From Johannesburg to Sunshine Coast: raising a family in Queensland
UK-based optometrist Nicolle moved to Noosa on the Sunshine Coast after finding love on a visit home to Johannesburg in 2008. Since then, she has had two children, worked as a locum, forayed into property investment, exhibited her paintings in art shows and just last year, became an Australian citizen.
I am originally from Johannesburg in South Africa. Most of my professional life was spent living and working in the UK as a locum optometrist. At the end of 2008, while on a visit to South Africa to see my family, I met an Australian engineer called James who was working on a mining project in Zambia, but was based in Johannesburg. Despite the fact that his project in Africa was ending and he was returning to Australia in a few weeks, we fell in love. We embarked on a long distance relationship, during which I visited Australia a few times.
I chose to come to Queensland because James has a deep and abiding love for Brisbane. Queensland also has a well-established health system, stable economy, quality lifestyle and above all, a need for qualified optometrists.
State nomination process
There were a range of visa opportunities before us, however, as I had professional skills and experience which was in demand in Queensland, I elected to apply for a state sponsored regional skilled visa. Queensland ticked all the right boxes. My profession as an optometrist was not on the Government’s skills list for Brisbane, but was included on its list for regional Queensland, so we decided to apply to live and work on the Sunshine Coast.
I contacted the Queensland Government’s business and skilled migration agency, and I was assigned a case officer who was extremely helpful as they guided me through the process. The visa processing time was impressively short.
Working in Queensland
Initially finding locum work as an Optometrist was a problem. There was not enough work on the Sunshine Coast, and I had to visit practice to practice introducing myself. I had to be flexible with location and travel. My advice to new migrants is that we sometimes need to think laterally – I found that opportunities opened up when I signed up to do courses to up-skill.
I now work regular days for 3 different practices in Noosa and on the Sunshine Coast as a locum. This has enabled me to work the rest of the time on immersing myself in learning the different strategies associated with commercial and residential property investment and development.
I fell into this field through doing a property development course with James in 2015. Our immersion and success in this field won us recognition with our coaches and they have since asked us to assist other members in our group learn the finer points of commercial property investment. In 2017, I completed a course which enabled me to register with the Queensland Office of Fair Trading as a Real Estate Principal. I now actively search for and aid other members of our investment group to purchase commercial property. At present, the scope of my work extends only to Queensland out of choice, as our children are still really little, and interstate travel would place a burden on our family and quality of life.
Another rare and valuable opportunity came when I attended a mixed media art workshop with one of the Sunshine Coast’s most talented artists Kym Barrett. I really enjoyed learning from Kym and developed my own techniques and skills in mixed media painting under her mentorship. I have been exhibiting my own work in regional art shows in Queensland and interstate. I am happy to say that I have sold a series of my paintings, and have accepted some private commissions.
Living in Queensland
I like everything about living in Queensland. The weather, people, environment, food, culture, friendliness, feeling safe wherever we go, the beauty and the opportunities. I still cannot believe how councils are geared toward making the life of their citizens easier. Through my son’s community-run kindergarten program, I have also have been actively participating in all the fund-raising events and providing information to parents on the importance of eye-care for their little ones.
I applied for and became a permanent resident in 2014, and I became an Australian citizen in 2017. It was an unexpectedly emotional day in the most beautiful way. I am an Aussie now like my husband and beautiful children – only I speak funny. It is an immense privilege and blessing to live here.