‘Poms in Perth’ has 27,000 Facebook members and is one of the largest social media groups dedicated to Brits living in Australia.
Russell Burder, who emigrated from Canvey Island, Essex as an offshore surveyor in 2006, originally set up the group to keep in touch with his friends.
He explains how the group's membership has exploded and tells us what has kept him on the other side of the world.
Bullet points of key topics & time stamps:
● 00:51 – find out what ‘POM’ stands for (also written as “POME and “POHM”)
● 01:29 – find out about how the Facebook group was set up accidentally
● 04:38 – Russ talks about why his Facebook group is useful to Brits living abroad
● 12:48 - Russ tells us how he was sponsored by his employer to come to Australia
● 20:55 - Russ explains what FIFO (‘fly-in-fly-out’) work is
List of resources mentioned in episode, suggested reading & social media handles:
● Poms in Perth Facebook group (membership is limited to Brits living in Perth, Australia)
● More information on sponsorship visas
This episode is sponsored by The Scot Box.
A range of novelty Scottish care packages for "tartan hearts near and far who love the nostalgic taste of hame!"
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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.
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Many of us Brits who've moved to Australia rely on social media as a way to connect with each other and to help us navigate our way through life down under. Around 10 years ago, our next guest started a Facebook group, with a couple of mates and it's now become the largest online community for Brits living in Perth.
I'm Russell Burder, from a lovely island in the Thames Estuary called Canvey , in Essex. I'm married to an Australian with Italian background, and we have three beautiful little Britstralian children.
Russ is the founder of the Facebook group ‘Poms in Perth’. Pom is an endearing term that the Aussie's like to use for the English. And it goes all the way back to the year 1788, when the first convicts arrived in Australia.
Can you tell our listeners who might not know what the word Pom means?
Oh, I believe Pom means prisoner of Her Majesty. And I've always been confused why that is attached to us and not actually attached to the Australians. For me, that's the biggest puzzle that I've ever had since I've come out here. But they want to call us Poms, so I've kind of just adopted that. And you know, there's no point getting upset. The Australians are used to sledging, so we just accept it and move on.
We are in their country.
And could you just tell us a little bit-, cause I found this hilarious. I heard you on a radio interview and you explained how this Facebook group came about. So can you tell us where its origins started?
Yeah, look, it was it was really an accidental set up. It was set up as a bit of a pub group, basically. So, um-, came out to Perth 15 years ago. And we're all pretty new to Facebook-, I think it kicked off when we were all at university, say maybe 16, 17 years ago. And I was pretty fresh in Perth and they-, they brought out a group's function. So, me and a couple of mates, we all worked offshore. So all up on the oil and gas, all working offshore on the rigs there, as surveyors. And we said, “Look, why don't we use this new group function, set up a little group, and we'll-, we'll use it just to coordinate we're all back in Perth”. It really wasn't intended to be what it is today. And we just started getting random people joining and we were like-, I remember saying to one of my friends, Olly, I said, “What do we doing?” And he said, “I've never heard of him. Who is a he?”
“I dunno, do we just accept? I mean, what-, what happens?”
He goes, “Oh, let’s just accept it”.
And it was, you know-, it was a couple of people join in the first few weeks. Then it was a few more. But then it just started taking off. And because we went offshore, you didn't really have that good a connection with internet. And we'd get back from being offshore and we're like, “Jeez, there’s thirty people that want to join. Okay, let's just let's let them in”.
And it just grew from there. And, and then obviously, the admin team I've got around me; Helen, Mark, Dave-, well, the two Marks. And through that process, they joined and then really helped kind of drive and manage that group. So yeah, that's its history, really.
So you've got five people running this for you, now?
I really don't understand how they have the time in the day. Between having three young kids myself, a pretty intense job, And having this group, which has just grown arms and legs. Having Helen and the team there, it's just been a godsend. Because I don't think it could be managed the way it has. And I don't know how she has the time in the day to do it. And-, and the rest of the guys there.
Yeah, well, it has really taken off, hasn't it? How many members have you got now?
I think we've got over 27,000. So it's pretty mental.
And are you noticing more people joining at certain times of the year? Or has there been like an influx of people at some time or?
I can't really say whether during the COVID lockdown, we've seen an influx of people joining All I can say is between the five of us there's probably 60 to 100 requests a week, coming in.
Wow, that's a lot of people joining.
Okay, so this group where people ask for advice on things like how can you get EastEnders on telly over here? Or for anyone listening in the UK-, we can't access BBC i-player, by the way. Or, you know, they'll post a photo of a creepy crawly they found in their house and they'll ask anyway if anyone knows if they need to be worried if it's dangerous. So can you tell us a little bit about this group and how it's helpful to people who live here?
Yeah, I guess I'll latch on to the funny part, the spider question. Look, to be honest, I'm a I'm the biggest wuss with spiders. And I don't know if it's an ongoing joke with Poms over here at the moment. But yeah, the amount of times we'll get a spider picture and the comments-, sometimes it's just interesting just to sit there, with a glass of wine, with your missus, or your partner, whoever it might be, and just read some of the comments because they're hilarious. And you can guarantee the first comments will be get the deodorant can out, set it alight, burn the house down, blowtorch it, move out. There's some crazy responses there. And most of time it's a daddy-longlegs spider. Or someone says, “Is this some man-eating tarantula that lives in Perth and lurks under my sink?” It’s like no, no, it's just a little innocent spider that's not going to harm you. And then occasionally you see a red back and you go, “Yeah, probably don't put your hand anywhere near that. Maybe it's best to try and get rid of it”.
But yes, it’s pretty comical. I mean, that's the comical side, but then you get the serious stuff as well. So you'll get the request about visa assistance, or someone wanting a tradie that-, you know, comes recommended and people can trust. Because I think people have a slight fear that they're going to get-, I guess, taken a run for their money with the tradies -, and I mean, my experience has been really good in Perth. But, you know, people love to give a good recommendation. So a lot of that sort of stuff gets shared on there as well.
Yeah, is really useful. I've actually found it useful. I found an electrician off of their and all sorts. It’s brilliant. Erm-, do you think it's like a little community for the Brits who live here?
Yeah, I mean, I don’t think if I’ve mentioned yet-, my partner's Australian. Her family are all originally Italian. They had the old Italian clubs. So when you look at her grandparents, or her Noner and Nona-, they’re words I've learned recently. But when you look at the old grandparents, they had the Italian clubs. And yeah, in our modern day era, we have the digital rooms and I think Pons in Perth kind of-, kind of sits in that it's not quite the same, but it kind of sits there. We don't have don't have an English club we all wander down to and play bowls and throw darts and drink, I don’t know-, pints of Carling. But we have Poms in Perth, and sometimes it can be just as good.
So you'v got married to an Australian Italian lady?
So you met here, did you?
Yeah, we met here. Just through mutual friends, actually-, I guess the rest is history. We met that day and then got married and had three kids. And yeah, there you go.
And is she the reason that you're in Perth today?
Yeah, yeah-, I think-, I think we've probably all got similar stories on that. Because I think, if I hadn't met my wife, I probably was having a few wobbles. Erm, so I was considering going back to the UK. But then I met my wife and yeah, you just-, your whole outlook changes and Perth’s amazing.
So is that just helped stay, really. That just cemented the decision of why I came out.
How long had you been here before you met your wife?
We've been married eight years and we've known each other for, probably nine. So of the 15-. So, I would have been out here for about six years before I met my wife.
Wow. So you were here for quite a while.
And you weren't actually sure that this is where you were going to stay?
Yeah. I was still having a few-, I was still on-, Because my um-, yeah I was still having a few wobbles, really. I had a few, kind of, hit-and-miss girlfriends and I was working offshore. And there was just a few things going on. And I just-,I think I was having that wobble. And I was thinking, “Do I go back to the UK?” And it literally was at the time I met my wife.
Yeah, it does make a difference, actually, when you meet somebody here.
So, how often do you go home? Do you call England home-, what do you say?
How often do I go ba-. I think I probably do still refer to it as home. I think it's less and less. And because of COVID and having three kids and getting married and buying a house and all those other wonderful things,it has an impact on your finances, as you're kicking off on that journey. So, I've gone back less in later years. So, it's probably-, last time I went back was maybe two years ago now, which is probably not that bad. But before that, I hadn’t gone back four years. And then-, yeah, I was going back every year for about the first seven to eight years. And then after that it got more infrequent because I've started my young family. So and- yeah.
Have you taken your children back?
Yes. I've taken-. so I went back with my wife and my eldest, Sophia. So we went back to see the family. And then a year after-, two years after that, we went back with my son, who's the middle one, Raphael-, Raf. And then the youngest, Aliah, was due to go back this year. And COVID’s completely kitewashed that, so she-, and she keeps reminding me, she’s going, “Dad, I haven't been back yet. It's my turn, I want to go. I want to go back and see the family”.
Do you talk to your children about your British culture,or teach them anything about where you're from? How do you find that with your children growing up in Australia? They're Australian. How do you how do you find that?
Yeah, no, it's quite interesting. We're a bit of a mixed household because we've got the Australian part, we've got the Italian part-. And the kids definitely relate to the Italian part. And then the British part is exactly the same,They relate to that as well. So it's-, we talk about it all the time. And when they go to school, I'll give you an example, we've got the battle of the yoghurt versus yogurt.
Oh God, yeah.
I mean, that's just the tip of an iceberg. There's lots of these little battles, but I was losing miserably with the kids, where they were telling me I wasn't talking properly and pronounce it properly. And, “Dad, you're not in-, you're not in Britain anymore”, blah, blah, blah. And-, and then, luckily for me, my daughter started to make really good friends with an Irish family, a South African family, and a couple of North-, I think ones from Wigan and ones from Lancashire. And so, now she's got this little group of friends who have parents who come from, I guess that part of the world-, South Africa is a bit of a rogue one there. And they're all saying yoghurt-, Yeah, I have to make sure I got that the right way round then.
Yes. You did.
So, so she's-, she's now started to say- so now there's the battle of the yoghurt and the yogurt in the school. And so she's got this little core group. And so now she's saying it the way we say home.
I like that. Do they know much about England? And where you’re from?
Yeah. No, we talk about it a lot. We just bought a portal. And I hadn't heard of the portal, which is like a webcam you attached to your TV. And so it just integrates into messenger and WhatsApp. And we call the family on the portal. And it's literally like having granddad, or great granddad, or, you know, the cousins, on the TV and their life size. So, it's like they're all sitting in the lounge and the camera just moves around. It tracks you in your lounge. And so we've really been using that a lot in the last six months. And so the kids have a lot of interactions and my family back in the UK. And we're always talking about-, we're always talking about England and what's going on back home and-, and not just England. I mean, some of the family Scottish, some’s Irish, so there's that there's a real big mix there.
Oh-, that's so good, that Portal sounds brilliant.
Yeah, yeah. No, actually, it's-, it's, it's a surprise purchase. I was a bit-, I was a bit unsure. But I bought into the hype of my family back in the UK. And it's actually really good.
What do you miss most about-, about home?
I probably miss all of the really bad food that we grew up on, in the 80s and 90s, before everyone started realising sugar was bad for you. So there is a real-, there's a real, kind of, miss of cocoa and frosted shreddies, Pop Tarts-, all the things that I know I shouldn't really eat, and I don't really want my kids to eat. But they're the things that just stick there fondly in my memory, of waking up in the morning and having that sugar-laced cereal and enjoying it with ice cold milk. That-, that's probably the-, the one that really sticks in my mind. Because now, because we're so health conscious, it's like, “Here's some pretty boring Weetabix. Or weet-A-bix, or weet-bix. And here's some really boring cornflakes, with no sugar attached to them whatsoever”. So yeah, that's probably one thing. And yeah, because of health reasons. I'm not trying to mimic that with my kids. But I think that's something that's missed.
You can't miss the food too much, your wife's a chef. Come on!
Well, that's right. Yeah, that's right.
Erm, when you first came over here, did you come over for work? What was your visa?
Yeah, so I came over on a 457. So, it was a four year visa. And it was-
Yes, sponsored, sponsored. So yeah, I had a grandmother passed away in the UK. And I decided, you know what, I'm gonna go and do something a bit wacky. And one of my friends-. Our industry’s quite prevalent with freelancers. So, if you look at how many people come out, as-, with an offshore surveying degree-, so that’s mapping the seabed and understanding all of this science around that and processing that data.
Yeah, well, there's-, there's not many universities in Australia that do it. And so they do rely on international support to plug that skill set. So there's actually quite a big freelance market. So people that will live around the world come into the job, and then they'll go back again. And so I had friends who had worked for a company down here in Australia-, for Woodside off the Northwest shelf. And he said, “Ah look, they're looking for surveyors and they actually want to grow their workforce. They don't just want to use freelancers, they want to sponsor-, bring people in and expand because they're growing. And there's a lot of work going on at the moment”.
So, yeah, I had that loss in the family. And I just literally decided to send my CV into an email address they gave me-
How old were you at the time?
I would have been twenty-, just nearly 23.
Ahh, quite young.
So yeah, so I sent it in. And within half an hour, I got response, saying, “Can we call you?”
And this was-, this would have been very early hours of the morning. So I'm an early riser. And I'd sent the email in about 6, 6:30 in the morning, and I got the email back by 7am. So, 8 hours ahead for Australia. And then I said, “Yeah, I'll give you a call”. And we're on the phone. We did a phone interview. Lasted two and a half hours. And then he said how quick can you get out? And I'm like, “Uhhhh”, kind of-, bit like, hesitant. Wasn’t expecting it to be that spon-, that quick.
And I was like, “Well just get my-, just give me-, my dad's getting married. I've got to hand my notice in. Just give me maybe four weeks?”
And he said, “Yep, four weeks. Done. We'll start booking your flights. We'll sort your visas out”.
And I was like, “Okay, do you need any info from me”.
He said, “Yeah, the HR will reach out to you in the next coming hours via email, if you give them the information”.
I was like, “Okay”.
So I got off my phone, and I was actually shell shocked. And I was like, “Oh, erm-, I'm going to Australia in four weeks. What am I gonna do?” s
So there was just this-. I remember telling my-, my parents and they were like, they didn't believe me first of all. And then my granddad was more cautious. He's like, “Are you sure this is real? Are you sure this isn't some sort of scheme? They're not going to get your money?’
I was-, n-, “They're buying my stuff. They're buying the flights. They're doing that.”
So they paid for everything? Your employers?
Everything was paid for. That's how desperate they were. So-
Wow. You you are lucky.
Yeah. I mean. It's a bit-, bit different now. So that would have been back in 2006. Yeah, so early 2006. And I literally-, I sold everything. I had a mini mal board that I used to use, to go surfing down in the southwest of the UK, just at Fistral Beach. And so I literally sold everything. I packed my bags. I had my flight with Emirates and I remember going to check in. I had this massive suitcase-, it was probably about 40 kilos. And a big 7’6” mini mal. And I rocked up to the desk and I said, “I'm off to the-“, and she was, “Ooh that bag looks heavy”.
And I said, “Ah yeah, look. I've got a seaman’s ticket”.
And she went, “Oh and I suppose you've got a Nectar card as well, have you?”
And I said, “Well, no-“.
Because for us in the marine industry, if you have a seaman’s ticket, or a sort of, seaman’s book-, means you're a mariner, you get extra allowance.
Oh, I didn’t know that.
And yeah-, so, so when I told her I had a seaman’s ticket, she just looked at me and said, “Well have you got your Next card or Tesco Clubcard?” thinking I was trying every-, everything under the book to try and get extra allowance.
So she got a supervisor over, I managed to check it all in without being paid any excess luggage. And I just remember landing in Perth-, never been to Australia. And I got out the airplane. And-, and I just remember, just smelling Eucalyptus. That's all the memory that sticks in my mind, was smelling Eucalyptus.
And one of the owners-, because the business has since been sold and I've stayed with it for the whole 15 years. But it's changed hands a few times. But one of the owners picked me up and I got dropped off at the Rose and Crown in Guilford. And I was there, probably four weeks and then I was in a company house in West Perth for another three months, paid for. And then eventually I got my first apartment in West Perth.
Jammy! You did really well.
Yeah, I did. Well, yeah.
For anyone who's back in the UK now and they want to come to Australia, what advice would you have for them?
Yeah, it's an interesting one, isn't it? Because when you look at jumping overseas, you know, there's-, there's the-. especially where I grew up in Essex, you've got the Costa del Essex, which is a big swath of Spain, where most of the people from Essex have moved to. And so, you know, when you talk-, when you're-, when you're talking to friends back home, there's-. The horizons kind of go out and waves. So there's-, there's the group that think about Europe, they think about France, they think about Spain, they think about the language barrier, but there’s-, there's so many people, so many Brits living over there, that they form these little enclaves. S’pose it's no different to us here in Australia-
And they form these enclaves and I guess-, but it's still quite close to home. I think Australia, I think the-, the -,I think Australia has the tyranny of distance. So technology means we can communicate a lot easier with our family. I do remember still using phone cards when I came out 15 years ago, and going into the phone boxes and using the phone card. Very quickly replaced by Skype and various other-
Ahhh. That would have been tough.
Yeah, it would have been, but it was only because I didn't really have a good internet connection. But then once-, once we got the internet and stuff, then Skype was used more often. But when I look at it, Australia, really, the -.
Australia does have the distance. I think it makes easier that culturally we are very similar. And I often joke to say that Australians really are just Brits who've had sunlight and got cheerful. I mean, when you look at us back at home, people call us whinging or moaning Poms, it's just because we don't see sunlight very often. So you come over to Australia, you give us sunlight for a couple of months in Australia-. You come to Perth and 100 days of straight sunshine and then basically you start turning into an Australian.
Because that's all we needed. Sunlight.
And then we're not whingy or moany anymore.
I know! Just for anyone back home who's listening, over here we are known as ‘winging Poms’ aren’t we? Like that's just what we're known for.
But over here they do see as whingers.
I do love a good whinge though. Don't you?
Oh, you do. It's a fine art. You got to tune that in. But yeah, so look, culturally, it's very similar.
It's just-, it's just that leap of faith. It's that initial leap of faith. But when you get out here, it's actually, you know, there's a lot of support. Culturally similar. There's great groups. Obviously Poms in Perth is one of them. Of course, I'm going to shout that out. But there's great groups in place. And I just think the-, the process of moving over is not as difficult as it used to be.
Why do you reckon it's-. You said, “It's not as difficult as it used to be to come over here”. What did you mean by that?
I just think technology's made things a lot easier. I just think, you know, if you go I mean-, I wasn't a 10 pound Pom. Obviously, I'm only 15 years, so it's not that long ago really, in the grand scheme of things. But when you look at say the next generation up, so equivalent of our parents. If you look at our parents, when they came out, if they came out, they woul’ve come out as a 10 pound Pom, which again, for anyone that doesn't know that, that's, you know-, it's, it's very big in Australia. In the UK, maybe we don't remember it, but in Australia, a lot of the original poms came out on basically ships. They paid £10. There was big scheme on in Australia, they wanted to bring more immigration out, and so they came out. But when they came out there was-, there was phones. But phones were expensive to ring back home. There's a lot more, the old school letter writing, you know, communicating back home was a lot more difficult. And I-, and I really-, I really think the communication piece is what makes it easier and-, and that's where technology has made things a lot more-, more streamlined for us to be able to move out here. Obviously, there's all the visa requirements and the skills and everything else you need. Obviously, Australia is quite strict on that. And you need to have that skill set for them. But once you're out here, it's-, it's not as hard as it used to be.
So, you used to do what we call over here ‘FIFO’ work. Fly-in-fly-out work. You used to do that from back at home. But here-, see, that's a really big thing over here. But when I was back at home, I'd never heard of ‘FIFO’ or fly-in-fly-out.
So, can you just explain was what that is and what that's like?
In the UK, when I worked for a company back there, I kind of experienced it. We didn't call it ‘FIFO’. But I experienced it because I was working overseas. So, for me, it wasn't unusual to do that. But for the general UK population, it's quite an unusual concept.
In Australia, it's very common. So ‘FIFO’, really-. Perth’s a very isolated city. All of its natural resources predominantly sit to the north of the state. And that's, you know-, jump on a plane, that's a two hour flight. If you go further north or further inland, it could even be up to three hours, and you're still within the same state flying around. And so when they-, when they use the term ‘FIFO’, that's someone who will jump on a plane at the Perth domestic airport, go on internal flight for two or three hours-, which for us is like flying from the UK to Greece. And then you're still in the same state and then you appear in the middle of a dusty, dry part of the state. And there they'll be mining iron ore-, or in my instance, I would fly to Dampier, join a ship, or go on a helicopter and fly to a rig, or survey ship and survey the seabed.
And again, that's where all our oil and gas resources are in the state. So-, and you do that for four-, they change the rotations all the time, but two, four, six weeks. And then you'd have time off back in Perth. So there's a real strong flavor of FIFO work in Perth, where families have a one of the members of the household will fly up. You won't see them for two, four, six weeks. And then they'll come back for two, four, six weeks. And they'll be basically not working, going out enjoying the coffee and the lifestyle, doing all the things for the kids. And they'll be enjoying having mum and that back. And then they'll repeat the process again.
And do you think it's easy-. For anyone who might be coming out here-,would it be easy for them to get a job like that when they're over here, without the experience in that kind of work? Do you think
Look, it depends- I mean there's so many-, I mean my trades very specialised. But if you look at sparkys, you look at-, you know, look at that trade. I mean, that-, that has applications across the board. So you can you can locate to Perth with your Sparky trade. I don't know the details, maybe there's-, there'll be some sort of conversion course probably they have to do to make sure they apply to Australian standards, no doubt. I know it was on the skill set years ago when I came out under the 457 because I remember seeing it there. But they could come out, they could work for the building industry in the metropolitan Perth and apply that trade there. Or they can go out to the mines and apply that trade there. So-, but when you look at those trades, it's-, you're basically going out to, effectively what is a self contained mini town. And so, you can imagine any town will need electricians, they'll need plumbers, they will need construction. So, all of those things that you'd have in any normal town in the UK, or in Perth Metropolitan, is also needed in the mines. And so you can-, you can have one of those trades but then become a FIFO worker.
And when you first got here, did you consider that this is where you're going to be living for the rest of your life? Potentially?
Ermmm. No, I don't think I did, initially. I think I just had it in the big idea of it's a big adventure. So, the-, the industry I work in, I traveled around quite a bit. I'd been to West Africa, I'd been up into Greenland and Iceland, been through the Mediterranean. And so I traveled a lot. So for me Perth was just an extension of that. But with a little bit more serious-, seriousness, obviously locating. And I thought-, I thought I'd do my four year visa. And that would be it. And I mentioned to you before I had that wobble at six years. So I did my four year visa. And then after my four year visa, I actually then changed my role slightly. I took an office based job into the more commercial tendering side. And so I had to reapply for a new 457 and I only did two years of that new 457, before I then got my permanent residency and then obviously then jumped on to the citizenship after that as well.
Yeah. So how long have you been a citizen now?
I think it was probably one year into meeting my wife-, probably eight years ago I became a citizen. Yeah.
Ahh lovely! Sounds like it all worked out really well for you coming over here.
Yeah, it seems a bit weird how it all just seemed to align so well. Like I said, if I-, if I decided to do that now, I don't think I'm brave enough. Think back then you're a little bit more young, dumb and whatever the last part of that comment is and yeah-. Now I don't think I'd have the balls to do it. It is a big move.
I asked the Britstralian Facebook Community Group, how long they'd been in Australia. Just over one in three have been here less than 10 years. Another third of them said they'd spent 10 to 20 years of their lives in Australia. Around a quarter of the group haven't made it over yet. And only 5% said they'd been here for more than 20 years.
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