Health & Wellbeing living in Australia
Living in a new country is both exciting and challenging as you immerse yourself in the local culture and learn how things work.
Stay safe, healthy and feeling great during your time in Australia by arming yourself with knowledge on Australia’s environment and culture.
The Australian environment
Changes in your environment can have an impact on your health. Be aware of Australia’s diverse environments and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
Climate & weather
Australia is a country of diverse climate zones and weather conditions, and the seasons are opposite to those in the Northern Hemisphere. Much of Australia is very dry and the wettest areas are around the coast of Australia. The northern and interior regions of the country average higher temperatures and greater humidity than areas to the south of the continent.
The northern regions of Australia are a tropical zone, with wet summers and dry winters. The southern regions of Australia have four seasons: Spring from September to November, Summer from December to February, Autumn from March to May and Winter from June to August. The winter months are cool and wet in the south.
Weather conditions can often be unpredictable, so be prepared no matter when or where you are going.
View detailed and current weather conditions for all of Australia.
Sun safety & protection
Australia’s sun is harsh and sun protection is required. Some basic tips for protecting yourself from sunburn and skin cancer are:
- Avoid being directly in the sun between 10am and 3pm.
- Use broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF30 when outdoors.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect the face, ears and back of the neck.
For more sun protection tips visit SunSmart.
Surf, beach & water safety
There are many beautiful beaches to visit and enjoy around Australia. Surf and water safety is an extremely important issue when visiting popular Australian beaches and below are a few tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable day:
- Swim at beaches that are patrolled by lifeguards. Locate a patrolled beach.
- Do not swim on beaches that are closed or that are not patrolled by lifeguards.
- Do not swim after you have eaten or if you have consumed alcohol.
- Follow all instructions given by the lifeguards on duty.
- Swim in the designated areas (normally marked by red and yellow flags).
- Stay out of the water if unsure of the surf conditions or if there are no safety flags.
- If you get caught in a rip, swim diagonally across it. Do not try to swim against it.
- If you get caught in a rip while surfing, stay on your surfboard.
- If you are in trouble in the water, raise one arm and wait for assistance.
For more surf, beach and water safety tips visit Surf Lifesaving Australia.
Motor vehicle safety
- In Australia, we drive on the left side of the road.
- You must wear a seat belt at all times whether you are driving or a passenger in a vehicle.
- Always carry your driver’s licence with you.
- Do not use your mobile phone while driving, use hands free or switch off your phone while driving.
- Be aware of pedestrians at all times, and especially in areas where there are shopping centres, schools and elderly residents.
- Do not drink alcohol and then drive. The blood alcohol concentration limit for learners and probationary drivers is zero and for full licensed drivers it is 0.05.
- Approach intersections at a speed that allows you to stop if necessary.
- Be aware of cyclists and motorcycles.
- Avoid driving when tired. Pull over and take a walk or power nap at regular intervals during long trips.
- Be courteous and considerate to all other road users.
- Plan trips in advance, and leave time to explore and rest without rushing in areas where you are unfamiliar with the roads.
- If you are travelling in more rural areas of Australia at night, you may encounter livestock and animals on the roadside and in the middle of the road. Animals often graze roadside and your vehicle lights may attract the animals’ attention. They may stand in your path or suddenly step out onto the road. So be aware when driving at night.
To become familiar with road rules, signs and hazards that you may encounter, download a copy of the Australian Road Rules.
- Always cross the street at traffic lights or a pedestrian crossing.
- Only cross the road when the green walking signal is displayed. Never start crossing when there is a red signal.
- Always ensure that any approaching drivers can see you before you step out onto the road.
- Never assume that a driver will stop for you.
- If there is no crossing, avoid crossing where you cannot see approaching traffic, such as near the crest of a hill or at a bend in the road. Cross where you know it is safe.
- Always use footpaths where they are provided. People walk, jog, push prams, ride bicycles and rollerblade on footpaths, so keep to the left and be courteous of other users.
- If there is no footpath, walk facing oncoming traffic and keep as close to the side of the road as possible.
- Always wait in designated areas (bus stops or tram stops) for public transport. Do not sit close to tram lines or on the side of the road while waiting for public transport.
- At railway level crossings, wait for the boom to rise and the bells to stop before you cross – a second train may be approaching.
Australia is one of the safest countries in the world, but in all countries you can significantly reduce your risk of injury and protect yourself from experiencing personal harm by being aware of your surroundings and the situations that may put you at risk. Use common sense and safety measures to reduce the risk of injury.
At your workplace
- Be aware of your workplace’s security services and use them when required.
- Never leave your personal belongings unattended.
- Do not leave valuables in view or in a place that is easy to access.
- Report any suspicious persons/behaviour to your workplace’s on-site security.
- If you work late, find a security guard or friend to walk out with you.
For helpful hints on reducing the risk of personal harm in various situations, please refer to the Australian Federal Police website.
During your time in Australia, you may be faced with occasions when you are feeling uncertain in the unfamiliar environment, feeling lonely away from your family and friends and feeling stress due to the pressures of work. It is perfectly natural to experience these feelings.
There are many situations that can bring about feelings of sadness, anxiety and negative emotions, such as:
- Pressures of workload.
- Change in culture.
- Being away from family and friends.
- Living conditions – overcrowding, lack of privacy, noise levels and difficulty living with strangers.
- Financial difficulties.
If you are continually feeling extreme sadness, anxiety and negative emotions, you may be suffering from stress, depression, anxiety or other mental health problems that can contribute to many other health problems including chronic pain, sleeplessness and fatigue.
Life and work in a new country is not always easy, but your workplace and other professional services can help you feel more positive about your life in Australia. Never be afraid to ask for help!
You can speak to support services at your workplace or access various sources of information about depression and available treatments. Visit:
Safe sex practices reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmissable infections (STIs). STIs are infectious conditions transmitted through sexual activity. Some STIs can be easily treated but unfortunately there is no cure for many of them, and these incurable STIs tend to be the most common and longest lasting. Some, for example HIV and Hepatitis B, can have serious health consequences.
The risk of catching the more serious STIs can be minimised by:
- Avoid sexual intercourse or genital contact.
- Use condoms and water-based lubricant or dental dams every time you have sexual intercourse or oral sex.
- Minimise the number of different partners you have sex with, and practice safe sex every time.
- If using intravenous drugs, ensure you do not share injecting equipment.
- Get Hepatitis A and B vaccination.
Condoms, used properly, are the most effective means of reducing the transmission of semen or vaginal fluids from one person to another, but will only protect you against infection if you use them every time you have sex. Condoms are available from supermarkets, chemists, condom vending machines, health services and family planning clinics. For information about how to use condom refer to the website.
For information about the most common STIs in Australia, refer to the following website: Sexually Transmitted Infections.
You can protect yourself or your partner from falling pregnant unintentionally by taking precautions and using contraception that suits your lifestyle and situations. In Australia there are many contraception choices that you can consider. Discuss your options with your local doctor.
Family Planning Australia has organisations all over Australia that provide a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services that focus on prevention, early intervention, diagnosis, treatment, and community education. For more information about services in your state, visit Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia.
Diet & nutrition
Living in a new country often means diet changes according to the food and produce that you have access to. A western diet tends to be higher in fat than diets from the Asian region, and changes in your diet have an effect on your health and nutritional state.
There are many benefits to eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet:
- Having the energy to exercise, socialise and work.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Improved ability to concentrate and cope with stress.
- Reduce the risk of common health issues, including excess weight, heart disease, blood pressure, certain cancers and constipation.
- Strong immune system to fight common colds and flu.
For tips about diet and nutrition in Australia refer to the following website: Nutrition Australia.
Regular physical activity has significant benefits for your overall health and wellbeing. Just 30 minutes of moderate activity each day can improve health and reduce the risk of developing some diseases. More intense activity (for those who are able and choose to do it) may provide additional benefit in terms of cardiovascular health.
People who enjoy physical activity benefit from:
- Increased energy levels
- Managing weight
- Releasing stress
- Overall improved physical health
- Feeling more positive about life
Joining exercise groups or team sports is also a great way to meet new friends! Your workplace or local sports centre may be able to provide you with recreational activities.
Alcohol & drugs
Alcohol is a part of most social occasions – people drink to celebrate, relax and have fun. Often we underestimate the effects that alcohol has on our bodies and behaviours. Using alcohol and other drugs can put you at risk. Understanding and using safely will help you minimise the risks associated.
Read our blog post on joining a sports team.
Even if you’re not usually the sporty type, joining a social team is an amazing way to meet new people and get fit while you’re at it.
You don’t need to be a natural athlete, just keen to work as a team, have a laugh, challenge yourself and learn new skills.
Image reference – Flickr: lukedcarberry / Creative Commons / Flickr: 16390691680