Health and Wellbeing

After many months of preparation you have finally made it and are ready to study and enjoy life in Australia. With the many new challenges you face, it may be easy to overlook your health and the environmental changes that may affect your wellbeing. You are about to embark on a great adventure in an environment which may differ in culture, food, climate and lifestyle; all of these changes can impact upon your physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

The best way to maintain your health while studying and traveling in Australia is to be aware of the environments that you live, work, study and play in. Being aware of these environments is the best way to avoid or reduce risks and situations that may jeopardise your health.

Use information available online and at your institution to learn and adjust your lifestyle to the Australian environment and create a healthy and safe environment. Having access to health care services aids in the achievement and maintenance of good health.


Personal Safety

Australia is one of the safest countries in the world, but like in all countries you can significantly reduce the risk of injury and protect yourself from experiencing personal harm by being aware of your surroundings and the situations that may put you at risk. Use commonsense and safety measures to reduce the risk of injury.

At Your Institution
  • Be aware of your institution security services and use them when required
  • Never leave your personal belongings unattended
  • Do not leave valuables in view or in a place that is easy to access
  • Report any suspicious persons/behaviour to the institution's on-campus security
  • If you are using institution facilities until late, find a security guard or friend to walk out with you

For helpful hints on reducing the risk of personal harm in various situations, please refer to the Australian Federal Police website.

The Australian Environment

Changes in the environment can have an effect on your health. Be aware of the diverse environments and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

Climate and Weather

Australia is a country of vast climate zones and weather conditions, and the seasons are opposite to those in the Northern Hemisphere. Much of Australia is very dry and the wettest areas are around the coasts of Australia. The northern and interior regions of the country average higher temperatures and greater humidity than areas to the south of the continent. The northern regions of Australia are a tropical zone, with 'wet' summer and 'dry' winters. The southern regions of Australia have four seasons. Spring from September-November, Summer from December-February, Autumn from March-May and Winter from June-August. The winter months are particularly cool and wet in the south.

Climate affects our every day life and enables us to plan, but weather conditions can often be unpredictable, so be prepared no matter when or where you are going.

View detailed and current weather conditions for all of Australia

Sun safety and protection

Australia's sun is harsh and protection from the sun is required. Some basic tips for protecting yourself from sunburn and skin cancer are:

  • Avoid being directly in the sun between 10am to 3pm
  • Use broad based spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF30 when outdoors
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat to protect the face, ears and back of the neck

For further sun protection tips visit SunSmart and for sunburn and treatment visit Sunburn and Skin Cancer

Surf and Water Safety

There are many beautiful coastlines to visit and enjoy around Australia. Surf and water safety is an extremely important issue when visiting popular Australian beaches and below are a few tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable day:

  • Swim at beaches that are patrolled by lifeguards. Locate a patrolled beach and enjoy the coast
  • Do not swim on beaches that are closed or that are not patrolled by Lifeguards
  • Do not swim after you have eaten or if you have consumed alcohol
  • Follow all instructions from the Lifeguards on duty
  • Swim in the designated areas (normally marked by red and yellow flags)
  • Stay out of the water if unsure of the surf conditions or there are no safety flags
  • If you get caught in a rip then swim diagonally across it. Do not swim against it
  • If you get caught in a rip stay on your float or surfboard
  • If you are in trouble then raise one arm, and wait for assistance

For further Surf and Beach safety tips visit Surf Lifesaving Australia

Traffic Conditions

Motor Vehicle Safety

  • In Australia we drive on the left side of the road
  • You must wear a seat belt at all times whether you are driving or a passenger in a vehicle
  • Always carry your drivers licence with you
  • Do not use your mobile phone while driving, use hands free or switch off your phone while driving
  • Be aware of pedestrians at all times, and especially in areas where there are shopping centres, schools and elderly residents
  • Do not drink alcohol and drive. The blood alcohol concentration limit for learners and probationary drivers is zero and for full licensed drivers it is 0.05
  • Approach intersections at a speed that allows you to stop if necessary
  • Be aware of cyclists and motorcycles
  • Avoid driving when tired. Pull over and take a walk or power nap at regular intervals during long trips
  • Be courteous and considerate to all other road users
  • Plan trips in advance, and leave time to explore and rest without rushing in areas where you are unfamiliar with the roads
  • If you are travelling in more rural areas of Australia at night, you may encounter livestock and animals on the roadside and in the middle of the road. Animals often graze roadside and your vehicle lights may attract the animal's attention. They may stand in your path or suddenly step out onto the road. So be aware when driving at night

To become familiar with road rules, signs and hazards that you may encounter, download a copy of the Australian Road Rules

Pedestrian Safety

  • Always cross the street at traffic lights or a pedestrian crossing
  • Only cross the road when the green walking signal is displayed. Never start crossing when there is a red signal
  • Always ensure that any approaching drivers can see you before you step out onto the road
  • Never assume that a driver will stop for you
  • If there is no crossing, avoid crossing where you cannot see approaching traffic such as near the crest of a hill or at a bend in the road. Cross where you know it is safe
  • Always use footpaths where they are provided. People walk, jog, push prams, ride bicycles and rollerblade on footpaths, so keep to the left and be courteous of other users
  • If there is no footpath, walk facing oncoming traffic and keep as close to the side of the road as possible
  • Always wait in designated areas (bus stops or tram stops) for public transport. Do not sit close to tram lines or on the side of the road while waiting for public transport
  • At railway level crossings, wait for the boom to rise and the bells to stop before you cross - a second train may be approaching

Mental Health

During your time in Australia, you may be faced with times when you are feeling uncertain in the unfamiliar environment, feeling lonely away from your family and friends and feeling stress due to the pressures of studying. It is perfectly natural to experience these feelings.

There are many situations that can bring about feelings of sadness, anxiety and negative emotions, such as:

  • Pressures of studying and workload
  • Change in culture
  • Being away from family and friends
  • Living conditions - overcrowding, lack of privacy, insufficient place to study, noise levels and difficulty living with strangers
  • Financial difficulties

If you are continually feeling extreme sadness, anxiety and negative emotions, you may be suffering from stress, depression, anxiety or other mental health problems that can contribute to many other health problems including chronic pain, sleeplessness and fatigue.

Life and studying in a new country is not always easy, but your institution and other professional services can help you feel more positive about your life in Australia. Never be afraid to ask for help!!

You can speak to your support services at your institution or access various sources of information about depression and available treatments, visit:
Beyond Blue
Reach Out
Depression Services

Sexual Health

Safe Sex

Safe sex practices reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs are infectious conditions transmitted through sexual activity. Some of the STIs can be easily treated but unfortunately there is no cure for many of them, and these incurable STIs tend to be the most common and longest lasting. Some, for example HIV and Hepatitis B, can have serious health consequences.

The risk of catching the more serious STIs can be minimised by:

  • Avoid having sexual intercourse or genital contact
  • Use condoms and water-based lubricant or dental dams every time you have sexual intercourse or oral sex
  • Minimise the number of different partners you have sex with, and practice safe sex every time
  • If using intravenous drugs, ensure you do not share injecting equipment
  • Have Hepatitis A and B vaccination

Condoms, used properly, are the most effective means of reducing the transmission of semen or vaginal fluids from one person to another, but will only protect you against infection if you use them every time you have sex. Condoms are available from supermarkets, chemists, condom vending machines, health services and family planning clinics. For information about how to use condom refer to the website.

For information about the most common sexually transmissible infections (STIs) in Australia, refer to the following website Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Contraception

You can protect yourself or your partner from falling pregnant unintentionally by taking precautions and using contraception that suits your lifestyle and situations. In Australia there are many Contraception choices that you can consider, and discuss your options with your local doctor.

Pregnancy

Discovering you are pregnant can present many feelings; it may be unexpected, exciting or daunting. Find information about your Pregnancy Options and Pregnancy support at the websites provided.

Family Planning Australia has organisations all over Australia that provide a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services that focus on prevention, early intervention, diagnosis, treatment, and community education. For more information about services in your state, visit Family Planning Australia.

Diet and Nutrition

Living in a new country often means diet changes according to the food and produce that you have access to. A western diet tends to be higher in fat than diets from the Asian region, and changes in your diet have an effect on your health and nutritional state.

There are many benefits to eating a well-balanced and nutritional diet:

  • Having the energy to exercise, socialise and study
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Improved ability to concentrate and cope with stress
  • Reduce the risk of common health issues, including excess weight, heart disease, blood pressure, certain cancers and constipation
  • Strong immune system to fight common colds and flu

For tips about diet and nutrition in Australia refer to the following website Australian guide to healthy eating

Check out some healthy recipes at Nutrition Australia

Exercise

Regular physical activity has significant benefits for your overall health and wellbeing. Just 30 minutes of moderate activity each day can improve health and reduce the risk of developing certain conditions or diseases. More intense activity (for those who are able and choose to do it) may provide additional benefit in terms of cardiovascular health.

People who enjoy physical activity benefit from:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Managing weight
  • Releasing stress
  • Overall improved physical health
  • Feeling more positive about life

Joining exercise groups or team sports is also a great way to meet new friends! Your institution or local sports centre may be able to provide you with recreational activities.

Alcohol and Drugs

Alcohol is a part of most social occasions - people drink to celebrate, relax and have fun. Often we underestimate the effects that alcohol has on our bodies and behaviours. Using alcohol and other drugs can put you at risk. Understanding and using safely will help you minimise the risks associated.

For Drug and Alcohol Information visit the website or access Drug Information in languages other than English
For help lines & links to further information or Counselling services