Working Part Time while Studying in Sydney

[a simple guide for begineer]

Studying overseas is a dream of thousands and maybe millions of Indonesian people. This is not because it guarantees better results compared to local education system but, sometimes, a matter of pride and reputation. However, the dream often ends in a dream because the tuition fee is incredibly expensive. Studying a master degree in Sydney Australia, for instance, needs more than a hundred million rupiahs. That is not the end of the story because it has to be added with living expenses, which is also, certainly expensive.

Studying with scholarship is, of course, one of the recourses to overcome money problems. With AusAID scholarship, for example, a student does not have to worry about tuition fee and living expenses since the scholarship has taken care all of them with a reasonable level of satisfaction. AusAID also provides significant additional allowances if you take your family (wife/husband and children) with you. Simply, with scholarship you work out one of your worries.

Unfortunately, getting a scholarship, like AusAID, is not easy. From around 5000s applicants, AusAID awards only 300 scholarships all over Indonesia. That is after considering several aspects such as employment sector (government, private, or individual), position and the role of candidate in supporting development in Indonesia and Indonesia-Australia relationship, and the hometown of candidates. Candidates coming from eastern territory of Indonesia, reasonably, will have more chance than those from western territory.

A promising recourse you might consider is working part time while studying overseas. Many Indonesian students do this while completing their study in Sydney, Australia. The idea is how students can afford their living expenses, so their parents (or other funding resources) focus only on the tuition fees. Let us see some important thing toward working part time while studying in Sydney, Australia.

Living Expenses: A Brief Illustration

Accommodation rent is the most expensive expenses in Sydney. The average rental price of a single bedroom flat unit located near university campus (UNSW) can be AUD 200 per week. A two-bedroom unit ranges from AUD 270 to AUD 300 per week for a reasonable level of convenience (student-standard). The later type of accommodation is usually preferable because more than one students can occupy it. This makes the rental price per head becomes much more affordable. A student, who shares accommodation with others, pays averagely AUD 120 of rent per week.

To afford healthy meal, a student can spend approximately AUD 50 per week. Transportation expense can reach up to AUD 20 per week (without concession). Other expense is communication (mobile phone and calling Indonesia), for about AUD 15 per week. (depending on communication behavior). Lastly, electricity and telephone bill is approximately AUD 20 per week.

Total expense per week is around AUD 230s with an acceptable living standard and healthy life style. With no doubt, this calculation will vary on different people. The fact shows that some Indonesian students, who share their accommodation with others, pay only AUD 70 of rent per week, do not worry about electricity bill, and do not have to catch a bus to go to campus. This is, of course, very handy and can minimize weekly expense.

Student Visa and Working Permit

Student visa a student has obtained at the first time usually contains no working permit. To obtain a working permit, a student needs to come to the Australian Immigration Office, DIMIA (Department of Immigration and Multicultural and indigenous Affairs,, for visa update by paying AUD 55 (March 2004). The main requirements are filling the application form, and enclosing the proof of course commencement. The latter requirement is obtainable from university where a student studies. Holding this visa, a student will be entitled to working for 20 hours a week.

For those who study in Australia with AusAID scholarship, visa update will be of International Student Service’s (ISS) task. Student can simply ask them take care everything without paying any cent. However, it, sometimes, takes longer time to accomplish since everything has to be done collectively. That is why, some scholarship holders come to DIMIA themselves after having the form stamped by the university’s ISS to have the process much quicker. For a student coming with wife or husband, they can accomplish the visa update at once.

Tax File Number (TFN)

Having a Tax File Number (TFN) is compulsory for whoever holding a working permit visa and wishes to work in Australia. This is becoming an employee’s ID regarding taxation matter, similar with the Indonesia’s NPWP (Nomor Pokok Wajib Pajak). Without TFN, no company will hire you since it cannot give you your salary because no tax can be deducted from salary.

TFN is obtainable by either registering online at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website,, or coming in person to the nearest ATO. This is, of course, after finishing everything related to working permit visa. TFN registration can take maximally 28 days since the day you register, but it is usually no longer than 10 days. ATO will send the TFN to you in a sealed envelope TFN and it is then ready for any salary and taxation matter.

Once you get your TFN, it is applicable for lifetime. No update/change is needed in accordance with changing of name, address, occupation, marital status, etc.

Searching Information and Applying for Job

Information on a job position is usually available either on company website, through advertisement at mass media (newspaper, bulletin, television channel, radio), by leaflet, or information told orally by people around you. A retail company, like Coles Supermarket, always posts its vacancy on its website at and enables candidates to apply online. A female Indonesian student at UNSW who is currently working at Coles said that she applied for the job through Internet and finally was invited for interview and group dynamics. Other vacancies available through the Internet are position in Oporto Restaurant (, Woolworths Supermarket (, etc. If you, sometimes, go hanging out to mall and do window-shopping, you probably can see many available job positions displayed in front of stores and counters. Similar vacancy advertisement can also be accessed through printed media such as The Sydney Morning Herald, Southern Courier, etc or through career development unit in a particular university. UNSW, for example, has an online job opportunity at Many kinds of vacancies are available varying from shop attendant until research assistant, either part time or full time. This unit also provides workshops for assisting candidate in writing application letter, generating a good and tempting CV/resume, and preparing for interview test.

Another popular way to get information about job opportunity is through oral information. A student who has been working in a company, sometimes, can have a better access to the information of job opportunity, even to the unpublicized one. Sometimes, this vacancy is even to replace the position of the informer because he/she will quit the job (for the reason of study or back for good). This will, very much, depend on recommendation and usually does not need any complicated administration matter. A candidate can simply come to working place (usually with the recommender), get interviewed and do an on the job training for one or two days. If the candidate can satisfy the employer, everything should be fine.

An Indonesian student at UNSW said that he did not need to wait for a vacancy add but directly called a pastry company and told the boss his willingness to work. A few weeks later, the company called him for interview and one-day on the job training. After observing his promising performance, the company then hired him as a casual employee. This is a very good example telling us that a pro-active behavior significantly increases the chance to get a job we desire.

What Job and How Much is the Salary?

It is obvious that almost everybody wants to get a job matching his/her field/background with satisfactory salary. Unfortunately, obtaining a job matching your expertise and knowledge background is not easy in Sydney, especially if you are working part time or casual. Some popular jobs for students are restaurant water/waitress, kitchen hand (dishwashing), computer data entry, baby-sitting, gardening, farming, pastry making, laundry, house keeping, shop attendant, etc. The above-mentioned job will be paid approximately AUD 10-16 per hour. Other jobs such as tutoring, library assistant, research assistant, can earn more money, around AUD 20+ per hour. However, obtaining such kind of job is, once again, not easy and highly competitive.

Suppose that the average salary of part time job is AUD 13, this means a student can earn averagely AUD 240s per week after tax deduction. This earning is, with no doubt, enough to afford a student’s weekly expenses, which is around AUD 230s. An Indonesian Environmental Engineering student optimistically asserted that his salary at OPORTO restaurant is enough for his living allowances. Jokingly he said he could live healthily by consuming juice everyday since it is only for AUD 2. “This is affordable by only ten-minute-salary of mine or even less [than ten minutes]”, he added.

Cash On Hand vs. Taxable Job

Two kinds of jobs are available in Sydney, based on its tax: without tax or cash on hand and with tax or taxable job. Cash on hand is actually an illegal job but is widely practiced. With this system, a company does not bother on taxation matter and this means an employee does not pay income tax. Despite of uncomfortable feeling it caused, the salary is usually below the average standard.

Even though cash on hand is quite risky, many students remain doing it. An Indonesian student who was working at a Thai restaurant stated, “It is indeed a risk of the employer, not of us because we have a working permit on our visa. It is a matter of their relationship with government if they pay us without tax. Nothing to do with us”. What do you think?

For taxable job, nothing is to worry about since everything is on the legal track. Sometimes, those who really need money do ‘combined’ jobs (taxable and cash on hand job) are usually the recourse. It is not recommended but some people said it is effective :). They can work for 20 hours at the ‘legal’ place and, at the same week, for unlimited hours at the ‘illegal’ one. A lecturer of an Indonesian institution who is currently studying at UNSW, Sydney confirmed that he ever did such kind of jobs. “It was not bad. I could earn more than AUD 400 per week, more than what AusAID is currently giving me”, said the lecturer and then laughed. He also mentioned that he did that for no more than ONE month since he felt tired and uncomfortable. “I do not recommend anybody does it”, he said.

However, this kind of practice is, once again, illegal. For whatever reason nobody are suggested to do this. This is not only unconfortable but also dangerous. Deportation and visa cancelation are the consequences.

Taxation and Tax return

In case of working for a taxable job, company will automatically transfer your salary to your nominated financial institution (i.e. bank account) on a certain day every week. Some companies pay salary on the first working day, Friday, while others on the last one, Monday. As previously mentioned, an employee has to have a Tax File Number (TFN) for the purpose of tax deduction. Company deducts tax from your weekly salary of particular percentage. The amount of tax depends on your total annual income, where the income of AUD 6000 or less is without tax. It is, of course, difficult to know how much a student will earn in a year, since she/he works for part time or casual. Consequently, it is not easy to define the amount of tax per week. In this case, company will remains deducting tax from her/his salary per week at amount of reasonable percentage. This means, total tax deducted might be more or less (hardly happen) than the tax the student should pay. Tax fare/tariff in detail is available at the ATO official website,

At the end of financial year (June 30), company will issue an annual income recapitulation, called a group certificate for tax return claim. Tax return is the total difference of tax amount that company has deducted from an employee’s annual salary compared to the actual tax he/she should pay. This is claimable at the end of financial year. For example, a student has been working for 5 months by June 30, 2004 with gross salary of AUD 6,000 and has paid tax of AUD 1,000 (meaning that he has received AUD 5000 of salary). This student can claim tax return of AUD 1,000 because an employee with an income of AUD 6,000 or less is not entitled to paying tax. In case total income is AUD 8,000, taxable income is only AUD 2,000, meaning that tax is the percentage of the AUD 2,000 salary not of AUD 8,000.

To claim tax return, you can use tax agent, post office, or e-tax (via internet). For the last alternative, a tax claimer needs to download small software of 4.5 MB (kind of an interactive form) from, install it in a PC, fill the form and then lodge the filled form using internet connection. This is very handy and recommended because this can significantly decrease the ATO officers load for data re-entry. Consequently, you will have the tax return accomplished in only 4-5 working days. Suppose, you submitted the form on Sunday afternoon, the claimer may already receive the money on Friday morning in her/his bank account through Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT).

The last words

There are plenty of ways to make the dream of studying abroad comes true. Working part time is only one of the recourses to afford living expense, excluding tuition fee. Should you are confident of having a good ability both in language (English) and academics, you may try applying for scholarship, which are plenty of them available for Indonesian citizens. If you are interested in applying for AusAID scholarship (ADS), please feel free to visit for more details and inquiries. The deadline for each year is on September. Hopefully this will encourage those who are keen to study overseas, especially Sydney, Australia. Good luck on your search! See you someday in an Australian institution you are dreaming.


Author: Andi Arsana

I am a lecturer and a full-time student of the universe

9 thoughts on “Working Part Time while Studying in Sydney”

  1. Hi! Thank you for your article, it’s really very helpful for me. I recently applied for a student visa in Australia and I plan to stay in Sydney. I’m a Filipino by the way. May God bless you always.

  2. Thanks for all of the informations. I also thinking about to study in Sydney in the next year. Soo I’ll apply for the students visa in the next year…thanks alot sir

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