For Australian social wokers, slipping back into a job when returning home will be a cinch. Demand for your skills and experience is high.

Urgent need for social care in Australia

An ageing and burgeoning global population, widespread migration and a lack of qualified social workers has contributed to a rather dire situation in the field of social care in the UK and in Australia.

To give you an idea, there is a 14 per cent vacancy rate across the UK for social workers, and 30 per cent in London alone. The situation in Australia is a hot media topic, and for some years the government has been actively recruiting abroad.

The right qualifications

If you have worked in social care in the UK, Australia needs you, says Andrew Anastasiou, head of recruitment organisation HCL Social Care International.

UK-trained social workers “are valued in Australia because of their knowledge of various socioeconomic issues, as well as tried and proven methods of client care,” he says.

“In Australia, there is often a greater focus on therapeutic intervention, which many professionals find attractive.”

Sort your papers

There are some administrative hurdles that you will need to overcome before you can work Down Under.

For a start, you’ll need to have the papers to prove you are a qualified social worker. Non-citizens will also need a visa to work, although sponsorship may be an option.

You will need to have a minimum of three years’ experience if you work in the children and families discipline, and good references are essential. Be prepared to undergo a police and working with children check as well.

Additionally, having a valid and clear CRB (criminal records bureau) or home country police check as part of your application will prevent delays from the outset.

Who to call

Your first port of call should be a reputable agency, such as HCL (, which is contracted by the Australian government to entice expats and economic migrants to their shores.

Agencies can advise on where the best roles are and what the areas are like, and they can also assist with the paperwork, planning, and setting up telephone interviews.

Day in the life of a social worker

Anastasiou says social wokers can expect a more manageable caseload of clients than they are used to in the UK, however each case will, of course, still have its own complexities.

“It’s hands-on, front-line case work for the most part, with most states offering broad roles encompassing everything from intake, assessment, referral and case support along with court work,” he points out.

Work in rural Australia

Demand for social work is high in rural areas such as Utopia (below), so a career in social care could be a good opportunity for those who want to experience life outside the big Australian cities.

It’s also beneficial to have a sound knowledge of UK legislation and the Australian equivalent, and when you land an interview make sure you can articulate your experience and knowledge.

If your skills are suitable, it is highly likely you will can work with indigenous families in rural Australia, particularly the Northern Territory. This can be an opportunity for a real adventure as you could be covering a region of more than 400km.

Anastasiou says your fitness should be a major consideration as the extremes of heat and humidity can be quite taxing. And there is rarely a dull moment.

“At times we see an expectation that a worker will be out in light aircraft or 4WD vehicles to get to isolated communities and to stay overnight in very rural accommodation (a sleeping bag and a makeshift shelter), so it can turn out to be a bit of an adventure,” he says.