Desperately seeking longer stay for extra au pair of hands

Desperately seeking longer stay for extra au pair of hands

AU pair agencies are calling on the government to make changes to the Working Holiday visa as demand for overseas nannies soars.

They want the working period extended from six months to at least a year and for students from more countries to be eligible for a Working Holiday visa.

Australia has more than 4000 au pairs working in homes, according to recruitment agencies, and the number is increasing every year as more and more families take to the idea.

Mother of three Helen Kettlewell has just hired her third German au pair from the agency Dream Nannies and said she couldn’t live without them.

She works as an office administrator two days a week, while her IT consultant husband leaves at 7am and often doesn’t get home till after 7pm. She says having an extra pair of hands around the house has been a godsend, particularly as they have no family in Australia.

“I was virtually at breaking point,” she said. “We love them. It’s like having another family member. They’re there to pick up and drop off. It’s lovely just having the person in the house.”

But she said the visa arrangements made it difficult for her and especially her kids.

“They really get to know them and then they’re gone,” she said. “You get so settled and attached to them. They get into the routine, they know the kids’ friends and they know you and how you work as a family. Six months isn’t long enough.”

Juliette MacGregor, acting manager of Smart Au Pairs [IAPA member organisation], said laws were restricting the ability of agencies to bring in students and denying consistency to children and families.

“Every six months they need a new one,” she said. “Some families have come to us four or five times. They would appreciate an au pair who could stay longer, but it’s not possible with the visa. “Once you’ve trained someone up, which takes about a month, and the children have warmed to her, it’s only five months until she has to leave and you have to train a new au pair.”

In addition, applicants from only 19 countries qualify for the Working Holiday visa, with a further four eligible for a special Work and Holiday visa. Some countries that didn’t make the cut include Hungary, South Africa, Brazil and China.

“We get some very strong candidates from Hungary but we can’t accept them,” said owner of ProAuPair Theresa Collocott. “Brazil would be good too; culturally they’re a really good fit.”

As a mother who uses an au pair, Mrs Collocott said she’s seen up close the difficulties caused by the visa restrictions. “It’s really difficult because they just get into the swing of things and they have to leave,” she said. “With the children, introducing someone new into their lives is challenging.”