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The complete guide for graduates moving to Perth

Jaymes Carr

Moving to Perth as a graduate is full of endless possibilities and stunning beaches. Make a smooth transition with our comprehensive guide for grads.

Located a 2,600km drive away from Adelaide (its nearest neighbouring capital), Perth can sometimes seem, on a map at least, like it must be a lonely place (even if, contrary to popular belief, it's not the most isolated capital city in the world). The good news is that nothing could be further from the truth: yes, Perth might be two timezones away from Melbourne and Sydney, but there's a reason that Australia's fourth most populous state capital has repeatedly been ranked as one of the world's most livable cities (it came in seventh in 2017).

Whether swimming at Cottesloe Beach or getting lost in Kings Park, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in Perth, which, along with the superb weather and local professional opportunities, make it an appealing destination for graduates. So, if you’re leaning towards launching your career in Western Australia’s largest city, read on to learn what you should know first.  

Pros and cons

Pros

Perth’s weather is terrific—even by Australian standards

People from across the world flock to Australia for its sunny weather, moderate rainfall, and mild winters: all areas in which Perth puts the other Australian capital cities to shame. Perth’s climate has been described as ‘temperate and Mediterranean’, which is, essentially, code for ‘perfect’.  Summers are hot and dry (read: without the intolerable humidity of the eastern capitals), while winter temperatures hover around 19°C (that’s the early summer average in a city like London).

However, it’s not just with enviable temperatures that the people of Perth are spoiled: they also enjoy life in Australia’s sunniest capital, with more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year (to be fair, if you’re following the guidelines and spending as much time outside as possible, this means you’ll need to reapply sunscreen between 750 and 1,500 times).

You’ll get to enjoy that weather at countless stunning beaches

If you’re wondering what to do with all that paradisiacal weather, don’t worry: Perth has got you covered. There are countless beaches in Perth, from famous locations such as Cottesloe Beach, an ideal place for swimming, surfing, and snorkelling, to secret gems like Bailey Beach, where, if you’re lucky, you might just spot a rare leafy-sea dragon.

Of course, if you’re feeling adventurous, you’re not limited to the beaches of Perth. Instead, you could spend a weekend in Lucky Bay (an eight hour drive), where kangaroos are sometimes seen relaxing on the sand, or even travel north to Ningaloo Reef (an eleven hour drive or two hour flight) and enjoy a few days swimming amongst dugongs, coral, and whale sharks.

Alternatively, you can hop on a ferry from Fremantle (a 28 minute train ride from Perth Station) and enjoy the sun on Rottnest Island, which offers stunning beaches, fur seal colonies, and the possibility of an Instagrammable rendezvous with (arguably) the world’s most photogenic marsupial (no, you can’t keep one as a pet).

The public transport is terrific

A hypothetical question: you’ve finished your degree in Sydney and flown across the country to start a new career in Perth—at which point are you most likely to experience culture shock? Well, imagine suddenly having access to the best public transport in the country: trains run at least every 15 minutes on all lines, even during off-peak times, and—here is the real shock—nine out of ten locals say they are satisfied with the available public transport, while 95% report that they are ‘happy with the punctuality of Transperth’s offerings’. What’s more,  If you’re reading this on a crowded bus in Sydney, or a delayed train in Melbourne, it might just be enough to inspire you to book your ticket to Perth right now.

Cons

The weather can be punishingly hot in summer

This may seem at odds with what we said earlier about how excellent Perth’s weather is: and we stand by that claim. However, it would be unfair not to warn you that Perth can still get very hot. How hot? Maximum summer temperatures can exceed 35°C/95°F, at which point local Perthlings give thanks for the ‘Fremantle Doctor’: a cooling sea breeze that offers some late afternoon relief on the hottest days of summer. Note that, in 2018, the hottest day of the year came after the end of a unusually cool summer, when, in early March, the temperature suddenly hit 38.5°C and the Fremantle Doctor was nowhere to be seen.

The startup culture in Perth is still starting up (but it’s starting up fast)

For much of the 2000s, the economy of Perth was buoyed by a resources boom that, at its peak, resulted in mining investment accounting for around two-thirds of Australian economic growth. With many pundits now reporting that the boom is at an end, Perth has had to adapt: and it’s making a beeline towards the establishment of a local digital economy conducive to startups. While still a nascent industry in Perth, the startup culture is continuing to grow and currently includes more than a dozen coworking spaces, as well as 12 incubators and accelerators. It’s supported by organisations such as StartUp WA, which recently reported that the high-tech sector would create over 150,000 new jobs by 2025.  

Perth is distant from most other cities

As noted above, Perth is not the world’s most isolated capital city (depending on how you measure it, that record belongs to either Auckland or Honolulu). Nevertheless, there’s no getting around the fact that Perth is distant from most other places: a four to five hour flight from Sydney, a five to six hour flight from Brisbane, and a five hour flight from its nearest neighbour, Adelaide. Also, you will fly, because the alternatives range from an expensive 70 hour train ride between Perth and Sydney to a car trip from Perth to Darwin that, while undoubtedly picturesque, will also take several days.

You’ll probably get sick of defending Perth to your friends in other places

Why do you live in Perth though? You can tell your interstate friends about the beautiful beaches, about how nice it is that the sun is always up when you finish work, about the local wines, and picnics on the banks of the Swan River, and the great time you had at the Perth Fringe Festival, but… some of them still won’t get it. Especially if they live in Sydney or Melbourne. There may come a day when you come close to losing your patience and telling the haters not to knock Perth until they visit. But it would be better not to: they may very well decide to stay.

Rent and cost of living

In 2018, the Mercer Cost of Living Survey, which takes into account some 200 international expatriate destinations, ranked Perth as the 61st most expensive city in the world overall: that is, cheaper than the eastern capitals (Sydney and Melbourne) and Darwin, but slightly less affordable than Brisbane and Adelaide. Of course, a fuller picture emerges when one focuses on specific expense categories. It then becomes easier to see, for example, that Perth has an comparatively affordable housing and petrol, but could be a pricey city for grads who like to spend their hard-earned cash on entertainment and eating out.

How much is rent in Perth?

For would-be renters in Perth, 2018 has brought a wave of good news: in March, the Australian Housing Industry Association reported that Perth had become the most affordable city in Australia by a significant margin, with average monthly mortgage repayments calculated at around $2,194, or 27.5% of gross average earnings. This is a far cry from, say, Sydney, where average monthly mortgage repayments chew up 67.5% of an average salary. Of course, as a graduate, you mightn’t (yet) have a mortgage to worry about. So you’ll be glad to know that Perth is also one of the more affordable capital cities for renters. Currently, the median weekly rent is $355 for houses in Perth and $300 for units.

There is, of course, significant variation between suburbs, which range from more affordable areas such as Camillo (median rent of $250/week), Armadale (median rent of $250/week), and Medina (median rent of $230/week), to the rarefied (and expensive) enclaves of Dalkeith (median rent of $800/week), Floreat (median rent of $750/week), and North Fremantle (median rent of $625/week).  Houses tend to be the dominant rental property type in outer metropolitan areas, whereas flats are more prevalent in areas closer to the centre of Perth. If you’d prefer to share a house, Perth’s average price-per-room is one of the country’s lowest, at around $120/week.While property prices in Perth are currently trending downwards overall, this pattern isn’t consistent across suburbs, some of which (such as the exclusive Peppermint Grove) have grown more expensive in the last year. As such, it’s a good idea to consult up-to-date information when considering your own move to Perth. The best places to start are the realestate.com.au and REIWA websites, both of which provide regularly updated suburb profiles that include median rent data. You can also get a general idea of property prices across Perth by consulting the interactive map on the PwC CityPulse Perth profile (this is particularly helpful because it lets you highlight suburbs that match your budget).

How much will I spend on everyday purchases in Perth?

According to the website Expatistan, which aggregates average prices in world cities, a basic lunch in Perth will set you back AU$18; a dozen eggs is $5.30, two litres of Coca-Cola is $3.35, two movie tickets are $37, a one-month gym membership in the CBD is $51, and a month of public transport is around $78. Expatistan ranks Perth’s utilities prices as the fifth most expensive in the world (on month of gas, electricity, and water will cost two people in an 85m2 flat about AU$451) and it’s cigarettes as the second-most expensive in the world.

Where in Perth should I live?   

From the prestigious suburbs of Subiaco and Cottesloe to the newer apartment blocks of Lathlain, Rivervale, and Burswood, Perth has something to suit almost every taste: so how do you find somewhere that suits you?

A good place to start is with the ‘neighbourhood profiles’ on the City of Perth council’s website. These will give you a general sense of the vibe across Perth’s main districts, and also highlight local bars, cafes, and nightlife destinations.

If you need more detailed advice, we recommend this informal guide to the suburbs of Perth, which contains helpful observations, such as that Applecross, though pretty, is accessible only via a thoroughly unpretty highway, and that Victoria Park, which is only half-gentrified, could be a good option for new arrivals who want an affordable but chic place to call home. 

Finally, if you’re struggling to figure out where the suburbs are in the first place (“Is Melville north or south of the Swan River?”), a quick look at the interactive maps on the City of Perth website should help you get your bearings.

Tips for choosing a place to live in Perth

Ultimately, the Perth suburb that suits you best will reflect your preferences, social and professional obligations, and financial resources. There is no quick way to find your perfect match, so we recommend considering your preferences before using the online resources in the next section to do some further research (this will also give you a more reliable sense of prices in your target area).

We recognise, of course, that being able to choose a suburb based entirely on personal preferences is a luxury, even in Perth, so the following questions are intended to provide some clarity even when navigating the inevitable compromises of renting life:

  1. Where is the suburb? (Don’t get muddled! Greenmount and Greenwood are not the same place. If you’re unsure where in Perth a suburb is, use this map to find out.)
  2. How valuable to you is space and privacy?
  3. Do you prefer 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? The riverfront? 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 to Perth? Will the suburb 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, so, if you’re uncertain, we recommend PwC’s ‘CityPulse’ profile of Perth, which ranks each suburb in terms of its amenability to working, living, and playing.)  

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

There are a variety of tools that you can use to look for accomodation and flatmates in Perth, 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 Perth.

The job market for graduates in Perth

Major industries: Professional, scientific and technical services; healthcare and social assistance; mining; education and training
Smaller industries: Retail, construction, public administration, financial services

Let’s start with the bad news: according to the federal government’s Department of Jobs and Small Businesses, over the five years leading to 2018, Western Australia has had the weakest employment growth of any state or territory. This corresponds roughly to the end of the mining boom and, indeed, the subdued growth can be attributed largely to the fall in employment in mining (down by 32,700 or 26.9%) and manufacturing (down by 22,600 or 24.7%).

This had a disproportionate impact on graduates, who have faced increased competition for a shrinking number of job opportunities. In September 2017, the job search engine Adzuna reported that, in Western Australia, some 44 graduates compete for each graduate position, with many forced to relocate east (primarily to Sydney or Melbourne) in the pursuit of entry-level roles. By comparison, the average national ratio is 22 graduates for each graduate role (not ideal, but certainly more manageable).

The good news is that the Department of Jobs and Small Businesses anticipates a recovery, predicting that, over the five years to May 2022, employment in Western Australia will increase by 7.2% (just below the projected national growth of 7.8%). Many of these jobs will be in highly skilled industries, such as professional, scientific and technical services, that have traditionally provided a launchpad for many a graduate career. Perth also remains a city that favours qualified jobseekers, with more than 66% of its workers possessing a post-school qualification.

Also encouraging is the fact that, when it comes to graduates, the outlook is increasingly positive across the nation. In the 2017/2018 GradAustralia Top 100 report—which is based on a national survey of 16,000 students—about 60% of students said that they expected it to take more than three months to find an entry-level job after graduating. This, it turns out, is a pretty accurate estimate: the most recent Graduate Outcomes Survey (published by the Social Research Centre) found that, in 2017, ‘71.8 percent of undergraduates were in full-time employment four months after completing their degree’.

What do graduates in Perth earn?

Perth offers professional graduates salaries that are roughly on par with what they would receive in other Australian capital cities. Compared to other capital cities, graduate salaries in Perth tend to be higher for graduates in mining and engineering, but lower for graduates in financial services.

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 $45,000 $55,000
Architect $49,000-65,000 $70,000-90,000 (5+ years)
Business services $40,000-45,000 $50,000-70,000
Civil/structural engineer $80,000-100,000 Unavailable
Entry-level design engineer $75,000-90,000 Unavailable
Legal (private practice in top-tier firm) $55,000-64,000 $75,000-89,000
Legal (private practice in mid-tier firm) $48,000-59,000 $59,000-78,000
Legal (private practice in small firm) $37,000-59,000 $50,000-78,000
Metallurgist $75,000-100,000 Unavailable
Mining engineer $80,000-100,000 Unavailable
Occupational therapist $50,000-55,000 Unavailable
Policy officer (government) $60,000-80,000 Unavailable
Psychologist $40,000-55,000 $65,000-85,000
Teacher (government school) $65,000 Unavailable
Teacher (private school) $70,000-110,000 Unavailable

 

Lifestyle in Perth

Outdoor activities in Perth

Given Perth’s position as the sunniest capital city in Australia, as well as its position next to both the Swan River and the Indian Ocean, it’s no wonder that the city has become a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The key difference, if you move to Perth, is that, while the visitors must cram as much as the can into a few weeks, you’ll get to enjoy all the things Perth offers throughout the year. If you’re a thrillseeker, you can try jet-skiing in Rockingham, jet-boating near Fremantle, or sandboarding on the dunes of Lancelin, about an hour and half drive north of Perth.

The stunning biodiversity of the Indian Ocean is protected by a series of Commonwealth Marine Parks adjoining Perth, including Perth Canyon Marine Park (which protects Australia’s deepest underwater canyon, and an important feeding site for blue whales) and Two Rocks Marine Park (which includes a series of shallow lagoons containing various seaweeds, seagrasses, and marine animals). You can explore them on a boat (the peak whale watching season runs from September to December), go snorkelling (check out the Zebrafish at Mettam’s Pool), or, if you’re feeling super lazy (which is understandable, because, after all, you’re a hard-working graduate), you can let the marine life come to you and spend a day at the Aquarium of Western Australia (pro-tip: they have a shark sleepover every October!).

Finally, there are countless outdoor activities for graduates interested in a more placid day in the sun. For example, no description of Perth would be complete without a mention of Kings Park: at 400 hectares, Kings Park overlooks the Perth CBD, making it one of the world’s largest inner-city parks (it’s 60 hectares larger than New York’s Central Park, and 50 hectares larger than Hyde Park in London). Dotted with walking trails, cycling tracks, and some 50 public art installations, Kings Park is a popular venue for public events (such as the Kings Park Festival and various concerts) and the perfect place for a laidback picnic or BBQ. It also contains the Western Australian Botanic Garden and is a go-to destination for outdoor fitness junkies.

Of course, while it’s easily the biggest park in Perth, Kings Park isn’t your only option: if you’re looking for alternatives, try Sir James Mitchell Park in South Perth, Hyde Park (just north of the CBD), or one of the smaller locations on this list.

Arts and culture in Perth

The cultural life of Perth is largely oriented around the Perth Cultural Centre, a precinct in the inner-city suburb of Northbridge. It’s there that you’ll find the Art Gallery of Western Australia (which boasts more than 3,000 pieces of indigenous art), the Western Australian Museum (which hosts the annual Alliance Française Classic French Film Festival), the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, and the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia (which, in addition to hosting various performances throughout the year, is also home to an annual film festival dedicated to dogs).

Other venues you should know about include the Albany Entertainment Centre, His Majesty’s Theatre (primarily a venue for music, opera, and ballet), and the Perth Concert Hall (home to the criminally underrated West Australian Symphony Orchestra).

Naturally, the arts and culture itself is what takes place within the venues above, but it would be difficult to provide an exhaustive list of Perth’s cultural events. So, here’s a short course instead: if you like music, you need to know about Fringe World; if you enjoy comedy then you’ll want to know about the Perth International Comedy Festival and Stand Up for Comedy; if you want to see a film in a cool venue, don’t miss the Luna Cinema in Leederville or one of Perth’s outdoor cinemas; and if you feel more like creating than appreciating, then have a go at ceramics (harder than it looks), improv comedy (also harder than it looks), or glassblowing (unbelievably, most people report that this is easier than it looks).

Food in Perth

It would be remiss of us to write an article about moving to Perth and not mention one of its crown jewels: the Swan Valley. Home to stunning views and some of Australia’s foremost wineries, the Swan Valley is Western Australia’s oldest wine-growing region and located just 25 minutes from the Perth CBD. You can try wines (responsibly), sample various ciders (again, responsibly), and feast on various cheese and local delicacies (as irresponsibly as you please). Within Perth, there are countless places to eat out, from standout cafes like Sayers Sister and casual restaurant-bars (think The Flour Factory) to the upmarket degustations at C Restaurant in the Sky. For an introduction to the best dining experiences in Perth, check out this list, grab a friend or two, and get ready for some fine, fine dining.

Shopping in Perth

Retail shopping in the Perth CBD is centred around the pedestrian malls of Murray Street, Hay Street, and Forrest Chase, all of which are found within walking distance of Perth Station. There you’ll find department stores (like Myer), major international brands like H&M and Mecca Cosmetica, and various boutique stores. In West Perth, at Watertown (a shopping centre, not a suburb), you’ll find various factory outlet stores, and on King Street you’ll find high end designers such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Travel to the coast to Fremantle where you’ll find trendy boutiques and galleries, and the Fremantle Markets, where you’ll find fresh produce, excellent coffee, and so many buskers that they actually have a busking schedule. You can learn more about shopping opportunities in Perth on the City of Perth visitor’s website.

Finding out what’s on in Perth

If you’d like a sense of everything that’s happening in Perth, then you’re best bet is to check a website that aggregates events and venue reviews, such as Perth Happenings, Concrete Playground, Time Out Perth, and Visit Perth City. These offer a great way to learn not only about events in the CBD, but also about worthwhile weekend trips, such as a trip to the Ningaloo Reef or a hike through the Swan Valley. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to check the events pages of major venues in Perth, and keep an eye out for events that might interest you, such as the Perth International Jazz Festival, a local sports match, or the Perth Pet Expo.  

Meeting people in Perth

Straight up: the best way to meet people in Perth (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
  • Join a sports team
  • Get your hands dirty at a community garden
  • Learn a new skill like pottery painting, meditation, or jiu jitsu
  • Join a gym or take up yoga
  • Get involved in social activities organised by your employer (many graduate programs will include social gatherings at which you’re encouraged to get to know your new colleagues)

Getting around Perth

The public transport system of Perth is overseen by Transperth, which manages a reliable and well-maintained network of buses, trains, and ferries. Everything you need to know about the public transport system, include fares, service updates, timetables, and journey planners, is available on the Transperth website.

Cycling is a beautiful way to get around Perth and the local councils actively encourage it, with commuter paths within the CBD and longer routes that connect Perth to Midland (16km away), Rockingham (about 48km away), and even the Swan Valley (about 26km away). You can find a variety of metropolitan and recreational cycling maps on the Western Australian Department of Transport website.

Finally, for those journeys that must be made in a car, Perth is very accommodating (though the centre of the CBD is definitely designed to encourage public transport or walking instead, and native Perthlings almost all agree that the Canning Highway was designed to torment them). For an overview of road and traffic information in Perth, visit the City of Perth website here.

Don’t forget!

We’ve covered the big things that you’ll want to know before moving to Perth, 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 Perth, you’ll need to change your enrolment address and also, if necessary, update your driver’s license through the Department of Transport. If you move into shared or rented accommodation, it’s advisable that you lodge your bond with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority. If you require legal advice, and you’re under the age of 25, you can access free support through Youthlaw, which is located in Georges Terrace. Alternatively, you can (at any age) contact Legal Aid Western Australia.

Health resources

Moving cities can be hard—you’ll have to adapt to a new job, new accomodation, 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 Lifeline (13 11 44), headspace, and local organisations such as YouthFocus and Helping Minds. If you need help access mental health services, including the support of a bulk-billing psychologist or psychiatrist, you can check out the information provided by the Government of Western Australia’s Mental Health Commission. For information about other health services, including hospitals and clinics, please refer to the Western Australia Department of Health website.

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. You can also access free financial counselling through the Perth branch of Anglicare or apply for grants, bond assistance, or emergency financial aid through the Western Australia community services portal.

Other useful resources