Whether you’re a budding painter, a sculptor in the making, a digital artist exploring new horizons, or a student passionate about any other form of creative expression, you’ve embarked on an exciting journey.
This guide is will help you find your feet as an art student in Australia, whether it be Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, or beyond.
So, grab your brushes, sketchbooks, or digital tablets, and let’s embark on a creative odyssey tailored specifically for you, the art student in Australia! This guide will give you insights, tips, and resources to help you through your artistic pursuits.
Australian visa’s are issued by the The Department of Home Affairs. You can visit their website; www.homeaffairs.gov.au for more information about travel, work, or studying in Australia.
If you plan on studying in Australia, you will need a Student Visa. There are many student visa options.
The Australian Government has a fantastic overseas student program (OSP) which allows anyone who is not an Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident to study in Australia.
You can only be granted a student visa if you wish to undertake a registered course or part of a registered course on a full-time basis.
Also, If you want to study under this program, you must first be issued a student visa before you begin studying in Australia.
A student study grant is generally a lump-sum or periodic payment that allows students to study fulltime without the final burdens normally associated with studying.
Although grants come with requirements that you will need to fulfil, they are essentially a ‘gift’. So unlike a Student Loan you will not need to pay it back.
Grants are generally only awarded to people with genuine and exceptional financial hardships and commonly come with strict requirements as to what you can use the money for.
Student Grants are not suitable for everyone, but some universities offer grants and other financial aid to students living in rural areas who are forced to re-locate to a city to study. A grant gives these students much needed financial aid to adjust to city life & expenses.
Student grants are available from government bodies who may be able to provide you with financial aid for college.
A scholarship is a prestigious honour, highly sort after and commonly awarded on merit & talent. A scholarship provides a regular payment to allow a student to study a specific course.
A scholarship is different from a student grant.
A scholarship is often for a lengthy study period and for much more money. It provides the student who is awarded with a regular periodic payment that allows them to study fulltime without the final burdens normally associated with studying.
The awarding of a scholarship is normally based on merit, talent and related experience, not on need.
Finding out about Scholarships
Scholarships are offered by the Australian government, your home-country government, Australian education institutions, orprivate organisations.
It is best to enquire with your desired place of education and ask what grants or scholarships may be available.
If you are an overseas student it is worth looking at Study Australia – Scholarships. For any arts related study you may like to visit any of Australia’s State Arts organisations for their state-awarded arts scholarships.
When enquiring ask about their application deadlines, and whether they have mid-year scholarships available – often these are less competitive. Ask if there are any specific members of staff who can support you should you decide to begin the application process.
Scholarships often come with strict requirements which you will need to fulfil. The application process can be lengthy and time consuming to prepare the right documents, so our best advice is to enquire ASAP to ensure you have enough time to prepare your application.
Pre-Preparation for a scholarship application
A scholarship application assesses many things, and the years leading up to your actually application may have a bearing on your success. So think ahead.
In the years prior to actually applying for a scholarship you should enter competitions, record achievements and award wins, record publications and articles about you, record and retain copies of educational achievement. It is these types of things that will be asked of you in a scholarship application.
You may be asked for proof of related work experience or personal references. If you have time to prepare, try to get a job, or a volunteer role in an industry related to the type of arts you wish to study. If you leave a job role, leave on good terms, and always ask for a personal reference when you leave.
Other items you may need are the correct visa, passport, and other forms of ID. Some scholarships are only open to overseas students, and some students with temporary or permanent Australian residency. You will need to provide certified copies of your visa information, and other pertinent information such as your passport and marriage certificate.
Scholarships look great on your resume, and are always a major boost to seeking employment in a related career. Seeking a scholarship is well worth the effort.
For an alternative to applying for an arts scholarship, you may like to consider applying for a student grant or student sponsorship. These are often based on need, but some on merit too. Grants are easier to apply for and provide small amount of money awarded to students to help with specific expenses.
Student Sponsorship Programs
A student sponsorship program is another form of aid that may enable you to study. Their requirements and conditions differ quite dramatically among colleges & universities, so it is necessary to do some research and be flexible with where you hope to study.
Some student sponsorships are gifts by donors, commonly the alumni of a college wanting to support future students, however other sponsorships are much like scholarships were a number of expectations are placed on you during the time that you study.
Sponsorships are not always financial, and can sometimes merely by the provision of accommodation during the time that you are studying.
If you are visiting Australia for the first time, or you are just moving to another city to study, finding budget accommodation and a place to call home whilst you complete your education is likely your biggest concern.
There are several ways you can locate student accommodation.
The simplest short term option is to stay at a lodge style hotel. This style of budget accommodation will give you your own room, or share facilities if you prefer. Compared to a normal hotel it is more affordable for a student.
If you choose a lodge which provides weekly rental you’ll find the noise of passing guests is reduced and the atmosphere more quiet.
Another option for student accommodation is to check with your college and ask about their student accommodation services.
Many colleges assist students in finding accommodation with other students, in shared households. This can enable you to quickly choose which home has the facilities and location you need, and it’s a great way to become friends with fellow students.
Free Training Courses!
Yes, free education!
Various state and government bodies as well as private educational institutions provide free training courses, seminars, and workshops to eligible applicants, and you should take advantage of these.
Attending a free course is a great way to evaluate a new career, meet other people, and improve your skills.
Government Free Training Courses
The Australian Government are keen to improve the basic skills of Australians who are unemployed or looking for work.
As part of this initiative they offer free training courses under the name “Productivity Places Program”.
To be eligible you must be unemployed and registered with CentreLink as a job seeker.
For more information refer to the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
Privately offered Free Training Courses
Some educational institutions offer private free training workshops or seminars.
Generally these are provided as a way for potential students to see their campus and learn about other paid courses.
Whether you enroll in a private course or not doesn’t matter. They’re a good opportunity regardless – go for it!
Why SHOULD you do Free Training!
When you see prospective employees or when you apply for paid educational courses, it shows commitment to your pursuits if you have undertaken various training. It shows good initiative, and this will often work in your favour or make you stand out from the crowd.
Where to find Free Training?
This is the hard bit!
There are a lot of commercially run organisations that run free training on behalf of the government, but if you are interested in studying at a particular college it would be best to contact them and ask for their advice on local or state initiatives run nearby or within their campus.
Another option for free training is to volunteer for Work Experience (see the section below).
Australia has several government run educational organisations and websites that can assist Students who want to study in Australia.
See the following:
The lead government agency providing national leadership in education and workplace training, transition to work and conditions and values in the workplace. Find out about new and upcoming government initiatives in education.
Find out about courses, institutions, studying and living costs, the application process, visa requirements and much more.
If you have already decided on an institution, use the search function to learn more about that university, training course, or language school.
The Education Network of Australia is a network of the education and training community. It includes government and non-government schooling systems, early childhood, vocational and technical education, adult and community education and higher education.
Training.com.au provides a single point of access to the vast range of vocational education and training information, products and services in Australia.
The website has been developed in conjunction with State and Territory Training Authorities and the Australian National Training Authority.
WorldSkills Australia is an independent, non profit organisation that conducts trade and skill competitions to challenge young people to achieve work skill excellence.
Through strong networks with the Commonwealth and State Governments, industry and the community, they have been able to achieve incredible outcomes by directly encouraging thousands of young people to achieve excellence in a trade or skill career.
JobSearch is Australia’s largest free online jobs board. It is funded and operated by the Australian Government as a free service to assist job seekers into employment and connect employers with quality staff.
Australia Award Scholarships aim to promote sustainable development and excellence in education.
Your Career is a government initiative to help you connect to your future through further study, training, or work, with a lot of resources and advice.
A database on vocational education and training in Australia. The official national register of information on Training Packages, Qualifications, Courses, Units of Competency and Registered Training Organisations.
An apprenticeship is a great way to get a head start on a career. As a bonus you will also be earning while you’re learning.
Centrelink is an Australian Government Statutory Agency, assisting people to become self-sufficient and supporting those in need. Centrelink can help you if you are unemployed.
My Future is Australia’s Career Information Service.
Student health insurance is a compulsory requirement of the Australian Government if you are coming to Australia to Study.
Australia has a special system of health cover for international students called Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). You will need to buy OSHC before you come to Australia to cover you from when you arrive. Immigration and Citizenship requires you to maintain OSHC for the duration of your time on a student visa in Australia.
There are several OSHC providers and you might find that your institution has an agreement with a specific OSHC provider.
You can choose to take out OSHC with this provider, or with the Australian OSHC provider of your choice. Currently there are five providers of OSHC in Australia. They are: Australian Health Management, BUPA Australia, Medibank Private, OSHC Worldcare and Westfund
Your OSHC will help you pay for any medical or hospital care you may need while you re studying in Australia, and it will contribute towards the cost of most prescription medicines as well as an ambulance in an emergency.
OSHC does not cover dental, optical or physiotherapy. If you want to be covered for these treatments you will need to buy additional private health insurance.
Australia has an excellent healthcare system. Should anything happen to you rest-assured you will be able to find professional practitioners.
However, as a foreign student you will be required to pay for your medical bills in full unless you have taken out sufficient private insurance.
Australian Currency / Money
Australia uses a decimal currency system of dollars and cents. For example: 1 Australian dollar equals 100 Australian cents.
As an art student you will appreciate how Australian currency is unique, and how cash notes are plastic and very colourful.
Australian coins are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. Notes are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. It is very easy to access foreign bank accounts when you arrive in any Australian city, so you wont need to bring much Australian cash with you. These days most monetary transactions are cashless.
How to transfer money to Australia
Transferring money from overseas to Australia can be done via your bank or using a money transfer agency. From personal experience, I highly recommend OFX.
OFX will tell you exactly how much money you will receive when converting your currency to Australian dollars.
How to access money?
Credit Cards and Debit Cards are accepted virtually everywhere in Australia to make purchases or get cash out.
Such transactions are made via “Eftpos” which is a simple system that almost all shops & stores are equipped with. However, be aware a foreign a currency conversion fee and possibly an ATM fee may be debited from your account.
To reduce costs to you, we recommend you open a student bank account in Australia.
What is the cost of living in Australia?
As a student, your biggest cost of living is accommodation. In 2023 this can range from $300 up to $800 AUD per week. Shared accommodation is your cheapest option (see the section on student accommodation for tips and advice).
Your second biggest cost of living is food. To use a McDonalds meal as a benchmark, this will cost around $10 AUD. The price of groceries varies greatly depending on location and store, and you will likely find local stores cheaper (Asian supermarkets are usually very competitive on price).
Opening a student bank account
If you are going to be studying in Australia for any extended period of time, you will want to open a student bank account. It will very likely save you money over the course of your studies.
A student loan can make life much easier. However, keep in mind that at some stage you will need to pay off the loan. I was still paying mine off at the age of 30, and that was before most of my course colleagues.
Most Student loans require equal periodic instalments over the duration of your time studying.
Student loans provided by colleges are generally between $1000 and $5,000 AUD, and can help you buy necessarily equipment to fulfil your art studies to the best of you ability.
If you think a student loan is your best option to gain financial support, we suggest you investigate with the college that you want to study at. You can often apply for a student loan through their services as interest rates are lower, and the general understanding and support is higher.
Australia has a very reliable banking system. It is easy to access money and easy to open a student bank account when studying in Australia.
If you are a student in Australia for an extended period of time, it is worthwhile understanding banking in Australia as it will ultimately save you money and make your studies easier.
Recommended Australian Banks
Bank hours are typically Monday to Thursday from 9.30am – 4.00pm, and Fridays from 9.00am to 5.00pm. Some banks open Saturdays, but usually select branches.
How to Access Money in Australia
Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are situated throughout Australian cities, offering 24-hour access to withdraw cash.
The best ATMs to go to are those at the actual bank branches, or alternatively other ATM’s that are branded as owned directly by the bank. Privately owned ATM’s also exist, usually located in corner stores, petrol stations, pubs & clubs, and often incur a withdrawal fee of approximately $2 to $4.
All Australian banks offer internet & phone banking services, so you can do your banking easily.
Cash can be withdrawn (cash back), or purchases made using a debit or credit card at shops and stores. This is done via a chip and pin system called Eftpos. Additional charges may occur if you use an overseas card.
Student Back Accounts
If you are an overseas student travelling to Australia to study, you should certainly open an Australian bank account. It is far more cost effective than using an overseas debit card.
There are several other advantages for students who have a student bank account in Australia, and these are:
No foreign currency charges
If you use an overseas bank card in an Australian ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) or to make purchases, you will be charged a foreign currency conversion fee. These will add up and will unnecessarily cost you money.
Easier to get a credit card or loan
If you require a student loan during your time in Australia, you are more likely to be approved for a Student Loan, or a Student Credit Card, if you have some form of ‘banking history’ and you are able to show past bank statements to the bank. Obtaining a basic savings account with a bank if your first step to obtaining credit.
Being paid for work is easier
If you work part time in Australia, by having an Australian bank account it will make it easier for an employee to pay you and an Tax refund to be returned to you.
No banking fees for students!
Most banks offer no account fees and no withdrawal fees for students, when you enquire, be sure to ask specifically about student bank accounts and find out what their requirements are.
How to open an Australian bank account
Here are some tips on opening a student bank account in Australia
Research the banks & their fees
Most banks allow you to partially open an account online, and certainly online you can research what each bank offers. The major Australian banks are: NAB, ANZ, St George and Commbank.
Visiting the bank – requirements
Even if you start the process online you will still need to visit a bank branch in person with proof of identity such as a passport and drivers licence and possibly a opening deposit.
For a student account you will need proof of enrolment. If you are interested in a student loan or a student credit card, you may have to provide further information such as a banking history with another bank, or proof of enrolment.
Student Credit Cards
Every student wants to avoid debt. However if you are unable to obtain a student loan, a student credit card may be your next best option.
It can be more cost effective for you to use an Australian credit card rather than using an overseas credit card when in Australia.
Some banks and lending institutions offer low interest rates to students. This is obviously an advantage.
However, before obtaining a student credit card we recommend you first evaluate all forms of student funding that may be available to you such as sponsorships, grants, loans, and student bank accounts. Some of these finance options may be better for you in the long term rather than obtaining a student credit card.
If you do obtain a student credit card, use it wisely. It should be a convenience between pay packets, or used to buy those absolutely essential things when you don’t have the immediate cash.
Always be aware of your expenditure and know you can budget in the following weeks/months to pay back the credit card bills as soon as possible.
A credit card can save you money too. If you use an overseas bank card in an Australian ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) or to make purchases, you will be charged a foreign currency conversion fee.
These fees add up quickly and will unnecessarily cost you money. Using an Australian credit card, or debit card will not incur this fee.
Shop around before choosing the right student credit card. The lowest interest rate may not be the best option. Find out if they have any interest-free period, and ask at which point of the statement cycle does that start or end. This will allow you to time your large purchases better and in turn will give you maximum amount of time to pay it back during the interest-free period.
How to get a Student Credit Card
Research the banks & their fees
Most banks allow you to partially apply for a credit card online, and certainly online you can research what each bank offers. It is advisable to choose a major bank who will have less “small print”.
Visiting the bank – requirements
Even if you start the process online you will still need to visit a bank branch in person with proof of identity such as a passport and drivers licence, and likely an opening deposit.
For a student credit card you will need proof of enrolment. It will also assist you to have another information such as a banking history with another bank, your pay statements, or a letter from an employer if you have a part time job.
Work experience is generally unpaid, it is volunteering your time for a short period of time, generally 2 to 4 weeks. Work experience can be big step forward in obtaining employment in the career of your choice.
Larger companies may offer internships, which is similar to work experience but is generally for a 12 month period.
It is common for employers to offer full time jobs to work experience staff, and you should try and work towards that as an end goal.
Try contacting any arts business and politely offer your time for work experience. Understand that although you are offering your time for free, a business may not have the time available to supervise and train you. Taking on students for work experience can be a time consuming task for the business owner, so with your communications highlight how you intend to benefit the business, and how you intend to be autonomous.
Some tips when approaching an arts business for Work Experience:
- Ask politely for the appropriate staff member’s name whom you should be contacting.
- In Person; Be polite, smile and be confident. Dress neatly.
- By Phone; Never call on Monday morning when people are busy and never call on Friday afternoon when people are rushing to leave for the weekend. Generally between 10am and 5pm on a Tuesday or Wednesday is best.
- After your initial contact follow up with a written letter addressed to the person you spoke with. You should re-iterate your interest in work experience, or thank the person for speaking with you and ask them to keep your details on record.
- If you are given an opportunity accept it and see it through for an agreed period. If you are offered two opportunities and you have to refuse one, be sure to reply promptly and be honest.
- Be sure to ask for a written reference after you have completed work experience
Remember not all jobs are advertised! Quite often it’s being in the right place at the right time, or putting in the effort to find jobs other people don’t know about.
Part Time Employment
If you are studying full time without financial backing (like a student grant, student loan, or scholarship), it’s likely you will need part time/temporary employment.
Finding employment that fits in with your study schedule can often be very difficult on your own.
There are several ways you can try to find employment. Prepare your CV and references and go door knocking at local businesses, check employment notice boards at your college or school campus, or sign up with a temporary employment agency.
Temporary employment agencies will interview you and gauge your suitability to for particular jobs. When work comes in you will be offered the opportunity, and your wages will be paid via the agency, thus making it easy to find work and get paid.
Paid Student Surveys – Quick money tip!
Being a student means you are in a marketing demographic a lot of marketing companies are interested in. They want to know what you think about their products which means there is monetary value in surveying you and your thoughts.
If you have regular spare time and need to earn some money for your studies, you may find it worthwhile signing up for paid surveys.
There are quite a few companies offering you payment to do paid student surveys online, similar to Market research work that you would do in person, but with paid online surveys you can do them in your own time!