Located a 2,600km drive away from Adelaide (its nearest neighbouring capital), Perth can sometimes seem, on a map at least, like it must be a lonely place (even if, contrary to popular belief, it's not the most isolated capital city in the world). The good news is that nothing could be further from the truth: yes, Perth might be two timezones away from Melbourne and Sydney, but there's a reason that Australia's fourth most populous state capital has repeatedly been ranked as one of the world's most livable cities (it came in seventh in 2017).
Whether swimming at Cottesloe Beach or getting lost in Kings Park, you’ll find no shortage of things to do in Perth, which, along with the superb weather and local professional opportunities, make it an appealing destination for graduates. So, if you’re leaning towards launching your career in Western Australia’s largest city, read on to learn what you should know first.
People from across the world flock to Australia for its sunny weather, moderate rainfall, and mild winters: all areas in which Perth puts the other Australian capital cities to shame. Perth’s climate has been described as ‘temperate and Mediterranean’, which is, essentially, code for ‘perfect’. Summers are hot and dry (read: without the intolerable humidity of the eastern capitals), while winter temperatures hover around 19°C (that’s the early summer average in a city like London).
However, it’s not just with enviable temperatures that the people of Perth are spoiled: they also enjoy life in Australia’s sunniest capital, with more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year (to be fair, if you’re following the guidelines and spending as much time outside as possible, this means you’ll need to reapply sunscreen between 750 and 1,500 times).
If you’re wondering what to do with all that paradisiacal weather, don’t worry: Perth has got you covered. There are countless beaches in Perth, from famous locations such as Cottesloe Beach, an ideal place for swimming, surfing, and snorkelling, to secret gems like Bailey Beach, where, if you’re lucky, you might just spot a rare leafy-sea dragon.
Of course, if you’re feeling adventurous, you’re not limited to the beaches of Perth. Instead, you could spend a weekend in Lucky Bay (an eight hour drive), where kangaroos are sometimes seen relaxing on the sand, or even travel north to Ningaloo Reef (an eleven hour drive or two hour flight) and enjoy a few days swimming amongst dugongs, coral, and whale sharks.
Alternatively, you can hop on a ferry from Fremantle (a 28 minute train ride from Perth Station) and enjoy the sun on Rottnest Island, which offers stunning beaches, fur seal colonies, and the possibility of an Instagrammable rendezvous with (arguably) the world’s most photogenic marsupial (no, you can’t keep one as a pet).
A hypothetical question: you’ve finished your degree in Sydney and flown across the country to start a new career in Perth—at which point are you most likely to experience culture shock? Well, imagine suddenly having access to the best public transport in the country: trains run at least every 15 minutes on all lines, even during off-peak times, and—here is the real shock—nine out of ten locals say they are satisfied with the available public transport, while 95% report that they are ‘happy with the punctuality of Transperth’s offerings’. What’s more, If you’re reading this on a crowded bus in Sydney, or a delayed train in Melbourne, it might just be enough to inspire you to book your ticket to Perth right now.
This may seem at odds with what we said earlier about how excellent Perth’s weather is: and we stand by that claim. However, it would be unfair not to warn you that Perth can still get very hot. How hot? Maximum summer temperatures can exceed 35°C/95°F, at which point local Perthlings give thanks for the ‘Fremantle Doctor’: a cooling sea breeze that offers some late afternoon relief on the hottest days of summer. Note that, in 2018, the hottest day of the year came after the end of a unusually cool summer, when, in early March, the temperature suddenly hit 38.5°C and the Fremantle Doctor was nowhere to be seen.
For much of the 2000s, the economy of Perth was buoyed by a resources boom that, at its peak, resulted in mining investment accounting for around two-thirds of Australian economic growth. With many pundits now reporting that the boom is at an end, Perth has had to adapt: and it’s making a beeline towards the establishment of a local digital economy conducive to startups. While still a nascent industry in Perth, the startup culture is continuing to grow and currently includes more than a dozen coworking spaces, as well as 12 incubators and accelerators. It’s supported by organisations such as StartUp WA, which recently reported that the high-tech sector would create over 150,000 new jobs by 2025.
As noted above, Perth is not the world’s most isolated capital city (depending on how you measure it, that record belongs to either Auckland or Honolulu). Nevertheless, there’s no getting around the fact that Perth is distant from most other places: a four to five hour flight from Sydney, a five to six hour flight from Brisbane, and a five hour flight from its nearest neighbour, Adelaide. Also, you will fly, because the alternatives range from an expensive 70 hour train ride between Perth and Sydney to a car trip from Perth to Darwin that, while undoubtedly picturesque, will also take several days.
Why do you live in Perth though? You can tell your interstate friends about the beautiful beaches, about how nice it is that the sun is always up when you finish work, about the local wines, and picnics on the banks of the Swan River, and the great time you had at the Perth Fringe Festival, but… some of them still won’t get it. Especially if they live in Sydney or Melbourne. There may come a day when you come close to losing your patience and telling the haters not to knock Perth until they visit. But it would be better not to: they may very well decide to stay.
In 2018, the Mercer Cost of Living Survey, which takes into account some 200 international expatriate destinations, ranked Perth as the 61st most expensive city in the world overall: that is, cheaper than the eastern capitals (Sydney and Melbourne) and Darwin, but slightly less affordable than Brisbane and Adelaide. Of course, a fuller picture emerges when one focuses on specific expense categories. It then becomes easier to see, for example, that Perth has an comparatively affordable housing and petrol, but could be a pricey city for grads who like to spend their hard-earned cash on entertainment and eating out.
For would-be renters in Perth, 2018 has brought a wave of good news: in March, the Australian Housing Industry Association reported that Perth had become the most affordable city in Australia by a significant margin, with average monthly mortgage repayments calculated at around $2,194, or 27.5% of gross average earnings. This is a far cry from, say, Sydney, where average monthly mortgage repayments chew up 67.5% of an average salary. Of course, as a graduate, you mightn’t (yet) have a mortgage to worry about. So you’ll be glad to know that Perth is also one of the more affordable capital cities for renters. Currently, the median weekly rent is $355 for houses in Perth and $300 for units.
There is, of course, significant variation between suburbs, which range from more affordable areas such as Camillo (median rent of $250/week), Armadale (median rent of $250/week), and Medina (median rent of $230/week), to the rarefied (and expensive) enclaves of Dalkeith (median rent of $800/week), Floreat (median rent of $750/week), and North Fremantle (median rent of $625/week). Houses tend to be the dominant rental property type in outer metropolitan areas, whereas flats are more prevalent in areas closer to the centre of Perth. If you’d prefer to share a house, Perth’s average price-per-room is one of the country’s lowest, at around $120/week.While property prices in Perth are currently trending downwards overall, this pattern isn’t consistent across suburbs, some of which (such as the exclusive Peppermint Grove) have grown more expensive in the last year. As such, it’s a good idea to consult up-to-date information when considering your own move to Perth. The best places to start are the realestate.com.au and REIWA websites, both of which provide regularly updated suburb profiles that include median rent data. You can also get a general idea of property prices across Perth by consulting the interactive map on the PwC CityPulse Perth profile (this is particularly helpful because it lets you highlight suburbs that match your budget).