Cost of Living in Australia: School Fees

by BobinOz on November 26, 2009

in Cost of Living - Australia

In a previous post where I discussed cost of living comparisons, I promised (rather foolishly I think) to try to unravel school fee variations from state to state. I am often saying what a big country Australia is, perhaps I should bear that in mind when I make such rash promises!

The BobinOz rough guide to school fees in Australia.

First, let me make it clear that these are the fees that apply to Australian citizens and permanent residents. If you are here on a temporary visa then different fees may apply or you might get a grant.

The three main types of school:

  • Public (state) – run by and funded by government.
  • Private – run privately but subsidised by the government.
  • Catholic – run by Catholics and also subsidised by government.

schools Cost of Living in Australia: School FeesPublic schools.

The Australian Government has an obligation to provide state education via public schools to all children in Australia. Each public school has an obligation to accept all of the children within its catchment area. If they don’t have enough room, they must find some. If they don’t have enough teachers, they must hire some more.

All public education in Australia is free, but there is confusion because each school can charge a “Voluntary Contributions” and these seem to range from $60 per annum to as much as $1,000.

Interestingly, the $1000 figure came from a news article entitled “anger over school fees” from the Herald Sun and was about schools in the state of Victoria. Victoria is where Vivienne was talking about when she mentioned high public school fees in Australia in her open email to me.

So what happens if you don’t pay these voluntary contributions? I spoke to somebody who didn’t pay and they told me they got bombarded with reminders constantly, but that ultimately nothing specifically happened. But she only missed the payment for one year, she couldn’t handle the pressure!

I’m sure each school deals with it differently, some may prevent your child from taking music lessons or sport for example and no doubt if too many people don’t pay, the voluntary contributions fees would go up for those that do. I’m sure they will get their money from somewhere.

If you want to know some of the alleged tricks schools get up to to ensure these voluntary contributions are paid, then check out the above mentioned article over at the Herald Sun.

In addition to the voluntary contributions, parents will also have to pay for stationery, books, school uniform, sports equipment, musical instruments, school trips and any other items needed that are relevant to their studies.

About two thirds of Australian children go to public (state) schools.

Private schools.

If you want to send your child to a private school, you’re better off doing it here in Australia than you are back in England. That’s because, if I’m not mistaken, if you choose private education in England the government says “thank you very much” and pockets the money it saved by you choosing not to send your child to one of the government run schools.

Here in Australia, the government realise that your decision to go private is saving them money, so they effectively subsidise your payments by paying a grant to all private schools who in turn can reflect that in their fees to students.

So how much is private education? This is where it could get messy but I have found a way to make this real simple…………

Between $800 and $29,000 a year.

Want to try and guess where you need to go to spend $29,000 a year on education? Yes, you’ve got it. Victoria! Geelong Grammar apparently.

So as you can see, fees vary wildly. But generally speaking, the older your child the more expensive it gets. Typically the fees are in these bands:

  • Prep to year 6.
  • Years 7 to 9.
  • Years 10 to 12.

Furthermore, good discounts are available for sending more of your children, if you have them, to the same school. Some payments are tax deductible as well.

Catholic schools.

Catholic schools are funded in the same way as private schools in as much as they charge a fee to their students and they receive a government grant. But it appears that Catholic schools are substantially cheaper on average than private schools.

Expect to pay between $600 and $3000 a year.

According to the government, they pump $22.7 billion of public funding into state education (2.2m students) and a further $7.6 billion into private (independent and Catholic) schools (1.1m students).

School fees rough summary.

  • Public (state) schools: $60-$1000 a year. Average $150
  • Private schools: $800 to $29,000 a year. Average $6,300
  • Catholic schools: $600 to $3000 a year. Average $1,200

Plus the cost of uniforms, books and other stuff as previously mentioned. The average figures quoted are purely a BobinOz guess. I don’t think they’d be far out, but then I wouldn’t, would I?

Education costs in England.

Over in the UK, public (state) education is completely free, providing that hasn’t changed since I went to school.

Average private school costs are around £11,000 a year and Britain’s most expensive private school is Eton at £24,000 a year.

You could argue that private schools in the UK are more “elite” than they are here in Australia. After all only 7% of UK children attend private schools compared with over 30% here.

You could also argue that the quality of education in some of the UK’s state schools is equal to the education that some Australians pay for here privately. If that argument could be proved, then without a doubt the UK would win this cost comparison on the price of education. But until anybody can prove that……..

Who wins?

Public (state) schools here in Australia are more expensive than they are in the UK. But not by a lot. (Unless you go to Victoria). Once you’ve bought all the extra stuff, like the school uniform, stationery, sports kit etc, I’d like to wager Australian public schools can’t be anything much higher than 30% more expensive than the UK’s schools.

But private schools are cheaper here than in England. Quite a bit cheaper. In fact, at the least 50% cheaper, possibly as much as 70% cheaper when you compare the average £11,000 a year (that’s nearly $20,000) with the average of $6,300 here.

So, dare I award this category, the cost of education between England and Australia compared, to Australia?

No! But I’m calling it a draw.

Conclusion.

Don’t be too afraid of the cost of schooling here in Australia, it’s not that bad. And you do have the choice, you can pretty well spent as much or as little as you want.

Lesson 2:

I am pleased to announce that our teacher has returned to give us a second lesson, this one is called State School Fees for Temporary Visa Holders in Australia.

If you are coming here on a temporary 457 visa, you really must read it.

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

waleed February 27, 2010 at 8:42 am

here in the UK during year 10 and 11 (secoundry school) we take GCSE examination. 62.4% get A*-C Grades (college only accepts you if you have A* TO C) With 20% GETTING A*/A.
i would like to know whats the equivalent in australia and percentage.
thanks

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BobinOz March 1, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Hi Waleed

That’s a good question and also a timely reminder for me. A long while ago I promised to do a comparison of education levels between the UK and Australia. It has kind of slipped the net. So I will be looking into that, but it may take a fair bit of research.

Expect it to be the subject of a post on this blog before the end of the month.

Cheers

Bob

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kirsty January 16, 2011 at 7:15 am

If I am on a student 572 visa will I have to pay for my children to attend public school?
Just trying to work out figures and stuff before I go ahead :-)

Thanks.

Kirsty (UK)

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BobinOz January 17, 2011 at 1:10 am

Yes, but it won’t be a lot.depends on which school your children go to, so if you have a choice of schools, just ask them what contributions payments you’ll need to make.

Obviously you’ll need to buy uniforms and PE kit, that sort of thing, but additionally stationary, perhaps contributions to computers, maybe pay for music lessons, swimming, that sort of thing.

As I have said, you could pay as little as $60 a year or as much as $1000. It depends on the school. Just ask.

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tv April 18, 2011 at 7:34 am

Hi!

We’re moving to Australia with three kids on a 457 visa.
I’m trying to figure out what fees we would have to pay for the two oldest (8 and 10), and if the fees are tax deductible.

Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!

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BobinOz April 19, 2011 at 12:35 am

Hi tv
Everything I know about school fees is in the post. Every school sets its own fee structure, so I can’t give you any more accurate details than that.

But I’m pretty sure the fees are tax-deductible, so that will help. But do remember that many of the state run schools are also very good and you don’t have to pay for those. Apart from buying a few books etc.

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tv June 24, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I have now managed to get some more info on the matter.
In NSW the school fee is 4.500/child/year.
If you’re eligible for LAFHA you can deduct the total cost for schooling from your gross pay.

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BobinOz June 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Glad you sorted it out and thanks for coming back and letting us know. Always good to have the information.

Cheers

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Nicky April 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Save your money for weekend trips and fun.
Choose a state school based on how many happy faces leave the classroom at the end of the day and how many happy faces are waiting to greet them on the playground.
Pay for tutors to top up any weaker areas when your child is older. The cost will be lower, the help will be more focussed and you’ll sleep much better knowing you have a very happy child x

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BobinOz April 20, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more, Nicky. We considered private school for Elizabeth, but when we saw how good the local school was, we soon change our minds. It’s 5 minutes up the road instead of 45 min round trip by car, which also means that Elizabeth can have play dates after school with all her local friends. Which she does several times a week.

That wouldn’t happen so easily when you choose a school outside of your local area.

As for the education she gets at that school, we can’t fault it. And yes, the kids are so happy and smiley there. What more could you want?

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Edwin June 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm

I got a daughter who just graduated with a degree of nursing.
She wanted to pursue masteral degree in Australia preferably in catholic university or public colleges. Will you help us to fulfill her intention. By the way we are from the Philippines.

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Edwin June 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm

thanks a lot.

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BobinOz June 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Hi Edwin

I’d love to help, but it’s just not what I do. I simply write about life in Australia. Thanks!

Bob

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reena September 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Hi this is reena from bangalore working as a HR in a law office i have got an job opportunity in aust in an car show room vr as iam worried about my children studies in bangalore their kind of studies are different they r into ICSE stu and even iam worried about the fees structure am the sole owner of my family i stay alone vth my children so pls suggest me the school fees of 8th std and the 4rth stds

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BobinOz September 22, 2013 at 9:29 pm

That’s exactly what I have done in the article above, I can’t explain it any better than that.

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Edwin June 25, 2011 at 10:51 am

Thanks Bob for your quick reply. I am not after financial help from you bob. It is more on giving us assistance how can my daughter get there in Australia to study and work at the same time surely. Dont worry about the financial side, it is more on the concrete procedures, right school and right place for my daughter. Thanks a lot.

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BobinOz June 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Hi Edwin

I did not think for one minute you were looking for financial assistance. What I am saying is I am not qualified to help you with choosing the right school or the procedures required to pursue a Masters degree here in Australia.

Have you had a look around my migration advice page? You may find some help there.

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Murshed September 1, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Hi there

Just wanted to know is there any major differences in terms of educational quality between private schools and public schools in Australia

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BobinOz September 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Personally, I don’t think so. But all schools whether private or public vary in quality of their standards. But there is a way of finding out how good (or bad) each school is. Click on my link above in the menu called Migration Advice, and then go to the page about schools.

There’s the video there that explains everything.

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Eric October 25, 2011 at 5:43 pm

We don’t have to worry about this in the state because we have public education. The
cost of living by state would be more if this was the case. A lot of folks seems to think goverment voutures what be a good way to get our kids out of publics schools and into quality private schools but that would take money out our governments pocket because in the end nothing is for free when you are paying through tax dollars

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BobinOz November 4, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Thanks for that Eric, but just to clear up, we do have public education here too.

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Melinda October 26, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Thank you for this. Well, I am actually doing it the other way around, my son and I are leaving for England on the 11th of December. So it is good to be able to get an idea of the financial differences in education between the two countries. Especially since it’s from someone who has experience in both countries. My son has really enjoyed his first year (kindergarten) of school, so I’m hoping that he settles in to whichever school he goes to when we are in England.

I will still be reading your blog, I enjoy it and it is great to read your thoughts on everything. :)

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BobinOz November 4, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Thanks Melinda, glad you enjoy reading my blog. I hope you and your young son settle in England, it will be interesting to hear how you think it compares to Australia. So if you get the time to let us know :-)

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nikhil December 19, 2011 at 6:10 pm

i am coming in australia &find the best school

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BobinOz December 20, 2011 at 12:52 am

Great! Let us know when you find it.

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Vikash June 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Hi Bob,

We are planning to move to AUS in next five months with a two and a half years kid. You mentioned about items like school uniform, stationery, etc. which have to be bought by parents and which are not free in schools here. Can you tell me what is the rough average cost of these items for a primary school kid?

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BobinOz June 11, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Well, it depends on the school, but I think you’re looking at around $200-$300 roughly speaking.

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tv December 19, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Important update:

The LAFHA is going away.
The Government claims it is to “level the playing fields between temporary and permanent residents.”

Obviously they’re completely ignoring that temporary residents don’t have family tax benefit, social benefits, child care reductions in taxes AND that we have to pay $4.500 for public schooling per child.

But like the OZ prime minister once said, you’re free to leave, which is exactly what we’ll do.

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BobinOz December 20, 2011 at 12:59 am

Hi tv

Well I don’t know much about this LAFHA thing, except that it stands for Living Away From Home Allowance. I assume you have to pay this yearly school fee because you are not a permanent resident of Australia? Is that correct?

Is it also something that only happens in New South Wales?

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Kathleen Fraser December 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Hi there,

Our family is currently living in QLD (Brisbane) under a 457 work visa. We do not pay additional school fees at the state school our kids attend; we were told that this fee is not added in QLD.

Also, we had heard rumours that the LAFHA was going to be “gone” but we have also heard that private companies who need skilled labour from overseas are fighting this proposal, and that it might not be “gone” or at least phased out with new 457 Visas issued (but remain for those of us already here on the 457).

Cheers,
Kathleen

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Kathleen Fraser December 20, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Hi again,

I did a bit more research. And, here is a link re: LAFHA changes.

http://www.lafha.com.au/News/11-12-14/Q_As_For_Proposed_LAFHA_Changes.aspx

It says that LAFHA could be phased out for all current and incoming overseas workers by July 2012. But, the statutory changes have not been passed yet. The government is still consulting re: these changes. Make your opinion heard now if you have one. :)

Kathleen

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BobinOz December 21, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Thanks for the extra info Kathleen, it still looks like a New South Wales thing to me, can anyone confirm that? I notice the law hasn’t been passed yet, it’s one to keep an eye on.

I’ll try to find out more and do a post on it.

Cheers

Bob

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Kathleen Fraser December 22, 2011 at 11:13 am

I was told NSW and ACT are the only two states that charge 457 Visa holders school fees. I think it’s around $4500 for NSW and slightly more for ACT. There are definitely no extra fees in QLD.

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BobinOz December 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Thanks Kathleen!

There’s your answer tv, (comment a few above this one) move out of NSW. Brisbane is nice.

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BNR April 1, 2012 at 7:41 pm

I am a citizen of New Zealand, planning to move to Melbourne, is it possible for us to only pay the domestic student fee for my child who is in Year 8. Will the government cover any of the fee costs

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BobinOz April 2, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Not sure on that one, are you talking about state school education? We don’t pay for that up here in Brisbane, other than the odd small contribution.

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New to Oz April 17, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Victoria (the state where Melbourne is located) does not charge fees to temporary residents (e.g. 457 visa holders), unlike NSW and ACT. So you shouldn’t have to pay any fees beyond the standard “essential item costs” and “voluntary” contributions that everyone is asked to pay.

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BobinOz April 18, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Interesting. So QLD and VIC are OK, NSW & ACT not.

Anyone know about the others?

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Eliza May 30, 2012 at 6:09 am

If I was in Brisbane (from the UK) on a holiday visa for 8 weeks and wanted my 5 children to have some sort of education for this period of time, what would you advise? Private schooling for 8 weeks, or would a government funded school accept them (as foreign students) for some sort of financial contribution? What do you think?
Kind Regards
Eliza

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BobinOz May 30, 2012 at 9:28 pm

I’m only guessing here, but I think you might struggle with both of these options. A government funded school would need to see your centrelink number, but you won’t have one. Only residents get those.

I’m not sure how private schools work, but they are normally full for each new term, so may not be able to fit you in even if they technically can take your children. That’s all I know, maybe somebody else reading this can help.

Anybody?

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Ken July 10, 2012 at 12:23 am

I will go to abroad in Australia in next year but i don’t know how many money i will use in there (one year)
Could you help me?
Thank you!

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BobinOz July 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm

How can I, I have no idea what you will be buying?

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Anya July 19, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Hello, I was recently accepted to an MBBS program at the University of Queensland. I will be applying for a student visa from the United States ( i am a US citizen). I will be staying in Australia for two years (2013-2015). I have two school aged children that would need to attend primary school in Australia. I was told that I would have to pay AUD $8835.00 a year for each child to attend public school in Queensland and approximately AUD $1300 in additional costs per year. I can’t afford to pay over AUD $18,000 for my children’s school fees when I will be living off of student loans… how does this make sense? Is there any way to get around this? Do schools usually ask parents for immigration status when they do enrollments? Any form of advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

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Kathleen Fraser July 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Hi there Anya,

I am currently living in QLD on a 457 visa (I’m Canadian) and I have 2 children in primary school. I do not pay any extra fees for my children to attend school; it is a condition of our Visa that we can attend school or work, and we pay taxes in Australia as my husband has a full-time job here.

I would recommend checking the terms of your Visa (if it is granted by the government) to see what rights/privileges your family will have if you live here temporarily. Also, you could contact the Department of Education (Queensland state government) to confirm your costs (if any) after your Visa is granted. They will likely need to know what type of Visa you and your kids have before they could answer questions about costs.

Good luck!
Kathleen

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Kathleen Fraser July 19, 2012 at 5:41 pm

P.S. To answer your question about what schools need to register your kids, you will have to provide them with copies of your children’s passports, their Australian visas, and in our case, we had to prove that we resided in the catchment of the school that our kids are attending (you don’t always have to provide this last document, depends on the school that you choose).

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BobinOz July 20, 2012 at 1:12 am

Yes, I think the question you need to have answered Anya, is are your children entitled to go to a state school education here in Australia.

I don’t know the answer to that, depends on the terms of your visa, maybe student visas don’t qualify? But if they are entitled, go that route, there’s nothing wrong with state education in most schools here in Australia.

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Anya July 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Thank you for the input Kathleen and BobinOz!

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Dipti P Turner January 17, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Hi i am an Indian and planning to come down to Austrailia to work.Just wantes ro kwn how much shud i estimate for my 7 1/2 yr son.Please help me guide me.

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BobinOz January 19, 2013 at 12:12 am

As the article says, school fees vary quite a bit depending on what kind of school you choose to send your son. It does also very much depend on what kind of visa you will be here on as to whether you qualify for free state schooling or not.

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Trinioz January 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I can say that if I knew about NSW education fee of $4500 for each of my 3 children, before accepting a full time job here, I wouldn’t have accepted the job in the first place. Nobody told us of this fee when we moved from Queensland to NSW.

We came to Australia (QLD) with a 457 visa, a few years go. Now that we have been in NSW for over a year, we are hit with this “surprise”.

We are hopeful that maybe the company I work for will reimburse us. But if it doesn’t, as it wasn’t in the contract, we are bound back to my home country and with no job.

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BobinOz January 31, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I feel for you Trinioz, it would have been nice if somebody had mentioned this to you during the process. In my article above, I do make it clear this rough guide to fees only applies to Australian citizens and permanent residents, your comment has prompted me now to write a separate article explaining the state-by-state fees for temporary residents as it is important to be aware.

Is it not possible for you to return back to Queensland where these fees do not apply? Probably be better than going back to your home country, wouldn’t it?

By the way, there is an appeal process based on your financial situation, not sure how it works though. Hope things work out.

Bob

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Phil March 20, 2013 at 9:54 am

Hi Bob,
You mentioned the problem with additional fees for Temporary Visa Holders in OZ, from your topic: State School Fees for Temporary Visa Holders in Australia, by BobinOz on February 27, 2013/ in Cost of Living – Australia.
Would these additional fees be also applied to New Zealand citizens living in OZ, with Special Category Visa (SCV)?
I look forward to your reply.
Cheers,
Phil

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BobinOz March 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm

As far as I am aware Phil, it is just temporary 457 visa holders who are affected. You should be okay. But if you’re concerned, check with your MARA agent. Cheers!

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Steve May 3, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Hello Bob,

You are doing an incredible job and making thing easier for Jolly Just Come ( JJC ) people and intender migrants with loads of answers to questions asked. Kudos. However I have been lurkring on your site almost everyday just to make things right before my moves when I came accros this very imortant aspect. I am not really cleared about this school fees of 4,500 of a thing is this amount for all foreigner irepective of what class of visa holder who are not On PR or it varies. Please can anybody or Bob please explain further on this e.g some holding 572 Visa.

Thanks

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BobinOz May 3, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I sure can Steve, I’ve written a post about it, it’s called State School Fees for Temporary Visa Holders in Australia.

I’m glad you asked this question, because I feel that a link to this article is well worth including at the foot of the above post, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do now.

Cheers

Bob

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Shirley July 3, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I want to apply for university in Australia but to a cheap university because my father may not be able to pay the tuition unless it is a reasonable price
but also i wanted to do work – sturdy program
which university would you recommend?

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BobinOz July 4, 2013 at 10:31 pm

I have an expert who deals with that, see my page Student Visas.

Good luck, Bob

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Lucy August 18, 2013 at 12:29 am

Hi
Hadn’t even crossed my mind that I would need to pay for schooling. We are possibly moving to Adelaide and have 2 girls, 7 & 13. What should I estimate to be paying per year for them to go to school? Also how do the Aussies view home schooling? As this was something I had though about to start with until they feel settled and we have had chance to get a good look at schools. If we choose a school that isn’t our catchment could they still attend if theres space like here in UK?
Thanks x

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BobinOz August 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Hi Lucy

The above article pretty much explains the pricing, whether or not you qualify for free schooling in a state school depends on which visa you are coming on. See my article about school fees on the 457 visa.

I’m not really sure how home schooling is viewed here, I haven’t looked into it, as for getting a place in a school that isn’t in your catchment, I think that would very much depend on the individual school. If you go private though, it doesn’t matter where you live.

Cheers, Bob

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anwar ali March 16, 2014 at 4:26 am

my son complete MBA and want to complete PHD in Australia
suggest me pls

Reply

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