Search This Blog

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Mojo Mums - Our Story so far ....

Our Story so far ….

by Alison Drummond Jones
Here is an article I wrote at the request of Kelly Rice, for Mojo Mums

As a young woman, I sought great adventures and dreamed of achieving outstanding things. I had always dreamed of the green pastures of England, the chocolate box villages and the pastoral life (more reminiscent of “All Creatures Great and Small”, I suppose) and so in my twenties, boarded a plane from Brisbane Airport, bound for the other side of the world. 

About eighteen months after living in London, I started a temporary admin contract at Eurostar depot, where I worked in the Procurement Department.  Paul was one of the engineers and we started going out after I had worked there about a year. 

Twelve months ago, in March 2013, moving overseas was still a dream.  Our house in Rickmansworth had been on the market since September 2012.  We were in a massive declutter phase and each weekend had to have the house ready for viewings. 

We finally had an acceptable offer in May but it took until the end of August to complete on the house sale.  We then booked our tickets and flew into Brisbane Airport on 12th September, 2013. 

Our twin boys, Henry and Lewis, had turned two in July, so the flight over seemed unending and relentless.  We had a welcome respite with a stop over in Kuala Lumpur and could at least lie horizontally in a bed for a little while!   

Paul took a long time to convince to move to Australia – but the boys coming along helped to sway him that they would have a better life here, being able to grow up in the great outdoors. 

Paul is a great hobbyist, and brought over two vintage motorbikes, and a lot of fishing gear.  I am a scrapbooker and cardmaker, so have a roomful of craft stuff.  We both sold lots of stuff before coming but despite this, only just fit most of our possessions in a 20ft container to transport to Australia.  On reflection, we could have honed a lot of things even more - my tip here would be to definitely go minimalist with all the clutter - in your new lives, you probably won't want it. 

We had travelled quite a bit before the boys arrived, and I love to create scrapbook albums of our experiences and to remember the details of our trips.  I always dreamed of moving back to Australia and to flick through scrapbooks of our travels and to remember our adventures when we were younger. 

I had lived in the UK for twenty years and couldn’t wait to get back home to see my family.  We are very blessed to have a lot of wonderful friends in the UK and it was a real wrench to leave them behind.  However, Paul had worked at Eurostar also for twenty years, and had grown tired of the politics and the fact that the company had changed beyond recognition since he had started there at its inception.  He was finally ready to begin a new adventure and start over in a new country.  We waded through masses and masses of paperwork to get him a permanent visa and then once the boys were born, I needed to get them certificates of citizenship so I could also get them Australian passports. 

We were excited to arrive at Brisbane Airport on the evening of 12th September, 2013.  My Mum and Dad had kindly agreed to give us lodgings temporarily until Paul found a job and we could get settled.  He embarked on his list of things to arrange and get sorted almost from the moment we arrived, and started attacking the job market with great determination and vigour. 

Paul was a senior Electrical and Mechanical Engineer who had worked on locomotives throughout his career at Eurostar.  He did 13 years of evening classes and college and achieved a thick wallet full of NVQs and City and Guilds qualifications in refrigeration and air-conditioning and so had built up specialist skills and knowledge.  His dream job in Australia was to “come off the tools” and drive freight trains for a rail company and we thought this was realistic and achievable.  This would also have been a less physically demanding job than being an Engineer on the shop floor and would have seen him into retirement. 

After a month of only applying for driving jobs in Queensland, we broadened the job search to his engineering skills set.  Only by actually picking up the phone and speaking to some recruiters did we learn that there were significant impediments to Paul’s ability to get an appropriate job. 

After two months, Paul discovered that he needed to do an aptitude test to become a driver, and sat a series of six tests which lasted four hours.  It was heart wrenching and very disappointing to find out about two weeks later that he had failed one of the tests.  The company don’t tell you which one, so it was impossible to pinpoint what he could practice or try to improve upon.  He was told by a recruiter contact that they only accepted Trainee Drivers from the applicant pool who had passed the test, and that he couldn’t resit it for one year.  He had to then rethink his career options. 

After about two and a half months, Paul discovered that none of his electrical or mechanical qualifications were recognised in Australia, and that in fact, he should have applied for Trade Recognition before emigrating.  Despite a massive amount of reading about Australia, buying various emigration magazines and dealing with a company who assisted with the emigration process, this was all new to Paul.  He had been to several job Expos in London – and in the previous 18 months, had been offered several jobs on the spot.  It was a terrible shock to the system to discover that the job market had significantly changed in 12 months, and that he had needed to undergo this trade process in order to get an equivalent job in Australia. 

For several trades, emigrating is not a problem, but with regard to anything electrical or mechanical, the Australian government departments want to see that an apprenticeship has been served and that the appropriate papers were gained.  Paul had got the job with Eurostar before finishing his apprenticeship and thus had gone an alternative route to gaining his knowledge and experience. 

In the meantime, I was undergoing my own bureaucratic battles.  Paul got his Queensland driver’s licence with the minimum of hassles.  They had to link up my old details with my new ones, so I had to present a sheaf of documents to prove my identity.  I had to revisit the Department of Transport 5 times before getting my licence, and was even told at one point that my name was incorrect! 

Luckily, I lived in a city, as I had to travel into Central Brisbane to get my Tax File Number.  The last known address for me (according to the government) was the Tax Agency who had processed my last claim – so I finally gained the appropriate paperwork for that after about a day’s admin and many phone calls and trips later. 
My mother encouraged me to claim for Child Benefit through the Australian Government Department called Centrelink, which deals with all the benefit and social security issues for Australia.  I have had long drawn out nightmares in dealing with various subsections of that organisation, trying to get a Medicare card (for being able to access doctors and the public health system) and it took me about 4 months of fairly sustained effort before I received Child Care Benefit, which was actually back-paid to the date of our arrival.  To my surprise, my claim churned up an Application for Rent Assistance which we were granted after a lot more bureacracy, so we have been very fortunate to be given enough money to be able to feed ourselves and pay our share of the bills whilst at my mother’s house.   

However, our money was draining fast, despite not paying for rent and the situation was becoming desperate.  Paul is a very driven individual, whose identity centres a lot around his skills and his work environment.  He became extremely depressed and inconsolable.  Do not let anyone tell you depression is not catching!  I was so happy when he finally agreed to come to Australia and had a lot of faith that we had made the right decision as a family .  However, it was exhausting being at the pivotal point in terms of trying to maintain a positive home environment, momentum in the job search, and being positive about the future.  It was difficult for my parents to give up space in their home – especially for two very energetic and noisy boy toddlers!  Relationships were very strained at times, and everyone was on edge. 

Christmas was a fairly bleak time but there were some positive signs.  Paul was making some headway in terms of having some positive prospects on the job front, but it was slow and arduous.  He registered with Manpower in November, but was depressed to be told that the only kind of temporary work he could get was as a labourer, as he didn’t even have a recognised qualification to drive a forklift truck.  After lots of pushing and persuading, he did get a basic work safety qualification in order to work in a warehouse, which then earned him a place on a forklift truck driving course. 

We pared down our shopping list as a family and agreed to only buy for one other person.  In the lead up to Christmas, Mum and I went shopping at a local Brisbane shopping centre.  After some exhausting retail therapy, we sat down at one of the coffee shops for a break.  We got talking to a couple who had a very cute one year old boy.  Through a series of extraordinary circumstances, this man said that he may be able to assist Paul getting a job! 

Paul had consistently said to me that if he had not obtained a job by the end of February, he was chucking it all in and heading back to the UK.  Everyone tried to convince him that it wasn’t long enough; that he needed to give it more time – but he was adamant.  We would be looking at paying twice for removals, another airfare, and being homeless in the UK.  Paul took a long time to convince that his job was no longer available at Eurostar; we were facing the possibility that he would go back to the UK and live with his parents, I would stay in Australia with the boys until he found a job and a place to live.  We would have been unable to buy a home in our previous town of Rickmansworth, and would have had to climb our way back on to the property ladder.  The situation was desperate all round. 

It was a very bumpy road to Paul commencing a job with lots more bureaucratic obstacles to pass, but he finally started as an Electrical Trades Assistant with Laing O’Rourke on the 27th February.  We moved to Chinchilla in Western Queensland as a family.  Paul has gone from being a skilled engineer in the UK to being an unskilled assistant in construction in the oil and gas industry, earning nearly double his old salary! 

It is a very difficult shift for these men – they start work at 6:30am and work until 4:30pm 6 days per week, with half a day off.  Most of them live in work camps around the town, and get picked up by coaches who transport them to various work sites around Chinchilla.  The Surat Basin region has undergone a massive boom over recent years, and the town of Chinchilla is experiencing a resurgence in growth of infrastructure and investment due to young families moving in.  Mining companies are building a massive pipeline from these coal seam gas sites in parts of remote Queensland to the coast.  These drought stricken areas might also see a change in fortune as one of the by products is salinated water which is also pumped to the surface. Desalination plants are also being built in these gas plants.  The plan is that farmers will be able to access this water for their crops and livestock, and thus partly “future proof” themselves against drought.

So our fortunes have radically changed within the seven weeks that Paul has been working.  Money is now generously flowing into our bank accounts, partly replenishing what was being eroded away.  Paul met a valuable mate on his first day who extolled the virtues of Hervey Bay, three hours north of Brisbane – a tourist mecca for people who want to go whale watching, or camping or 4 wheel driving off the coast on Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. 

We found a house we liked on our first trip, and made an offer – amazingly, we both agreed on a house after seeing three previously. All the administration is proceeding, but we are buying a four bed house with a pool, and three garages, including one for a boat – way beyond our expectations of what we could have achieved in the UK!

I could write on and on about our experiences, but such a life-changing move necessitates expert financial advice and lots and lots of research.  The bureaucracy and cost of such a move is not to be dismissed and neither should the emotional upheaval be ignored. 

The boys have settled in nicely and are in a marvellous day care centre two days per week, which just gives me a bit of a break.  This day care centre, being in the country, has lots of outdoor space, which includes a small farm, and a vege patch! 

There is not a huge amount of suitable activities for young children, but I am fortunate in that I have met other mums in similar circumstances through hanging out in local parks.  I now have a small network of friends, and I am very thankful for that.  Of course, everything will be all change again, when our house sale is completed, and then the boys and I will be living in Hervey Bay, whilst Paul commutes as often as he can back and forth to Chinchilla. 

He knows that there will be enough similar work to see him into retirement, and all being well, he can start an electrical apprenticeship with Laing O’Rourke next January, so he can finally work toward gaining back those qualifications! 

We are so thankful that our fortunes have finally taken a turn for the better when it could have so easily continued into financial ruin – I don’t mind admitting I prayed a lot through the process in our darkest days and this has meant I have started attending church regularly, to give thanks to God for looking after our family! 

Paul only wishes that we had made the move at least 10 years ago, but I feel that our fate is determined and that what will be will be. 

I only hope that other people embarking on an international move have an outcome as fortunate – life is to be lived and opportunities grabbed with both hands!  May you live your lives to the maximum and get as much joy and happiness as you can. 


  1. What a great post Ali. A really interesting read. So happy that all turned out well for you in the end x

  2. Loved reading your story - warts and all! So pleased you are finally settling and the future is looking so bright for you all xx

  3. So glad everything worked out in the end :) You all deserve it.