Moving to Australia from New Zealand?

Get all information you need to make a successful and stress-free move across the ditch.

Find out about Australian schooling, which year will your child move into from NZ, primary and secondary school and what you need to get organised.

I found it quite hard to find information on Australian schools online, and it wasn’t until I had kids that I figured out how it all worked. The below will definitely help you find your child a good school to move to in Australia.

Below, you will find Australian school term dates, which vary from state to state, where to find schools in the area you’re moving to, top-ranked schools and what paperwork you need to get from your child’s current school to give to their new school in Australia.

Pre-schools and kindergartens in Australia

If your child is 4 or under, read my Australia Pre-schools and Kindergartens post. Whether they are called pre-schools, kindergartens, child care or early learning centres, this post is about your options for learning/childcare before school.

On this page, you will find the helpful information below:

General School Info

Australian schools are organized similarly to NZ. There are free government schools with a residential catchment area and private/Catholic/independent schools, which have a cost. Government schools are free for New Zealanders moving on an SCV and for most visa holders. There could still be voluntary contributions like in NZ and costs for uniforms and stationery.

State by State

Each Australian State and Territory oversees its own education system, and there are small variations between them. To view the individual educational systems for each state of Australia, please click on the following link: http://www.australianschoolsdirectory.com.au/.

There are two main education sectors within each State – Government schools and Non-Government schools. Non-government schools are classified as either Catholic schools or Independent schools. Most Independent schools have a religious affiliation, but some are non-denominational. All Government schools are non-denominational. 

Australia School Year Equivalents (Compared to NZ)

I get asked a lot about the year a New Zealand student would go into the Australian School System. Below is a table that shows the school year equivalent in Australia (years):

Australia school year equivalents to NZ

.

What you need when moving your child from an NZ school to an Australian school

Here is what you need to know when changing your child from a New Zealand school to an Australian school.

Firstly, contact your child’s current school and notify them that your child is leaving. They will have had many children changing schools and moving to another country and will give you everything you need.

Contact your child’s New School and let them know you want to enrol your child. Do this as soon as possible, as some schools have wait lists. Have the following information available:

  • Proof of age, e.g. Birth Certificate or Passport.
  • A written Immunisation Statement is required.
  • Appropriate VISA if applicable.
  • Sibling information if applicable.
  • Relevant medical information.
  • The year/class they have been in and the state/territory/country they are coming from.
  • If there are any special programs they have been in, indicate you wish to discuss these when you visit the school for your child’s enrollment. This includes things such as acceleration as well as programs like Reading Recovery, English as a Second Language, etc.


Possible additional info:

  • Copies of documentation if legal circumstances apply, e.g. custody.
  • Documentation relating to mental/physical conditions that may affect learning and/or require special assistance.

Check with your child’s future school for any further requirements:

  • Collect Samples of Work – either a Portfolio or a range of work samples in different subject areas.
  • Talk to the class teacher[s] and see if they can give you any additional Information.
  • Make or obtain notes on any Special Programs your child is involved in and that need to be continued. It would be valuable to have some detail of where they are at in a program.

Additional points to remember:

  • Make sure you Return Equipment that belongs to the school, e.g. library books, readers, etc.
  • If you have Uniforms that are no longer useful, consider donating them to the Clothing Pool, to another family, or checking if they will be usable at their new school.
  • Thank the school for its work. It is surprising how often people who are happy with their child’s school never do this.

This site has great information regarding changing schools in Australia, and this page outlines helpful information for each state, as they all have different rules and requirements: https://www.aussieeducator.org.au/education/enrolments=2.html

Cut-off dates for children starting school in Australia

One of the trickiest things about starting school in Australia is that every state seems to do it differently! Instead of all children starting school when they are of a similar age, each state has its own set of rules about the age at which children can start school. And to make starting school cut-off ages even more difficult to navigate:

  • Some Australian states have different names for the first year of primary school.
  • Some Australian states allow children to start school before they turn 5.
  • Others have ‘preliminary’ years that are not compulsory.

Unlike in NZ, where kids start on or close to their birthday, kids start school at the start of the year depending on when their birthday falls. For example, in NSW, kids are allowed to start school on the first day of the first term as long as they turn 5 by July 31 that year.

In all Australian states, however, children must be enrolled in school in the year they turn 6. Confused? Yeah, so was I!

Visit KidsFirst to read a summary of the cut-off dates for children starting school in the state you are moving to. At the end of this summary, you’ll also find information about other schooling options for Australian children.  

Australian School Year/Term Dates

Unlike New Zealand schools, which all have mostly the same school holidays, Australian school holidays vary depending on the school and state. So the Australian school year differs depending on the state you are living in.

You can find out the current year and next year’s term dates for Australia’s state and territory government schools here (state by state): https://info.australia.gov.au/about-australia/special-dates-and-events/school-term-dates.

For Independent or Catholic schools, please check with individual schools. Their term dates can vary slightly from those of Government schools and from one another. 

List of Australian Schools

You can find a list of Australian schools by state or territory on the following Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_schools_in_Australia) or on the Australian Schools Directory (http://www.australianschoolsdirectory.com.au/). 

Find Top Ranked Schools

Australian schools are world-renowned. Below, you can find the top-ranked Australian schools state by state so you can make sure you are choosing the best school for your child/children:

You can also compare schools on The Good Schools Guide website, which has an amazing search function that lets parents compare every school in Australia, leading to informed decisions about their child’s educational experience: https://www.goodschools.com.au/compare-schools.

The above site has information about each school, including location and travel times, NAPLAN results, key facts, uniforms, the number of students, and the curriculum.

Types of Australian schools

Most Australian schools use modern education methods within a traditional educational framework. Children wear a school uniform that is individual to their school. A few schools follow a particular educational philosophy, such as Steiner or Montessori.

There are Special Needs schools and special education programs within mainstream schools for disabled children or children with other specific needs.

Schools often use remedial and extension classes or other approaches to meet the needs of students with differing levels of ability. Some schools offer specialised programs in areas such as sports, the arts, or academia for gifted or talented children.

There is a range of Boarding schools in Australia at the Primary and Secondary levels in the Private school sector. There are a few secondary boarding schools or accommodations in the government sector in some states, mainly for students from remote rural areas. International students can study in schools in Australia.

You can search the Australian Schools Directory for a comprehensive list of Australian schools, including Religious schools (Anglican schools, Uniting Church schools, Jewish schools, Christian schools, etc.), Special Needs schools, Alternative schools (such as Montessori or Steiner schools), and Boarding schools (http://www.australianschoolsdirectory.com.au/). 

Boys Girls Co-educational

Most Australian schools are co-educational – for boys and girls. Some Catholic and Independent schools are single-gender, mainly at the Secondary level but sometimes in the Primary years as well. Some Independent single-gender schools offer co-educational classes in the early years.

Nearly all Government schools are co-educational, and there are a few single-gender Government Secondary schools in some States in Australia. 

Prep Primary and Secondary

Australian children usually attend a Preparatory year of school (often called Prep or Kindergarten), followed by Primary school and then Secondary school (often called High School). Including the Pre-School year, most students are at school for 13 years.

Students usually start in Preparatory school around the age of four or five and must start school by the age of six. Entry age requirements can vary by more than six months between schools and States. Read my post-Australia Pre-schools and Kindergartens for more information on pre-schools and kindergartens in Australia.

Primary and Secondary schools are mostly in separate locations, but some Catholic schools and many Independent schools have Primary and Secondary schools on the same campus.

Australian Schools Curriculum

At the Primary school level, there is an emphasis on English reading and writing, mathematics, and the Study of Society and the Environment (SOSE). Students usually also have music, sports, drama, computer studies, science, art, and learn a language (LOTE). Often, there are many extracurricular activities offered outside of class time, such as choir, orchestra, chess, or sports.

In the early Secondary years, students continue studying English, Mathematics, and other core subjects. As they progress through their Secondary years, students must study English but can start to select which other subjects they study, and they begin to specialise in certain areas of learning. Again, there are many extracurricular activities on offer, such as debating, school musicals or sports competitions.

Applying to study at Australian universities

New Zealand has a formal agreement to recognise University Entrance awards or requirements with Australia mutually.

NCEA is accepted by the Australasian Conference of Tertiary Admission Centres (ACTAC), which ensures that all states/territories in Australia use a common approach for tertiary entrance ranking.

This means that New Zealand students can apply directly to Australian tertiary admission centres or providers.

What do you need to know if you’re applying to study in Australia using your NCEA results?

In Australia:

  • Year 12 is the equivalent of New Zealand Year 13 and NCEA Level 3
  • each state has its own secondary education system
  • university entry requirements can be different in each state
  • each university sets its own admission requirements and criteria.

You should contact the Australian university or education provider you wish to attend as early as possible to ensure that your Year 13 course will meet all the entry requirements.

In general, for Australian university applications to be considered:

  • you must achieve NZ University Entrance
  • you need to achieve a high ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) score (read more below)
  • you need to meet the state’s university entry criteria. Take note of the state’s English requirement for NZ students. Credits must be from Level 3 University Entrance-approved English. Some Australian states require up to 20 English credits.
  • you need to meet the state’s English language proficiency requirement (if there is one).

To maximise your potential ATAR score, you should:

  • have at least 90 assessed level 3 credit results (assessed credits are those with results of Not Achieved, Achieved, Achieved with Merit, and Achieved with Excellence)
  • aim to get as many level 3 excellence and merit results as possible in externally and internally assessed achievement standards in University Entrance approved subjects.

Grade conversion: Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) score

The ATAR (previously known as the Interstate Transfer Index – ITI) compares and ranks Australian Year 12 students educated in different states by ranking them in their year group cohort.

NZQA calculates ATAR scores for every eligible student in January each year on behalf of Australian tertiary admission centres. We use the methodology agreed upon by the Australasian Conference of Tertiary Admission Centres (ACTAC).

To get your ATAR score, email NZQA with your full name, NSN, date of birth and the last school you attended here.

Read more about how ATAR is calculated, how to apply to an Australian university, what you need to do, and what the NZQA needs to do for you and state contacts for more information on applying on the NZQA website.

Australia Pre-schools and Kindergartens

Read my post about pre-schools and kindergartens in Australia and find out about your options for childcare before school, along with learning the difference between pre-schools, kindergartens, child care centres or early learning centres.

You might also be interested in…

The below posts might interest you:

Still got unanswered questions?

If you’ve read the above content and the answer to your question isn’t there, please write a comment below and I’ll research the answer for you.

Can I help you find something else?

If you need advice on moving to Australia from New Zealand, I’ve created a helpful little questionnaire to point you in the right direction. It takes less than 30 seconds, so give it a go!

90 Comments

  1. Arpit Joshi

    April 25, 2024 at 7:13 pm

    Kia Ora JJ,

    Nicely curated content, well done for this.
    I have a question you can perhaps help me with. I am nz citizen lived here for 18 years.

    Looking for going back to uni to study Law from Sydney. In my case I have vocational certifications up to level 7. Haven’t started admission process as yet.

    Question how can I access or apply for, study assist and CSP. I have visited but mover lived there. Intern question is if I would have similar benefits as studylink here. And would it be sufficient to sustain 4-6 years of study?

    Thank you for your time and support.

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      April 30, 2024 at 4:00 pm

      Hi Arpit,
      Thanks for your comment and compliment.
      New Zealand citizens are eligible to access a CSP, but do not meet the eligibility criteria to access a HELP loan (Study Assist).
      However, some New Zealand citizens can get a HELP loan. To be eligible for a HELP loan you must:
      – be a New Zealand Special Category visa (SCV) holder or formerly be a Special Category Visa holder and on a pathway to Australian citizenship;
      – meet ALL of the long-term residency requirements; and
      – be living in Australia while you study.
      The long-term residency requirements include, first began to be usually resident in Australia at least 10 years ago, which you do not meet.
      Therefore the fastest way I see of you being able to access a HELP loan in Australia, would be to move there and get Australian citizenship (4 years).
      You can read more on the Study Assist website, Non-Australian citizens: https://www.studyassist.gov.au/help-loans/non-australian-citizens.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.

      Reply
  2. Suzannee

    July 13, 2023 at 7:12 am

    Hi there,
    I love this website.
    My husband, dog and child of 5 are moving to Brisbane in September. She already started school in New Zealand, do you think I should enrol her in prep for the rest of the school year in AU? Do you know how this process works? It seems that kids need to be in prep for a year first in Australia.

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      July 17, 2023 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Suzannee,
      Thank you for your comment and compliment.
      The first year of formal schooling in Queensland is called Prep. To enrol in Prep, Queensland children must turn 5 by the 30th of June in the year they are enrolled. In Queensland, it is not compulsory for your child to attend the Prep year as soon as they are old enough. You can delay your child’s entry by one year if you feel your son or daughter is not ready. If you do decide to delay your child’s start until the year they turn 6, your son or daughter will still go into a Prep class in their first year of school.
      A child who is younger than the prescribed age for Prep is only able to commence school early if:
      – they turn 5 years by 31 July in the year they propose to attend Prep and the school principal is satisfied that the child is ready for education in the Prep year
      or
      – they have started education in another state or country that is equivalent to the Prep year and the school principal is satisfied that the child is ready for education in the Prep year.
      Source: https://education.qld.gov.au/parents-and-carers/school-information/school-operations/early-and-delayed-entry-to-prep.
      As your daughter has already started school in NZ, it is up to you and the school principal if she will be able to start school in Australia mid-year.
      Here is a great post about enrolling your child in school in Queensland: https://www.qld.gov.au/education/schools/find/enrolment/how-to.
      Otherwise, you can get her into kindy for the remainder of the year and she could start school next year: https://www.movingtoaustralia.co.nz/australia-pre-schools-and-kindergartens/.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
  3. JIM

    June 19, 2023 at 3:57 am

    Hi ,

    How will it work if I move my daughter who is in year 13 from New Zealand to Australia as Australia only goes up to year 12. Secondly , is she not going to be disadvantaged on her university entrance scoring?

    Reply
  4. Patrice

    August 8, 2022 at 1:37 pm

    Hello
    Firstly I want to say thank you for the page… the amount of info is amazing.
    I had a question unsure if you can answer.
    I am looking at moving my family of 4 over in the next 8 months.
    I have just enrolled my son (5) at school he is autistic and goes to a special school here in NZ.
    I was wondering if you knew of the process on how to enrol him in a special school over the Gold Coast and is it possible to get assistance as he is govt funded here with his schooling needs.
    This is the biggest hurdle for us to move over to Australia as I am unsure of how to go about this process and if there is any help for our family.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Warmest regards,
    Patrice

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      August 9, 2022 at 11:18 am

      Hi Patrice,
      Thank you for your comment.
      I completely get where you are coming from, as there is not a lot of information on the web, but hopefully the below will help.
      I’ve searched the Australian School Directory for autistic supported schools and it came up with one in the Gold Coast area, Southport Special School: https://www.australianschoolsdirectory.com.au/6097/southport-special-school-southport.
      Southport Special School is a Queensland Primary/Secondary Combined school. This school is located in Southport, Queensland. It is Government, Coed and Non-Denominational. The school also caters to Autistic.
      Southport Special School
      Cnr Kumbari Avenue and Smith Street
      Southport, QLD4215
      Phone: 07 5552 0333
      Web: https://southportspecs.eq.edu.au/
      I’ve found it hard to find any information on whether your son will be funded or not. Therefore I recommend you contact the school and ask them, either by phone on 5552 0333 or via email enrolments@southportspecs.eq.edu.au.
      However, as it is a government school and New Zealanders on an SCV get free Government schooling, I’m hoping it is free for you.
      If you could let me know how you get on, I would really appreciate it, so I can share the info with other visitors.
      Thanks

      Reply
  5. Janine

    May 22, 2022 at 6:00 pm

    Hi JJ,
    Came across your site, it’s great! Very informative!
    I do have a tricky question regarding moving across to Australia from NZ, and wondered if you might have a answer or point us in the right direction.

    We are NZ Citizens with 2 teenagers and a 82 year old mother that lives with us. Mum received her NZ citizenship nearly 5 years ago, she has been residing in NZ for nearly 10 years.
    If we were to move across to Australia, would mum be able to join us?
    And is it ok to reside on a SCV indefinitely? My husband is 50 now and the likelihood of applying for PR seems slim.

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      May 24, 2022 at 12:24 pm

      Hi Janine,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Good news is, as your Mother is an NZ citizen she can move to Australia and live there indefinitely.
      She will be eligible for Medicare, as is the whole family.
      Does you Mother receive an NZ pension? If so, she should be able to receive an Australia pension: https://www.movingtoaustralia.co.nz/can-a-nz-citizen-get-an-australian-benefit-or-pension/.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
  6. Sonia

    March 29, 2022 at 4:30 am

    Hi
    I am so happy to find your website. And thanks for sharing everything to everyone.
    I just want to know, is homeschool an option in Australia? If there is, do you have some websites to go to or any links to share. We are NZ Citizens and planning to make a move to Australia.

    Reply
  7. Srikar Bandreddi

    March 26, 2022 at 11:36 am

    Kia Ora JJ,

    Just wanted to say, that your website contains lot of great information covering wide variety of topics.
    Thanks heaps for spending the time and creating this for us.
    Also, you should probably create a link for fundraising to maintain the website etc. so people can contribute some money towards a small koha.

    Nga Mihi Nui
    Srikar

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      March 27, 2022 at 10:45 pm

      Kia Ora Srikar,
      Thank you so much for your comment and kind words.
      I do get a small referral fee for any new customers I send my referral partners, e.g. Commonwealth Bank and XE. This small fee helps us keep our website up to date and able to respond to enquiries like yours at no cost to you.
      I have thought about adding a koha link, but at this stage I’m happy linking customers with quality services and getting paid by the corporates.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
  8. Cleonie

    March 10, 2022 at 3:02 pm

    Hi JJ
    Thanks for setting up this amazing website. My family and I are in the process of moving to Perth to start a new life. I have a 14 year old daughter who will be in Year 9 when we arrive in a few months time. My question for you is if she wants to go to University in a few years time in Perth will she get the same benefits as an Australian or not?
    Thanks
    Cleonie

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      March 11, 2022 at 1:03 am

      Hi Cleonie,
      Thanks for your message.
      Perth is a beautiful part of the world to live. I have never been but my sister in -law lives there and I am hoping to visit in the next couple of years.
      New Zealand citizens are entitled to study at Australian tertiary institutions without requiring a student visa. New Zealand citizens will be charged domestic student fees rather than international student fees, however they are not usually eligible for Australian student loans.
      As a kiwi living in Australia on an SCV we are not entitled to Austudy and HELP student loans, whether on protected or non-protected SCVs.
      For information on financial assistance, please visit http://www.studyassist.gov.au/.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
  9. Abhy

    February 10, 2022 at 8:49 pm

    Hi JJ,
    My 5yr old (year 0)and 8yr old(year 3)are NZ citizens… Just wondering whether we can enrol them to a school in Aussies at the start of the year only or can we enrol them anytime(i mean mid of any term depends on when we move). We hav no job offers yet, so not sure when v wil be able to move. I dont want them to sit at home and wait another year to start schooling there if v move after first term….
    Do v need to pay fees for NZ citizens??? TIA

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      February 10, 2022 at 9:04 pm

      Hi Abhy,
      Thank you for your comment.
      You can enroll your child at an Australian school at anytime throughout the year, depending on availability. Once you have an idea of where and when you’re moving, you should contact schools in the area to see if there is a slot available.
      Schooling is quite similar to NZ, where government schools have a catchment zone depending on your residential address.
      Government schools are free for New Zealanders moving on an SCV. There could still be voluntary contributions like in NZ and costs for uniforms and stationery.
      You also have the option of private/Catholic/independent schools.
      Here is a link for finding top ranked schools by state: https://bettereducation.com.au/SchoolRanking.aspx.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
      • Sneha

        March 13, 2022 at 10:50 pm

        Hi JJ,
        We are moving to Brisbane from Auckland end of April 2022 with my 6 yo daughter. My husband will probably help us settle for the first week and join us later. My daughter is currently in Year 2, which I understand is Year 1 in Australia. I am very nervous about the move and how we will all cope and if it will be easy for my daughter to adjust to school there. Are schools very different between the two countries? Is there something I need to be prepared about? Your help is much appreciated. Look forward to your reply.
        Thank you,
        Sneha.

        Reply
        • JJ Smith

          March 14, 2022 at 3:29 am

          Hi Sneha,
          Thank you for your comment.
          It is very understandable that you are nervous for your daughter. All good parents are. Please know that kids adjust a lot easier than us.
          School’s in Australia are very similar to NZ.
          There is nothing I need to warn you about. I’m sure you daughter will be fine.
          Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
          Good luck with your move.

          Reply
  10. Halah

    February 10, 2022 at 3:43 am

    hi JJ,
    my son is currently doing year 12 in NZ, we plan on moving to Australia next year, would he get enrolled into year 12 in Australia? Also are there any requirements for entry/enrolment in terms of academic results?

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      February 10, 2022 at 9:51 pm

      Hi Halah,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Yes that is right. As he would have completed year 12 in NZ, he will go into Australia’s year 12, which is NZ’s year 13. The last year of school.
      I don’t believe there are any academic result requirements for entry into Australia schools. However, some top schools might.
      Below you can find the top ranked Australian schools state by state, so you can make sure you are choosing the best school for your child:
      – Better Education School Rankings http://bettereducation.com.au/SchoolRanking.aspx
      – My School http://www.myschool.edu.au/
      You can also compare schools on The Good Schools Guide website, which has an amazing search function that lets parents compare every school in Australia, leading to informed decisions about their child’s educational experience: https://www.goodschools.com.au/compare-schools.
      The above site has information about each school, location and travel times, NAPLAN results, key facts, uniform, number of students and curriculum.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply
  11. Tony

    June 9, 2021 at 3:00 am

    Hi JJ,
    We are moving to Sydney from NZ in Dec 2021. I am NZ citizen and the rest of family are NZ permanent resident. They will apply for 461 visa once they are in Australia. My question is: do children have access to free public school while waiting for the 461 visa?
    Many thanks.
    Best wishes
    Tony

    Reply
    • JJ Smith

      June 21, 2021 at 2:20 am

      Hi Tony,
      Thank you for your comment.
      From my research you will need to pay for your children until they get their visa’s:
      If you and your family are on temporary visas (such as the Temporary Skilled Shortage 482 visa), you will have to pay to send your child to a government school. How much you pay differs across the different states and schools.
      Your child can enrol in a public school, but their place is not guaranteed. You will need to pay an annual tuition fee for each child that you enrol at the school.
      When submitting your application, you will need to include evidence of your visa status at the time of enrolment. You must also keep the school informed of any changes to your visa conditions.
      Source: https://www.sableinternational.com/blog/choose-the-right-australian-school.
      You will need to check costs with the school you want to enrol your kids in, as how much you pay differs across the different states and schools.
      Please feel free to email me back any further questions you have.
      Good luck with your move.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.