apparently you didn't know until- what about an hour before you boarded the plane in England whether you'd even be able to fly?


Ross (00:59)

So originally, before Coronavirus happened, I was going to fly out in the March time and I was going to fly ahead of my wife and my daughter, and I was going to you know try find a job, try and set the house up, basically sort all of the living situation out. And then they were going to fly-, we were going to book flights for them to fly in sort of the June, or the July. But then Coronavirus happened. After Coronavirus kind of settled a little bit, and we knew that, because we have permanent residency, the borders were still open for us-. In the sort of June, we decided, Okay, -let's book our flights now so that we can all go together instead. Because of the flight caps that were put in place, it got to the stage where we were getting bumped off lots and lots of flights. And my ticket with my daughter; ours was confirmed, but my wife's ticket wasn't confirmed. 


Anna (01:55)



Ross (01:56)

And I got to the stage where I said, well, if we're not going together, I'd rather just cancel everyone's flight. And if I can't get on, then I'd rather someone else who really needs to get the flights. I'd rather go to someone else. But they said, “Sorry, sir, we can't cancel your ticket because your ticket is confirmed.” I wouldn't know where my wife would be able to get across, let alone the additional costs of having to do double quarantine, because I'd have to do it with my daughter. And then she'd have to do it on her own. And it kept going on-, By the, sort of, the weekend-, because our flight originally was on a Monday and it got to sort of Friday, Saturday, I said you know what's going to happen? We're going to have to turn up on Monday morning with our bags packed at Heathrow Airport. So we packed our bags on the Sunday. We were staying with my wife's father and stepmom and we'd been staying there for about two months because we'd already sold-, or were selling-, in the process of selling our house and had moved out. The whole kind of family, or whoever was there any way, that could be with us during the COVID because of the lockdowns and stuff, was like, “Are you actually going to fly on-, on Monday?” And I said, Well, I don't know. But when we turned up to the airport, I said to my father-in-law, do you mind just doing a circuit of Heathrow or going to the local markers and just getting a coffee? Because within 15 minutes, I'm going to have an answer. You might need to come and take us back. Went to the airport, explained to the guy on the Service Desk and he said, “You're not the first person that this has happened to, I need to make some calls to Doha. I know who I need to speak to. And we'll find out whether we can get you authorized, because essentially, it's up to the Australian Government to decide whether they're going to allow an additional person on the flight.” 

And at this stage, Heathrow was an absolute nightmare. Like people were crying. It wasn't necessarily Australian people that were having issues with flights. I remember there was a guy, I think he's trying to fly into China and his flight had been canceled. And the guy was just sobbing next to me. And I'm just sat there on this bench thinking, ah mate, I hope I'm not going to be you in about five minutes when I get my decision. And then he just he just waved me over and said, “No, it’s all sorted, you can go.” And I was a bit shocked. And my wife was shocked. And I had to ring my father in law and say, “Oh, can you come back?” And he said, “Oh, did you not get on the flight?” I said, “No, no, we were on the flight. You need to come back and say goodbye to your daughter, your granddaughter.” I said, “I can't be there because I have to check all of our stuff in because we then need to run to the gate.” By this time it's like no, we need to go through now because otherwise we’re gona miss the flight that we've now just managed to get on. So I never got to say goodbye to anyone I just had to check in. I never even got to say goodbye to my dog.


Anna (04:36)

Oh, no way. Alright, so you got to Brisbane and you were taken straight to a hotel to quarantine for 14 days. What was that like?


Ross (04:47)

It wasn't actually that bad. We got really lucky with our room and the quality of the food. We stayed-, they took us to the Marriott in Brisbane. And actually when we think about the whole experience, and how much would it have cost us for accommodation in Australia for the first couple of weeks, that we would have had to have paid for ended up anyway, we definitely wouldn't have been able to stay at the Marriott for the price that we ended up paying because it's all governmental prices.


Anna (05:15)

That must have been tough keeping a two year old entertained in a hotel room. How did you cope?


Ross (05:21)

We brought things with us, knowing that we'd be stuck in a room for 14 days. So we brought as many toys as we could fit. We brought loads of snacks, we watched a lot of TV.


Anna (05:32)

So the cost of the hotel for you guys to stay for 14 nights was $3,700. That's around two grand in pounds. Dare I ask how much the flights cost you.


Ross (05:45)

I think my flight, originally, for one way, it was about £450 pounds. So we had that added onto my wife's and my daughter's flight. And then I think we have to pay about an extra £1000 on top of that. So I reckon around about £1,400 - £1,500 for all three of us. Fortunately, because we booked ours before the flight caps, we never had to pay any the silly costs that the airlines were charging after they put in the flight caps.


Anna (06:15)

It's so interesting watching your videos showing the airports and all the empty seats on the planes. And it was so weird seeing Brisbane Airport so empty. 


Ross (06:35)

There was no one there except for people in Army or Navy uniform. 


Anna (06:31)

What was that for? 


Ross (06:32)

With-, with guns as well! and it sounds quite disconcerting. There's like 30 or 40 people getting off this flight, all in masks, all really, really tired. And there's guys in army uniform with guns at the other end, kind of ushering you on to on to buses.


Anna (06:46)

That is mad. So what made you come to Australia? And why did you choose Brisbane?


Ross (06:53)

Okay, so why Australia? Because they pay teachers more. And I was getting fed up in the UK with the lifestyle that you have as a teacher. So I-, I've always wanted to move to Australia anyway because I liked the-, the weather, the culture, the lifestyle. And I had a moment when I just thought, do you know what, what can I trade my three bedroom semi detached house for in Australia? How much am I going to get paid as a teacher there? And, I think, with the 10 years of experience that I had in the UK, I'm essentially on the highest bracket for teachers, it equates to roughly about a £10,000 pay increase on what I was getting paid in the UK, even as a head of department. I don't even have all the extra responsibilities now, but I get paid about 25% more. And I get to live in, you know, one of the most beautiful countries in the world with the weather that superb. Our three bedroom semi detached house in the southeast of England's now equates to a five bedroom detached house, with a pool and 800 square meter plot. I've got three living areas, when before, me, my wife and my daughter, we're kind of squeezed into one tiny little living room. Teachers are on the skills list. They want teachers. We really miss our friends, we really miss our family. But we've got Skype, and we've got-, well, hopefully once COVID finishes, they can all come here and they can all stay in our home. 


Anna (08:21)

And what do you teach Ross? 


Ross (08:23)

I teach English now.


Anna (08:26)

Right. And what year group is that? Is that at secondary school?


Ross (08:28)

I teach secondary, but I actually teach a trade college now. So our students they’re year 11 and year 12. So they're just finishing their education.


Anna (08:38)

So how different are the schools over here? Are the facilities better?


Ross (08:42)

Yeah, I think on the whole, it's-, it's the same as in the UK. In the sense that private schools are always gonna have a bit more funding, state schools are always gonna have a bit less, they're gonna have more kids in a classroom. I decided to go for a private school here, purely because in Queensland, if I wanted to teach in a state school again, there's a little bit less freedom, they kind of allocate you to a school rather than you choose exactly which one you want to go to. Whereas, independent schools have the ability to employ whoever they want.


Anna (09:14)

Yeah, makes sense. And just go back to my previous question, why did you choose Brisbane?


Ross (09:20)

So when I had my little moment of, “what does my three bedroom semi detached trade in for?” I started with Sydney, because my wife and I, we've been to Australia before, we've been to Sydney, we like Sydney, but it just seemed that we couldn't afford anything above a two bedroom apartment. And my wife was very adamant that if I was going to make her move to the other side of the world, it would be for an upgrade. So she had a list of everything that she wanted for a house, and a two bedroom apartment would not tick a lot of boxes. We did the same for Melbourne, you know thinking geographically about which are the biggest cities, where they're going to do most job opportunities going to be. Again in Melbourne, couldn't afford much more than a two bedroom apartment. And then third on the list was Brisbane. I was looking on realestate.com.au. And all these like four bedroom houses with pools started popping up. So I was like, yeah, I found the city that I think I'm going to be able to move to.


Anna (10:10)

I like that. Good decision making process. 


Ross (10:13)

Yeah. Just logic. Logic. 


Anna (10:17)

Very good. So you came over in September last year?


Ross (10:21)

Yeah, September the 13th. So maybe unlucky for some, but that was the one where we actually got our flight, yeah. And then because of the crazy time differences, we left on the 13th to London on the 15th.


Anna (10:32)

Yeah, it's strange, isn't it? The whole time different thing in the same country? 


Ross (10:38)



Anna (10:39)

So when you got here, it would have been the start of spring, just coming out of winter. Tell us what the temperature was like there in Brisbane.


Ross (10:48)

We landed at night. It did feel a bit muggy. And I think one of the days it was 30 degrees already, like just coming into spring. Every day after that, it just seemed to get into higher into the 30s. You notice the-, the humidity.


Anna (11:00)

And what's it like for your daughter? Do you think that there are better opportunities here for her?


Ross (11:05)

Absolutely. In the UK, cost of childcare in the UK is crazy. We'd kind of have to foot the bill, really. And my wife would be essentially working just to pay for childcare for Aurora. But here, because of things like childcare subsidy, I think it's about 70-something, nearly 80% coverage of the costs. So, to send her to daycare all day, we only pay like 15 bucks, which means that my wife can go and work. She's not really working just to pay for childcare. She's actually working to generate an extra income for us. But then Aurora, for $15 then gets to, you know, play outside with loads of kids, she's got-, I think the ratios are like four to one. They got really, really good indoor and outdoor facilities. And we've seen in the last few months of her going to daycare, she's just-, her vocabulary’s come along, she talks, like, so much more. She's so much more active. She has the offer of lots of different fruits, vegetables, and things like that. And then it's $15. 


Anna (12:05)

Unbelievable, isn't it? 


Ross (12:07)

$15 for that! What’s 15 bucks? I went out for lunch today and I couldn't even-, that was my lunch.,15 bucks. But she gets 10 hours of daycare and all of her food and nappies and everything provided.


Anna (12:17)

It's great that she settled, and she's starting her new life in Australia at such a young age.


Ross (12:23)

Just the outdoor lifestyle, that's what we wanted for her. And I didn't mind where we used to live just outside Reading. But in Australia, you get barbecues, they’re all free. All the parks are nice, you know, there's no glass or needles or horrible things in the park for kids to, kind of, pick up and find. 


Anna (12:40)

So how close are you to the beach, then? 


Ross (12:42)

Well, I work up-, up on the peninsula, which is really-, well, the beach is there. I mean, sometimes we're actually allowed to take the kids to the beach on like free lessons, if they've got no work to do. For me, if I wanted to drive that would be about 25-35 minutes to work, so that's how long it would be to there. Down in Redcliffe, they've got like a lagoon area where kids can go swimming. I've got a friend that lives at Bribie, where there's a fantastic beach there. For us, that's about 45-50 minutes.


Anna (13:12)

So is that a friend from home, or somebody you've met since you've been out there?


Ross (13:15)

Yeah, yeah. Strangely enough, we were talking about moving over here at the same time. If you're going to move here helps if you do have friends or family or people close by, but it's not the be all and end all. We've made so many friends just from-, from work, from where we live. Australians are so friendly. Where we used to live in the UK, we knew the people that live next to us, and we knew the people that lived over the road from us. And that was pretty much it. But since we've moved, we know all of our neighbors. I don't think-, there's only one that we don't really know. It's the complete polar opposite. People really do take the time here to get to know you and genuinely want to be friendly.


Anna (13:54)

So you were saying about your jobs, and Aurora’s going to daycare and it's only $15 a day. Are you financially quite a bit better off over here, then?


Ross (14:05)

Yes. We do have a lot more disposable income here, just because of things like taxation. I mean, pensions in the UK-, you'd have to put money towards your pension, they take it out of your pay, whereas here, my employer now pays as much as what I was doing in the UK. And yeah, my wage is more and my wife-, she's had a few different careers, actually. We weren't sure what she was going to do here because our visas obviously based upon my profession, but she has qualifications in hair and beauty, that's what she did when I met her. And now she's she works as a disability support worker. The pay for that is,- in comparison to the UK, she's on nearly double what she would have got doing that kind of work that she does here. So-


Anna (14:49)

Ah, that's great, isn't it? 

For people who are looking to make the big move to Australia, they tend to want to know what they should be bringing with them and what they should leave behind. What did you bring and what would you recommend? 


Ross (15:03)

Sell everything. You do not need to bring anything. We only brought sentimental items. Pictures. For some reason my wife still has a wedding dress. Anything that is not sentimental, just sell it. Use that money then to set up your new life here.


Anna (15:20)

I came out here with just a rucksack full of clothes. And I-, actually, I also lived in Brisbane when I first got to Australia, and I just couldn't get over the wildlife there. Have you come across any scary spiders? And have you seen your first kangaroo?


Ross (15:34)

Yep, seen kangaroos. So, where my friend lives on Bribie, when we go to visit him all the time, there's kangaroo-, he lives on-, on a golf course. There's kangaroos on the greens, on the tee boxes. As we drive through my daughter loves sort of trying to spot a kangaroo. We've seen possums. So we were at a friend's house-, one of our new neighbors, we'd literally, we've moved in a day, and then they invited us around for dinner the next day. So we sat in their garden, and there's a possum just walking across the fence. We seem to get the same for cookaburras  that come and sit on our fence. Thankfully, we haven't seen anything scary yet. I'm still cautious though every time Aurora goes out in the garden. I always have a little sweep around and look. 


Anna (16:16)

Aw! So the big question, do you think you'll stay in Australia forever?


Ross (16:23)

I'm really happy here. I'd like to think my wife is also really, really happy here. But for her it’s the friends and family that we've left behind, and especially during, kind of, COVID and not being able to leave the country and not having them able to visit us. It's a bit weird. We don't really know yet how we feel about not being able to have that kind of physical contact with family. It’s good with the technology that we have now. You know, we Skype them really, really regularly. It seems like sometimes we actually we speak to them more than we did in the UK because we're now really, really far away. So it seems like we speak to them more.


Anna (17:01)

And did you have jobs lined up before you got here?


Ross (17:04)

Nah, no, nothing. We literally came over with a suitcase and I found my job whilst I was in quarantine. So that's one of the good things I suppose about quarantine, is that you get a lot of free time to sit there and search through Seek and other job advert sites and try and find something and I was I was really, really lucky and fortunate to find something. In the UK, if you want to be-, want to get a new job in teaching, they want to interview you in person, they want to see you teach the kids and things like that. But here it's not a thing. You don't have to teach a lesson. So being interviewed on Zoom I think it was, in the toilet of our quarantine hotel because I couldn't find anywhere else that would be quiet enough.


Anna (17:44)

And what about a car and a house? Did you have all that sorted before you came over?


Ross (17:49)

Nah, we had nothing. Again, one of the reasons why I was going to move in the March time was that I was going to have to, sort of, sort all of that stuff out. I was gonna have to find a house, I was going to have to find a car, essentially sort all of our living situation out. But I said to my wife when we were going to have to go all together, I said, this is a good opportunity for all of us because now you'll be able to see the house that we ended up renting.


Anna (18:13)

You seem to have done brilliantly. You seem to have really settled in quite quickly. So when you go shopping, are you still converting everything into pounds?


Ross (18:22)

Yeah. Constantly. Even though I know now, like, obviously how much I get paid and how much I can expect to spend, in dollars every week ,or every month, on food, I'm still thinking, “Oh, five bucks for an avocado? Oh that’s expensive, that’s like £2.50


Anna (18:39)

I've been here 10 years and I'm still doing it. I don't think it ever goes away.


Ross (18:45)

Yeah. But I'm slowly starting to get there now. And the sense of I understand that-, like, people in Australia seem-, like 20 bucks, seem to think that’s nothing. Whereas, if I was to say like 20 quid in the UK, like 20 quid's a decent chunk of money. Like, I'm not going to just give that away too easily. I'm getting used to that concept now of , “10 bucks for this, that's cheap. Twenty bucks for that. Yeah, that's not a bad price, that's also reasonably cheap”. Whereas, my wife -, sometimes, you know, she's still converting things over. She'll go, “Twenty bucks for that?” And I’m like, “mmm, it’s not actually that bad”. Because she sometimes forgets that it's in dollars, anyway. Just think it’s 20 quid.


Anna (19:21)

I know. It's like you just see the big numbers and you forget about the dollar sign you think you're paying in pounds.


Ross (19:27)

Yeah. Yeah. And you have to fight that initial, “Oh my god, it's so expensive”, when actually, no, no it’s not.


Anna (19:33)

Is there anything that you found to be a lot more expensive over here? Anything that shocked you?


Ross (19:38)

Mushrooms. I don't know why mushrooms are like 10 bucks a kilo? I swear mushrooms were never over five pounds a kilo. It's like meat. You got to Aldi and mushrooms are 10 bucks a kilo and chicken-, chicken is like nine bucks a kilo. I’m like, “How is a mushroom more expensive than a chicken?”

It's ridiculous, but I feel sorry for vegetarian.


Anna (20:05)

Ross, when I first came to Australia, if I had had access to your YouTube videos, my visa application process would have been so much easier. You really do a good job of explaining it all.


Ross (20:21)

Thank you. Thank you. Well, that's the whole point of us making it really is just to give more of a visual insight as to what it's like-, help them to make that move, to inspire that move-, to want to move to this country. Because it's so beautiful. It’s not for everyone. But I'd love to be able to share this with more people.


Anna (20:41)

Ross has been documenting his new life in Australia and sharing his story on YouTube. You can check out his new five-bedroom gaff, with a pool, on ‘That Johnston Life’, 


We asked our Britstralian Facebook community group, what brought them to Australia. And the top three answers, in order of the most votes, were; for a better opportunity for their children, for a better standard of living, and of course, for the sunshine and the beaches. 

You can join us on Facebook, just search for Britstralian all one word, or you can follow us on Instagram at Britstralian_podcast.

Ross JohnstonProfile Photo

Ross Johnston

YouTuber / Teacher