You've decided that working as a governess might be for you but how do you go about finding the right job for you? Where do you look for a job? When's the best time to apply? What questions should you ask?
If you're a teacher visiting Australia on a Working Holiday Visa who has a desire to combine your skills with a unique outback experience, working as a governess could be the perfect role for you.
In rural locations throughout Australia governesses continue to play an important role in assisting the education of remote children. Working as a governess is an often overlooked opportunity to combine your professional expertise with an incredible travel experience while saving enough money to fund your onward travel.
What does the role involve?
A governess is essentially a home tutor. Typically a governess works for a family who live in a remote setting (this could be a cattle or sheep station or, less commonly, a remote tourism business) and oversees the schooling of one or more children who attend School of the Air, a distance education service. It is common for the governess to spend some additional hours looking after the children and possibly completing some light domestic duties. Every governess role is different.
Where are the roles?
There are Governess roles all over Australia, particularly Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. While you can expect to be fairly remote, just how remote varies enormously. You could be less than an hour's drive from town or you could be several hours away from the nearest highway.
How long would I be expected to stay?
Ideally families want a governess who can stay for the entire school year (the beginning of February to mid December), however, many families are willing to employ someone on a working holiday visa, particularly if they have significant childcare or teaching experience. Generally, you would be expected to commit to the maximum six month visa allowance, although some shorter contracts do come up towards the end of the year. It's essential to be honest about how long you want to stay as finding a replacement governess at short notice is not only stressful for families but disruptive to schooling.
Does it count towards a second year visa?
Working as a governess does not count towards the regional work requirement for a second year visa, however, some families can combine farm work with the role in order for you to meet this requirement. It very much depends on the family.
Who are families looking for?
Increasingly, rural families are seeking a governess with teaching experience or a formal teaching qualifications. Some families have additional reasons for wishing to employ an experienced teacher. They may have one or more children with special educational needs or have a larger family.
Not all families insist on prior teaching experience as the right attitude goes a long way. Certain personal qualities are valued by all families.
- Good communication skills - You will be working closely with a family and spending large chunks of each day with their children. It is essential that both sides are open and willing to communicate effectively about work expectations and any issues that arise. You will also need to communicate regularly with the teachers at School of the Air.
- Independence - Working remotely is not for everyone. You will almost certainly be quite far away from a town. Your social life will revolve around the station. You need to be self sufficient enough to entertain yourself when you're not working (bearing in mind many properties have very limited internet and no phone service). The ability to drive a manual car confidently is a bonus. While you don't need your own vehicle, if you want to make the occasional trip to town you'll need to be able to drive on (possibly dirt) remote roads.
- Positive attitude - Life on a station is incredible but can also be intense. Everyone works hard and it's fair to say that people naturally get annoyed with each other from time to time. A positive attitude and a good sense of humour go a long way and are appreciated by everyone. It also goes without saying that you will be spending a lot of time with the children in and out of school and need to act as a positive role model.
- Flexibility - While you will have more or less the same hours each week (and shouldn't be expected to continuously work beyond these hours), flexibility is essential. Both parents are often working and there will be times when the working day goes on longer than planned. Don't expect to consistently be able to 'clock off' at a given time. Similarly there will be social events such as rodeos whereby the whole family will attend for several days. This might mean you get a few days off or it could mean attending the rodeo with the family and helping out with childcare. Either way, the school plans go out the window.
- Willingness to embrace life on a station - Many families voice how much they like it if the governess is keen to try new things and get involved with aspects of life on a station. No one expects you to know how to do things, or understand the terminology but you've never done before but a willingness to give things a go is important.
How much will I be paid?
Your pay and conditions depend entirely on who you work for, there is no standard wage for governesses. As a guide you should expect no less than $600 - $700 a week with accommodation and food provided. Families sometimes pay a lot more, particularly if you have teaching qualifications and experience. While you cannot expect to receive pay that compares with a teaching salary, you can expect to save a lot of money. With no accommodation or food costs and limited spending opportunities the saving potential is huge.
Some families simply cannot afford to pay a higher wage but will often try to make up the wage in other ways and it's worth keeping an open mind when it comes to packages. If you really click with a family during an interview and love the sound of the area, the station and the role then don't be put off by a lower wage. Money isn't everything.
As with any role it is very important to be clear and specific in terms of pay and conditions and to be honest with yourself about what responsibilities you are prepared to take on and how many hours you will be expected to work.
Find out more about governess life in our 'govie story' section. Governess roles are often on remote outback pastoral properties in places of incredible natural beauty. Look up #govielife #lifeonastation #stationlife #ringerforadollar on Instagram for a visual insight into Australia's sheep and cattle stations and check out the excellent www.centralstation.net.au for personal stories about daily life on a station.
If you have any general question or wish to be considered for a future governess role contact us and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
The Role of a Governess
A governess is employed to supervise the education of children. In Australia the role of a governess continues to be an important one. Families situated in remote settings (frequently pastoral properties) are unable to send their children to a conventional school which could be hundreds of kilometers away. Instead, these children attend School of the Air.
Through School of the Air children undertake a distance learning programme consisting of 'on air' lessons with their teacher and classmates via an online learning portal. When not 'on air' children are required to complete coursework which is then returned by post to their teacher for marking.
The role of a governess is to act as a home tutor for the children, supervising their learning and providing regular feedback to their parents and remote class teacher.
Typically, the governess will work in a schoolroom with the children during the day and supervise the children for a few hours after school. The schoolroom could be a separate, purpose built, building or a room in the family home.
Governesses come from a range of backgrounds. Many are young women who are considering a career in education, some are qualified teachers on a career break who want to experience something different and some governesses make a whole career from moving around the country and working with different families.
Not all children attending the School of the Air will have a governess. There are parents who are more than happy to act as their child's home tutor. Other parents have no choice but to also act as their child's educator. The use of In Home Care allowance has benefited many rural families in allowing them the financial freedom to employ a governess.
Who do families look for?
In terms of job responsibilities, the education aspect of the role is usually top priority and, as a result, prior teaching or childcare experience is a huge bonus.
Some families will expect the governess to take on additional tasks outside of the classroom. This may consist of help around the home or the property and can provide welcome variety within a role. Occasionally there is the possibility of working additional hours at the weekend undertaking station work. For some governesses this is a great opportunity to make the most of living on a station. Working with livestock or undertaking general farm work can also count towards qualifying for a second year visa.
While many families prefer to employ an Australian governess (for understandable reasons; they can stay for the entire year, they have a working knowledge of the Australian school system, the curriculum and of Australian life in general), a lot of families also see the benefit of employing someone on a Working Holiday Visa as there is a greater chance of finding someone with a lot of teaching experience which makes up for the six month restriction. There is also the added cultural benefit in exposing the children to individuals from different countries.
Where to go?
Governess positions exist all over the outback so there are many beautiful locations to consider. However, there are limited positions in each area due to how sparsely the regions are populated. It's best to keep an open mind and avoid becoming too fixed on a particular area. Everywhere has something to offer so it's better to think in terms of the size and type of workplace. Are you happy to work on a property with a very small crew or would you rather work somewhere with a larger staff?
Pay varies enormously. Some families are willing to pay more to governesses with teaching qualifications. There is also a government subsidy which many families use to assist with the cost of employing a governess. As a guide you should expect a minimum of $600 per week with food and board included. Some families will offer considerably more for someone with the right experience and some families offer half that amount. At times there may be the option to earn extra money working on the station or property at weekend. As a result of not needing to pay for accommodation or food, the saving potential is very good compared with other typical backpacker jobs.
Find out about the next steps to becoming a governess here.
Alternatively you can create a jobseeker profile here. Our jobseeker profiles are only visible to families who are actively seeking a governess. This can be for an immediate start or for the 2019 school year. Creating a profile is a great way to allow families to contact you directly about roles you may be suitable for. It also allows you to stand out to families before you apply for a specific role.
If you are an overseas teacher you will need to ensure you have completed the relevant paperwork before applying for a governess job in Australia. Here we have created a basic guide to the essential paperwork and documents you will need. A lot of the documents can be completed online (some before you arrive in Australia).
The following information is provided as a guide only. Always check with the relevant official website.
WORKING HOLIDAY VISA (417)
In order to get this visa you must
- have a passport from an eligible country
- be over 18 years of age but under 31 years of age
- not be travelling with a dependent child
For full information on this visa visit this page.
This visa allows eligible candidates to work and travel around Australia for a year. You can stay with one employer for up to six months only except in certain circumstances which are detailed here.
The cost of the visa is currently $440 AUD.
SECOND YEAR VISA
It is possible to apply for a second year Working Holiday Visa, there are several requirements including the requirement to have worked for three months (88 days) undertaking specified work in regional Australia. Working as a governess does not count towards the specified work but it is possible in some situations to combine your role with other farm work in order to meet the requirement. Some employers are more than happy to arrange this and are familiar with the procedure. If you require a second year visa, talk to your potential employer about it and ensure you have all the information.
Becoming sponsored as a governess is not unheard of (it happened to me) but is also not that common. If a family wants to sponsor you be aware that sponsorship generally requires you to stay in that role for four years at which point you can apply for residency. There are exceptions (in my case the company had recently morphed into a bigger company and so I was offered a one year sponsorship). Four years with one family is a big commitment on both sides which is possibly one of the reasons why it is an uncommon option.
WORKING WITH CHILDREN
Each state in Australia has a different system for Working with Children (WWC) checks. You may need your employer to verify the position before you can apply for the check. Therefore, you are better off waiting until an offer of employment has been made and completing the check with your employer.
A criminal record or WWC check from your home country is not usually required but it's good practice to offer a new employer your current clearance certificate if you have one. Australian WWC's only check your record in Australia which offers limited protection to families. The more people who also offer a WWC from their home country the more likely an employer will make it a future requirement for oversees employees thus creating a safer industry.
A current first aid certificate is a definite advantage. As a governess you will be responsible for the children for a significant part of each day in a remote setting. There may also be times when parents and other staff will be working far away from the school room. If you are actively interested in applying for a governess role it is highly recommended to undertake a first aid course before you apply for a role.
TEACHING/ CHILDCARE CERTIFICATES
A digital copy of your qualifications is always a good idea (just scan or photograph them and email them to yourself).
You are unlikely to need the hard copy unless you are thinking of applying for a skills visa or teaching registration.
Medicare is a government body responsible for the healthcare system. In order to receive medical care in Australia you will need a Medicare card. UK residents are covered through a reciprocal healthcare agreement but note that this does not mean you should expect the same treatment as in the UK. You often need to pay for doctors appointments (unless the surgery does 'bulk billing') and any private procedures (including X-rays and blood work done at a clinic) but any emergency treatment is covered.
It is wise to take out travel insurance in addition to applying for a medicare card.
To enroll for medicare, download and complete an enrollment form here and take it with your passport to your nearest medicare centre when you arrive in Australia.
More information about the reciprocal healthcare agreement and enrolling in medicare can be found here.
UK residents visiting Australia need to enroll in Medicare. Republic of Ireland residents do not but you will need to show your passport in order to gain treatment.
TAX FILE NUMBER
If you plan to work in Australia you must have a tax file number. You can apply for this online.
In addition to tax you will also pay some of your wages into a superannuation fund (basically a pension fund). You can open a superannuation account when you open your bank account. You can claim a proportion of this money, along with your tax, back at the end of your time in Australia. For further information on this click here.