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The complete guide for graduates moving to Brisbane

Jaymes Carr

Moving to Brisbane as a graduate creates a world of opportunity. Make a smooth transition with our comprehensive guide for grads.

When it comes to Australia’s three east-coast capital cities, Brisbane often gets overlooked by visitors, who choose instead to spend their time in Melbourne or Sydney. Their loss, it turns out: Brisbane, as you’ll learn in the guide, is a vibrant, friendly, and fast-growing city with a pulsing arts and culture scene, an enviable position near the Sunshine Coast, and a healthy job market for ambitious grads across most industries.

With two million residents, Brisbane is Australia’s third most populous city and sits just next to a picturesque bend in the Brisbane River. Boasting excellent food, extensive parklands, and a motto that captures the city’s charmingly laidback attitude (Meliora Sequimur: “We aim for the best”), Brisbane offers graduates a way to escape the rat-race of Australia’s larger capitals without sacrificing access to modern infrastructure, international career opportunities, and big-name entertainment. This guide will cover everything you need to land on your feet in Brisbane, the capital city of a state whose official aquatic emblem is the clownfish.

Pros and cons

Pros

Beautiful winters

Brisbane has a subtropical climate that is warm and wet for most of the year. As we’ll see below, this can lead to dramatic summer weather, with high temperatures, thunderstorms, and a sudden influx of tourists. In fact, many would say that Brisbane’s climate is most appealing in winter when cold crisp mornings give way to mild days with low humidity and temperatures of 11–21°C. In June, the sun rises at 6.30 am and sets around 5 pm: you can watch it over the misty Brisbane River on your way to work, and again on the way home. Brisbanites agree: it’s a sight that never gets old.

Some of Australia’s best fresh produce

Perhaps you don’t like mangoes, or bananas, or peaches, nectarines, passionfruit, pineapples, and papaya. Suit yourself. But if you’re a sensible person and agree that tropical fruits are the best fruits of all, then Brisbane’s almost year-round supply of fresh and affordable produce will convince you never to leave (and perhaps also to purchase a Nutribullet). You can stock up at the Brisbane Markets and then go home to feast (and maybe send some food pics to your jealous friends in Sydney and Melbourne).  

You can get involved in Brisbane’s active nightlife

Brisbane has countless bars, from swanky riverside wine specialists to casual rooftop bars and live music venues. Your night-time options also include comedy clubs, outdoor cinemas, sports games (of course), river cruises, ghost tours, and even the Wheel of Brisbane, a ferris wheel in South Bank that rises 60m into the sky. We’ll have more later on about the various ways you can spend a pleasant evening in Brisbane: for now, suffice it to say that you won’t be short on options.

Brisbane isn’t as busy as Sydney or Melbourne

Melbourne and Sydney have earned themselves reputations as cosmopolitan population hubs for people who can keep up with (or learn to endure) a certain degree of rushiness. People there are busy, want you to know that they’re busy, and may even wonder why you don’t seem busy too. Not so in Brisbane: it’s got an altogether more relaxed vibe, with people getting things done but not making a whole lot of noise about it. In other words, it’s a great place to go if you’d like to escape the rat-race without sacrificing all the conveniences that living in a major city can offer.

If you love sport, you’ll fit right in

From the Suncorp Stadium to the Brisbane Cricket Ground (which it’s best to refer to as ‘the Gabba’ unless you want to signal that you’re a new arrival), Brisbane is dotted with evidence of the enthusiasm its residents have for sports of all kinds. The most popular sport in Brisbane is rugby union, with large crowds, are drawn also to games of cricket, football (soccer), Australian rules football, and basketball. Major events include the Brisbane International(tennis), the State of Origin series (rugby union), and the Ashes (cricket).   

Cons

Punishing summers

Brisbane’s subtropical climate offers year-round warm to hot temperatures. This is good news in winter (Brisbane has never recorded a temperature lower than 2°C), but can be unpleasant during the summer months. From December to February, temperatures can reach as high as 40-45°C (107°F), with average maximum daytime temperatures of 31-33°C (88-91°F). Humidity levels are also high during summer, leading to frequent thunderstorms often accompanied by hail and strong gusts of wind.

Needless to say, if you’re new to Brisbane, you should make a habit of wearing a hat and hydrating regularly during the hot months. Sunscreen is also essential: Brisbane has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

Divisive public transport system

The public transport network in Brisbane is administered by TransLink, a state government agency that coordinates bus, ferry and rail services. It also oversees the use of ‘go card’, an electronic smartcard ticketing system valid across Queensland (including the light rail network in the Gold Coast).

Over the past few years, new data has reinforced certain criticisms of the transport system, such that it’s inefficient and overpriced. For example, a 2017 study found that Brisbane residents spend an average of 68 minutes per day commuting, with 43% changing public transport types at least once. A more recent report confirmed that Brisbane is, indeed, the most expensive city in Australia for public transport users.

To be fair, TransLink has responded to the criticisms, introducing a renewed pricing structure, and modifying timetables to reduce travel times during the rush hour. It remains to be seen whether or not this is enough to win over the public transport system’s detractors.

Cane toads and mosquitoes

If you’re not sure what a cane toad is (or looks like), then you definitely should not click this link. Or this one. Or… this one. Here’s what you need to know: cane toads are the world’s biggest toads, and were introduced to Australia in 1935 because they had been seen (in Puerto Rico) feasting up a certain type of beetle that threatened Queensland’s important sugarcane crops. However, as it turned out, the cane toad, which has poison glands and reproduces via thousands of toxic tadpoles, is not a fussy eater:

'Cane toads mostly eat insects but will consume whatever else they can fit into their mouth including spiders, snails, small frogs, other cane toads, reptiles and mammals. Unlike native frogs, toads also eat inanimate items including pet food, cigarette butts and animal excreta.'

This indiscriminate diet, coupled with an absence of natural predators (all of which die upon eating cane toads), has led the number of cane toads in Queensland to increase exponentially: some estimates put the figure at around 1.5 billion. Will you see them in Brisbane? Yes, it’s inevitable. Can anything good be said about cane toads? Well, there are also plenty of mosquitoes in Brisbane during the summer months (including some that carry Dengue fever), and, as mentioned above, cane toads will eat practically anything…

In theory, you could catch rabies...

If you’re moving to Brisbane, it’s important to be sensible and safe when interacting with wild animals, especially bats, which are the primary transmitters of Australian bat lyssavirus (or ABLV, a disease in the same family as rabies), as well as Hendra virus, Nipah virus, and Menangle virus.

If you believe you may have been exposed to ABLV (i.e. because you’ve been scratched or bitten by a wild bat), don’t panic: instead, refer to the information on this page. Prompt post-exposure vaccinations will prevent the development of ABLV symptoms.

Note that no risk is associated with living, playing or walking near bat roosting areas. Furthermore, it should be emphasised that ABLV is a very rare disease thought to be carried by fewer than one per cent of wild bats (the figure rises to seven percent if the bat is injured or visibly ill).

Rent and cost of living

How much is rent in Brisbane?

For many years, Brisbane has been seen as an affordable alternative to Sydney and Melbourne for both renters and would-be homeowners. Across Brisbane, the median weekly asking rent in the first quarter of 2018 was $400 per week for a house and $375 per week for a unit.  

May 2018 report by SGS Economics and Planning found that rental costs in most suburbs of Greater Brisbane remained at an acceptable level, with an average household spending about 25 percent of its income on housing (generally, ‘rental stress’ is said to occur when rent consumes more than 33 percent of one’s income).

However, rental properties within Brisbane’s inner suburbs are still unaffordable, especially for single-income tenants hoping to sign a lease (instead of entering a sharehouse). According to a 2018 report by Compass Housing‘the median rent for a basic two-bedroom apartment in one of Brisbane’s inner suburbs is $480 per week. To pay that without experiencing housing stress requires an income of at least $1600 per week, which puts it beyond the reach of a typical teacher, accountant, journalist, veterinarian or IT professional’.

What does the future look like for renters in Brisbane?

Brisbane has one of the highest proportions of renters in Australia, with the number of individuals living in rental properties expected to hit 2.1 million within the next decade. Experts fear that this will increase rental costs faster than incomes can keep up. Indeed, this already appears to be happening: between 2006 and 2016, reports the ABS, Brisbane median rents increased by 61 per cent, while incomes increased by only 40.5 per cent. As a result, many pundits predict higher levels of rental stress in Brisbane over the coming decade.

The good news is that the Queensland government has been relatively proactive in addressing the rental affordability problem, especially insofar as it affects people from low- to medium-income households. Eligible tenants can apply for bond loans and rental grants, as well as support under the National Rental Affordability Scheme. Recently, the Queensland government also initiated its first review in more than 40 years of the state’s tenancy laws. The process aims to modernise existing tenancy laws so that renters can, for example, own pets, hang up photos, and compel landlords to complete urgent repairs and upgrades.

Key resources

How much will I spend on everyday purchases in Brisbane?

Cost of living is a major issue for Brisbane residents and the number one determinant of where they choose to live. The June quarter consumer price index report found that the cost of living increased slightly, with the main culprits being more expensive automotive fuel (+7.4%), medical and hospital services (+2.7%) and tobacco (+2.7%).

A recent partnership between RACQ and Deloitte has resulted in reports on topics such as the cost of living in Queensland, the cost of entertainment, and the cost of health. They reveal that food costs an average household about $200 per week and entertainment about $160 a week. According to the price aggregation website Numbeo, one litre of milk in Brisbane is about $1.30; monthly utility costs (excluding internet) are $178.63; a movie ticket is $16, and a meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant is $75.00.

Where in Brisbane should I live?

The inner-city area of Brisbane is broken up into twelve major areas (click the link for a helpful map), each with a unique vibe and that may (or may not) match your interests. For example, the West End is Brisbane’s edgy, bohemian district, where you’ll find alternative bookstores, organic produce, arts and crafts, and a lively migrant community. By contrast, Ascot and Hamilton, on the north bank of the Brisbane River, contain some of the city’s most prized real estate, including various heritage-listed properties constructed during Brisbane’s early history as a settlement.

Popular options for people moving alone to Brisbane include Fortitude Valley, New Farm, the West End, and South Bank. However, as noted in the previous section, all of these inner-city areas are becoming increasingly expensive, so it may be worth investigating properties within reach of the CBD via public transport, but far out enough to be more affordable. You can use the interactive map on this page to view housing affordability across Brisbane and refer to the suburb profiles here.

Tips for choosing a place to live

The question of where you should live in a new city (or the one you already call home) is not a trivial one: in fact, copious amounts of research has shown that where you live has marked an impact on measures of satisfaction, well-being, and mental health. The effects are seen when one switches cities or suburbs, and can even reflect how close one lives to the main road or busy intersection.

As a result, experts advise people to consider their options carefully before relocating. To give yourself the best chance of being satisfied with your address, you should choose a suburb where your income is at least as high as the median incomeminimise the length of your commute; aim, if appropriate, to put off moving again for as long as possible; consider how a new address will impact the accessibility of parks, gardens and other restorative natural environments; and, whenever possible, choose locations where you will be able to embed yourself more easily in a social network (for example, by living close to other young professionals), supportive communities, and people with similar interests or cultural concerns.

Of course, moving house brings with it a large number of practical considerations, many of which will be unique to you and your interests. The following questions are intended to provide some clarity as you research your options and navigate the inevitable compromises of renting life:

  1. Where is the suburb? (It would be easy as a newcomer to confuse Eight Mile Plains and Seventeen Mile Rocks, or New Farm and Newstead, or Woodend and Woodill. If you’re not sure, consult the helpful maps on the Brisbane City Council website.)
  2. How valuable to you are space and privacy?
  3. Do you prefer the city, suburban, or rural environments?
  4. Do you own a car? If not, is there reliable public transport (or safe cycleways)?
  5. How will your choice of suburb affect commuting times?
  6. Is it important for you to be near good restaurants? Fresh food markets? Beaches?
  7. What’s your budget?
  8. Where do you work?
  9. How long do you plan to live in your next house?
  10. Do you need a big outdoor area?
  11. Do you enjoy solitude or would you prefer to be nearer to the nightlife?
  12. Is it important for you to live somewhere with a strong sense of local community?
  13. Would you like to live close to a shopping centre? A local library? A swimming pool? A train station?
  14. Have you considered how you might build (or maintain) social connections when you move? Will the suburb you choose affect this?
  15. Can you learn more about the suburb to determine whether or not you’d be a good cultural fit for the area?
  16. What’s the local arts and culture scene like? Is this very important to you?
  17. Are there any local parks, reserves, or other open spaces?
  18. What’s the local crime rate like?
  19. Will you have adequate broadband and mobile coverage?
  20. How does your suburb compare to other suburbs? (NB: This can be one of the hardest questions to answer when you’re new to an area. If possible, it’s always best to ask a trusted local for their opinion.)

How do I find flats, apartments, or a room in a share house? What about flatmates?

There are a variety of tools that you can use to look for accommodation and flatmates in Brisbane, some of which are free with basic features (like Gumtree) and others of which charge a fee. Some of the more popular options include:

If you’re on Facebook, it can also be helpful to check whether or not there are any groups for individuals looking to rent or share in different regions of Brisbane.

The job market for graduates in Brisbane

Major industries: health care and social assistance, retail trade, professional, scientific and technical services, construction, education and training

Labour market conditions across Australia have slowly improved over the five years, with youth employment increasing strongly, up by 43,800 (or 2.4%) over the year to 1,891,000 in January 2018. Importantly, the rise in youth employment was due to an increase in full-time employment (up by 44,400), which is the category in which most graduates hope to find themselves.

In Queensland, around half of all jobs are in Brisbane, with an additional 13% in the Gold Coast area (a one and half hour drive from the CBD). Despite the fact that employment growth in Queensland is projected to be slightly below the national average (at 7.6%) over the five years leading to 2022, statisticians anticipate the creation of new jobs in mining, health, accommodation,

When it comes to graduates specifically, the outlook is increasingly positive across the nation, with ‘71.8% of bachelor degree graduates finding full-time employment after graduating in 2017, up from the recent low of 68.1% in 2014’. The most recent Graduate Outcomes Survey (published by the Social Research Centre) confirms that, in 2017, ‘71.8 percent of undergraduates were in full-time employment four months after completing their degree’. 

Key statistic: The federal government anticipates that, by May 2022, there will be more jobs in Brisbane for graduates in healthcare and social assistance, professional scientific and technical services, education and training, and public administration and safety. There will be fewer jobs in utilities and mining.

(Labour Market Information Portal, Regional Employment Projections, Outlook to May 2022).

 

What do graduates in Brisbane earn?

Brisbane offers professional graduates relatively high average salaries that are competitive both globally and in comparison to other Australian capital cities. The following average salaries are taken from the 2018 Hays Salary Guide, which itself draws on a survey of 3,000 businesses in Australia and New Zealand that together employ some 2.3 million people. We’ve included a representative sample of salaries for popular graduate occupations: if yours isn’t listed, consult the GradAustralia website for more information. Note that the average salaries below exclude superannuation.

Role

Average salary

(first year)

Average salary

(2-4 years)

Accountant $40,000-50,000 $60,000-65,000
Architect $49,000-70,000 $70,000-90,000 (5+ years)
Business services $36,000-40,000 $45,000-55,000
Civil/structural engineer $70,000-140,000 Unavailable
Entry-level design engineer $50,000-65,000 Unavailable
Legal (private practice in top-tier firm) $55,000-69,000 $75,000-92,000
Legal (private practice in mid-tier firm) $48,000-55,000 $65,000-85,000
Legal (private practice in small firm) $48,000-50,000 $55,000-75,000
Metallurgist $70,000-100,000 $120,000-135,000
Mining engineer $70,000-100,000 $115,000-150,000
Physiotherapist $45,000-50,000 $55,000-70,000
Policy officer (government) $65,000-90,000 $90,000-120,000
Psychologist $44,000-50,000 $60,000-70,000
Teacher (government school) $65,000-98,000

$95,000-105,000 (head of department)

$126,000-160,000 (deputy principal)

$140,000-400,000 (principal)

Teacher (private school) $70,000-110,000

$110,000-126,000 (head of department)

$112,000-132,000 (deputy principal)

$112,000-185,000 (principal)

 

Lifestyle

Shopping

Brisbane’s shopping scene revolves around Queen Street Mall: located in the city’s CBD, between George Street and Edward Street, Queen Street Mall is a 500 metre long pedestrian mall with more than 700 retailers, including six major shopping centres (one of which, The Myer Centre, contains Queensland’s largest department store). It receives over 26 million visitors each year, making it the undisputed shopping hub of Brisbane.

Other popular shopping destinations in Brisbane include James Street in Fortitude Valley, which is the place to go for swanky fashion outlets; the suburb of Paddington, which contains the famous Paddington Antiques Centre; and West End, which is chock-full of op shops and alternative retailers.

Eating

The local food scene in Brisbane reflects the multicultural enclaves within the city (for example, the Greek population of South Bank and the Asian communities in Sunnybank and Calamvale:), as well as the local availability of fresh produce. If you’re not sure where to start, check out Visit Brisbane’s list of the 63 food items you must try in Brisbane, from a burger at Ben’s Burgers to a chocolate brownie at Dello Mano. For cafes, try West End, which is home to local favourites like The Gunshop CafeThree Monkeys, and Suburban West End.

If you’re more interested in fine dining for a special occasion (or because you want to treat yourself), The Urban List maintains a helpful list of the 50 best restaurants in Brisbane: for what it’s worth, locals swear by the Japanese curries at Kadoya and rate the Middle Eastern food at Ahmet's Turkish Restaurant. If you’ve got the right wardrobe (and enough cashola), critics the world over agree that Ecco Bistro and Il Centro are unmissable.  

Nightlife

Brisbane’s eclectic nightlife includes everything from rooftop bars (check out Eleven) and clubs (our local insiders maintain that Cloudland is an obligatory stop), to cocktail lounges and river cruises. However, while all of these things are undoubtedly memorable experiences, Brisbane’s nightlife really stands out when it comes to live music, which has led to it being described as one of the world’s five music hotspots. For an overview, check out the Visit Brisbane guide, which covers smaller clubs as well as stadium venues. If you’re after some local guidance, though, here it is: start with Ric’s Cafe Bar (the Brisbane live music venue) then head to the Brooklyn Standard for live blues; the Doo-Bop Jazz Bar (for the obvious); Crowbar Brisbane for local and international rock, punk, metal, and alternative; or The Bearded Lady (for a mix of everything).

Arts and culture

If you’re looking for the galleries and museums of Brisbane, then head to South Bank, where you’ll find the Queensland Cultural Centre, which contains the Queensland Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery, the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, the State Library of QueenslandQueensland Writers Centre, and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Major cultural events in Brisbane include the Brisbane International Film Festival, the Paniyiri Greek Festival, the Royal Queensland Show, and Brisbane Festival.

Finding out what’s on

If you’d like a sense of everything that’s happening in Brisbane, then you’re best bet is to check a website that aggregates events and venue reviews, such as Concrete Playground BrisbaneTime Out Brisbane, or What’s On Brisbane. These offer a great way to learn not only about events in the CBD but also about worthwhile day trips, such as a hike around Mt Coot-tha. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to check the events pages of major venues in Brisbane, and keep an eye out for events that might interest you, many of which are listed on the Visit Brisbane page.

Meeting people in Brisbane

Straight up: the best way to meet people in Brisbane (or anywhere for that matter) is to get a really, really cute dog and just walk around with it. If that’s not possible, then here are some other things you can try:

  • Social apps: check for local social groups and activities on Facebook, or meet new people using apps like Tinder (caveat lector), MeetUp, or Nabo
  • Volunteer with a local organisation
  • Get your hands dirty at a community garden
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Join a gym or take up yoga

Getting around Brisbane

Brisbane has an extensive network of cycle paths, and Brisbane City Council provides free classes to help new arrivals in the city familiarise themselves with cycling etiquette and basic skills.

The public transport in Brisbane encompasses buses, ferries, trains, and light rail, all of which are overseen by TransLink. You’ll need to get a go card to get started (they’re available from various retailers across Brisbane). You can then plan your trip using the TransLink journey planner tool.

Driving around Brisbane is relatively straightforward, with its various suburbs linked by roads, tollways, and a growing network of tunnels. You can learn more about the road network here, or visit this page for recommendations of some scenic trips outside the city.

Don’t forget!

We’ve covered the big things that you’ll want to know before moving to Brisbane, but it’s important to remember the little things too. Here’s a quick list of resources that will help you make sure that you’ve covered everything.

Legal resources

After moving to Brisbane, you’ll need to change your enrolment address and also, if necessary, update your driver’s license with the Department of Transport and Main Roads. If you move into shared or rented accommodation, it’s advisable that you lodge your bond with the Residential Tenancies Authorities. If you require legal advice, you can access free support through one of Queensland’s Community Legal Centres or contact Legal Aid Queensland.

Health resources

Moving cities can be hard—you’ll have to adapt to a new job, new accommodation, and a new environment, all while building a social network far from the one you left behind. If you require support through the transition, or as a result of other life events, don’t hesitate to avail yourself of free (or affordable) resources dedicated to mental health. These include Lifelineheadspace, and various local organisations. For other health services, including a directory of hospitals and clinics, visit the Queensland Health page.

Financial resources

Need help opening a new bank account? Managing your superannuation? Making a budget? Check out this list of free financial literacy courses, access free advice via the national debt helpline, or use the ASIC Money Smart tool to find a trusted financial counsellor in your area.

Other useful resources

So if you love the thought of milder winters, endless tropical fruit and all the advantages of a big city, without the big city pressures, Brisbane might just be the right place for you.