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Living in Brisbane

As an expat who’ll soon be living in Brisbane, you are bound to have a lot of questions about the capital of the “Sunshine State”. Never fear: The InterNations guide on staying in Brisbane covers all key topics of expat life in Brisbane, from leisure and education to transportation and health.
The koalas at Brisbane’s Lone Pine Sanctuary are local mascots much beloved by residents and tourists alike.
  • The sunny capital of Queensland is packed with leisure, culture, nature, and great weather.
  • Finding schooling for international children in Brisbane is simple with Education Queensland international study programs from primary to high school.
  • Brisbane’s transportation includes taxis and Translink, which operates the bus service, the boats and catamarans to the outlying islands, and the Citytrain lines.  
  • If you have a permanent visa, you have automatic access to Medicare, the government-sponsored healthcare system in Australia. 

"The Sunshine State"

Living in Brisbane means opting for life in one of Australia’s tourist hotspots. Due to the hot, subtropical climate, Queensland is called the “Sunshine State”, and its capital city Brisbane does not prove an exception to this rule.

In Australia, Brisbane is often considered somewhat less sophisticated than Sydney, the leading metropolis, or Melbourne, the “cultural capital”. Its brash vitality, the casinos in the neighboring seaside resorts, and its live music scene have earned Brisbane the nickname of “BrisVegas”. However, you’ll soon discover that much of the prejudice jokingly uttered by Australians from other big cities like Melbourne or Sydney is — as so often — unfounded.

Leisure, Culture, and Nature

While living in Brisbane, you may like to pay a visit to the beachfronts of the “Gold Coast” or “Sunshine Coast” to enjoy the beautiful beaches. However, make sure to plan your schedule accordingly to avoid “Schoolies” events! There are three weeks, typically starting in mid-November, when thousands of high school graduates flock to the shores of the Gold Coast to participate in raucous parties. This annual event is equivalent to spring break celebrations in the USA. If you are planning to visit during this time, call your hotel before you book a room to make sure that you will not be in a party location. 

Besides the long strips of sandy beaches, life in Brisbane has more leisure opportunities in store. Along the South Bank, the cultural precinct features the Queensland Museum, a large Performing Arts Centre, and the Gallery of Modern Art. Together with the Brisbane Powerhouse, the latter forms the core of a vibrant contemporary arts scene. And if indie rock — frequently featured at legendary venues like the Zoo — isn’t to your taste, the Brisbane Jazz Club has an excellent reputation as the go-to place for fans of smooth rhythms and cool tunes.

Expats living in Brisbane can also take advantage of its function as a gateway to Queensland’s natural beauty. The Scenic Rim in the hinterland more than deserves its status as a World Heritage Site. Its mountain ranges and lush rainforests make it an attractive destination for hikers and eco-tourists. Even if many expatriates often use their vacation for a trip home to see their loved ones, living in Brisbane brings you close to Hervey Bay: Reserve at least a few days off to explore Australia’s whale-watching capital and stepping stone to the South Great Barrier Reef.


Unfortunately, your life in Brisbane can’t be all play and no work. Finding accommodation can prove difficult, and if you are an expat parent, you’ll have to look into a kindergarten or school for your children.

For children in Queensland, schooling begins at the age of five, with a non-compulsory prep year. Schooling becomes mandatory when children turn six years old. For the next six years, they’ll go to primary school, followed by secondary education in grades seven to twelve. Although schooling is only compulsory for teens until the age of 16, or until they complete grade 10, most students in Queensland complete secondary school. Their Senior Certificate and the Tertiary Entrance Statement both determine access to public universities.

Most children living in Brisbane or Queensland study at one of the over 1,200 free public schools in the state; the other 33% or so attend independent facilities, often run by the Catholic or Anglican Church. Although English is the medium for public schools in Brisbane, expatriate parents should be happy to know that Education Queensland International study programs are offered in some public schools. These programs allow foreign children, from elementary school to high school, to receive extra help to adjust to an English-speaking environment.  There is only one self-designated international school in the Brisbane area (St Paul’s), although several schools in Southeast Queensland offer the IB Diploma Program.

To find a suitable school in your area, please use the resources provided by the Queensland Department of Education.

Adult Education

For any adults living in Brisbane interested in continuing their education, there are several universities in the city. The following includes the leading institutions:

The TAFE (technical and further education) institutes mainly cater to younger people who want to complete vocational or commercial training. Expats who’d like a career change or a promotion should rather make use of the subsidized training and career info service provided by the Queensland Government. Upper management executives living in Brisbane, though, will probably benefit most from contacting an individual career counselor or a recruitment agency.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Benoit Julien

"Before moving to Brisbane I contacted 5 members of their InterNations community. Today 3 of them are my friends."

Gabriela Jaquez

"As a traveling spouse it was not always easy to meet interesting people abroad. On InterNations I have many of them here in Brisbane in no time."

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