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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.