Is Australian experience really essential?

This month marks four years since I began planning my return to Aus.  In 2015, I packed up my young children, put my belongings and my car onto a ship and rode the repatriation wave back to Australia.  I had lived in Hong Kong for three and a half years, leading a regional cyber security team and now was the time to come ‘home’.

Having had my second child in 2010, it had been more than five years since I had worked in Australia.  So, to kick things off, I made a few calls and sent a few emails to my friends and peers in Australia to see ‘who was who’ these days in the recruitment zoo.  I was given some names and proceeded to tart up my CV and make contact.  What I found was a common response.

“Given you have been out of Australia for nearly four years it’s going to be practically impossible to place you”


“We are definitely looking for females but without recent Australian experience, I not sure what I can do for you”.

I had senior leadership experience in a regional role having built a team and successfully delivered an award-winning three year security strategy (not to mention my 10 years experience before that) and there was nothing that could be done with me.  Admittedly maybe it was the recruiters I spoke to (which back then I learned that cyber security recruiters were much more focussed on technical skills and pen testers – things have now changed).  Or maybe it was my ignorance thinking that my Asian experience was going to mean something.

When I tell this story to other expats (Australian or otherwise), the number of people who say ‘omg me too!’ is close to 100%.  It seems that landing a job here requires you to have Australian Experience.  Given the requirement for diversity – both female and otherwise – it shocks me that people are still being turned away at the front door.  

I was fortunate enough for a contact of mine to call me and let me know he was leaving his role and that I should apply.  It was a senior leadership role in an Australian organisation where I could build a team and deliver a strategy.  Right up my alley.  Without my strong network, I may never have known of this role, let alone been considered.

We have some amazing people applying for jobs in Australia - those who are born and bred here, those born abroad who want to live here and those who leave and then want to return.  With such a skills shortage in cyber here in Australia, can we continue to think international experience cannot bring value to the Australian market?  Is it time we reconsider those with international experience?


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