What is a Governess?

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.