Au Pair Australia

Who are Au Pairs?

An Au Pair is usually a foreign person who goes to live in another country, with a host family, so that she can improve the language and experience a new culture.

For the majority they are girls, but can be also boys, although this is not as common, therefore I am going to use the female pronoun, when I refer to an Au Pair.

In exchange for looking after the children and some light housework, she receives free accommodation, food and some pocket money.

Most of them are aged between 19 and 25 years, but they can be older, they have some childcare experience but are not formally qualified in childcare. They live with you as part of the family and help out.

They pay their own return flight to come to Australia and also their own medical and travel insurance.

I was one too.

In my early twenties I worked as an Au Pair girl for three different families. Twice in Paris and one in London. I am Italian and I've always had an interest in learning foreign languages, which I studied at school, but that was not enough. I wanted to experience a real full immersion of the language, by living among the people of that country. 

At the time this seemed the cheapest and easiest way to achieve my dream. Being cared for by a lovely host family, look after their adorable children, helping with the housework and receive some pocket money. All living expenses paid! Lots of free time for studying the language and for exploring the city. 'Not bad', I thought back then. Well, unfortunately for me that didn't work exactly like that.

In the late 80s there was no internet and obviously no  websites. Matching a girl to a host family was the responsibility of Agencies. For a fee, these agencies would find you a suitable family, or so they promised. You had to trust they would look after you and assist you in the eventuality of an issue, but that was not the case. When I had a major issue with the host family, I contacted the agency to help me out, but they dismissed me. I was on my own. In a new city and with no support, I was almost ready to pack in my polyglot dream and head straight back home to my real family.  

I have learnt a lot from my experiences and I have certainly grown. I accepted that for the families I was just cheap childcare and a fairly inexpensive cleaner, so I just 'used' them for free accommodation and board. Once I didn't expect them to be a second family to me, I saw the situation as a temporary job, to achieve my goal, learn the language, not people to get attached to.

One thing I promised myself back then, was that, if I'd ever invited a foreign girl to help me taking care my children, I would have always treated her with respect, but also as a member of my family.

I may talk about my great and not so good experiences, some other time, in a different article.

Fast forward twenty years, I live in Australia and I am a mum myself and have two gorgeous girls (I'm their mum after all ). Like lots of mums, I have a demanding job, leaving early in the morning and coming back late afternoon. Not having any family nearby, to help me with the girls and to avoid sending them to before and after school care, I have decided to have Au Pairs looking after my daughters.

Why not choosing a live-out nanny instead?

A Nanny is also a person who looks after children,  mainly a native from your own country, she is trained and qualified in childcare and is usually your Employee. A live out nanny is more expensive, but you don't have to offer accommodation or food.

I have always chosen Au Pairs to help me with my children and most of the time, they were girls from Italy, my birth country, so that they could speak Italian to my girls.

Having a live-in person gives you more flexibility, in case your child is sick, at the last minute and need to stay at home or needs to be collected early from school. Remember to pay her extra if she does more hours than the agreed ones, but do not expect her to be available at your beck and call, she also have a life.

Although there are no fixed rules, the expectation in Australia, is that the Au Pair have her own room and the bathroom, if shared, only with the kids, which means you should have at least two bathrooms in the house.

Hosting a foreign girl as a help, shouldn't be about cheap and convenient childcare, it should be mainly about the exchange of culture and language, about caring for another family member as much as her caring for your children.

Pocket Money.

I always paid at least $250 per week, plus car (available also for their own personal use at the week-end), plus $50 petrol money, plus mobile phone charge. The work hours varied between 30 and 40 hours a week and one night babysitting per week. I always gave Saturday and Sunday off. I think my Au Pairs always considered me like a big sister or a friend, rather than a host mum. I've heard other families paying $150 per week for 35-40 hours of work, I think this is not enough. At the end they look after your precious children, for that they should be fairly compensated.

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Agency or do it yourself via a website?

Twenty five years ago it was only possible to find host Families via agencies, but now families and Au Pairs can meet on internet sites.

All my Au Pairs had profiles on a website that matched my requirements (no smokers, driver etc.).

There are a few suitable websites out there, but the one I have always used, is Au Pair World (and no I am not getting a commission from them). It's an affordable site with thousands of subscribers looking for a host family. Once you pay the subscription fee, you are allowed to use the site for a couple of months, but usually it only takes a couple of weeks to find a suitable Au Pairs or host families.  You can select the country and choose between a list of specific requirements. You are then presented with a list of suitable Au Pairs or host families and their profiles, which you can review and shortlist. 

The best thing is to make a list of 3 to 5 possible candidates, write to them and set up Skype video conferences. To choose the most suitable candidate or host family, trust your initial gut feeling and ask lots of questions. Ask to see the host family children, or see the the girl parents/family. If they have done the same job before ask for references from previous families or viceversa ask to be able to contact their previous Au Pairs.

As a family host, it's best to be upfront with what you require from her.

Explain about your family habits and rules. Give the Au Pair a written schedule with a detailed weekly timetable and the list of all duties that she will be performing. Reassure the Au Pair that you will care about her as a family member. Includes the Au Pair in your family outings, if she would like to participate, especially at the beginning.

Offer the Au Pair a bonus if she stays for 6 months.


Currently in Australia there is no visa specific for Au Pairs and therefore the rules are the same as the Working Holiday Visa and you can read my other InfoBarrel article regarding that type of visa.

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