Becoming an au pair is an exciting and enriching move for many young people, allowing overseas visitors to work in a new country and gain genuine local experiences.
In between bonding with their host family and becoming a 'big sibling' to their children, au pairs can practice their second language, learn to drive on the other side of the road, enjoy the au pairing community, and live in places they may never have experienced otherwise.
For Esther Hathaway, this place is Kununurra, a town in the far north of Western Australia. Close to the incredible Kimberley region, Kununurra is a long way from Ester's home in the UK and it has provided her with the ultimate Aussie adventure.
To learn what it's like to be an outback au pair, we spoke with Ms Hathaway.
How did you end up au pairing in Western Australia?
Well, I'd always wanted to travel to Australia at some point and had just graduated from university. I wanted to do something a bit different for a while, before launching into my formal career, and a friend told me that her sister had got a job au pairing in Australia. As soon as I heard that, I knew au pairing would be the perfect job for me too!
I love spending time with kids, so being able to mix child care with a year in Australia was ideal. Although I don't have any formal child care qualifications, I've always enjoyed looking after my younger cousins and have spent time working at a crèche back home.
What is your host family like?
They're great! The parents needed this kind of child care because they do shift work and have two girls, aged three and five. They've really welcomed me into their lives, and I have a great work-life balance.
What do you get up to each day as a Kununurra au pair?
No day is exactly the same with children, but I usually work five days a week as an au pair and follow this routine:
6:30am - I wake up, have breakfast, and get everyone ready for school and playgroup. The girls love doing everything for themselves, so I usually just have to remind them what to do!
7:50am - I drop the five-year-old off at school, then usually head to a playgroup with the preschooler.
8:30 to 11am - We’re at playgroup and the youngest does physical activities, plus arts and crafts. I usually meet other au pairs at playgroup and all the children enjoying socialising with each other too.
12 noon - We head home and have lunch. I play different games with the youngest, depending on what she’s interested in, then she has a bit of 'quiet time' before we head out to pick up her sister from school.
2pm - We collect the five-year-old from school. If it's a Monday, we head to her dance class, and on other days, we'll sometimes go to the park, take the dogs for a walk (if it's not too hot) or just head home and play together.
3pm - This is when I usually finish with the children. I have evenings off from au pairing, so some nights I work a second job at a restaurant, and the remaining nights are free time. I might meet my friends to do our favourite walk up Kelly's Knob, which has gorgeous views at sunset, or I'll just chill at home with my host family! I've joined a netball team too, so one night a week I play with them.
On weekends, I like to explore the surrounding areas, there are lots of beautiful waterholes, or hang out with friends. We'll head down to the river for the afternoon or pop into a cafe for a quick catch-up!
Overall, how would you describe your experience as an outback au pair?
Au pairing in Kununurra is a very different experience to what it would be like in a big city, such as Sydney or Auckland. It's a small country town, so it's not like you can spend your day off shopping! But I love it up here. I've been able to see a part of Australia I wouldn't have seen otherwise, I've made a lot of good friends and my host family are great. It's been a really memorable life experience and I'm glad that it's not over yet!
What's an easy way for families to find an au pair?
Au pairs are a great child care choice, especially for families where the parents work long, unpredictable or unusual hours. They represent cost-effective care for larger numbers of children and our Child Care Search can help you discover and review the au pairs available in your area.