Expat groups exist but are not as prevalent in Melbourne as in other major cities. Nonetheless, it is nice to have a few points of contact to cushion the often dramatic experience of isolation and culture shock that comes from arriving in a new country.
A national organisation with chapters in each major city, Newcomers Network offers social events and support groups for those who have recently arrived in Melbourne. The Second Thursday meeting (held on the second Thursday of every month) has been helping introduce expats to others for many years.
Repat and Expat Club
A group of over 250 members who have all relocated to Melbourne, either from overseas or other cities. A great way to mix with people from different cultures, as well as meet some open-minded Aussie friends. All members speak English, but could also be a good resource for learning other languages.
Newcomers and Friends Association
This organisation is run by volunteers in association with Open Doors (the international group that puts traveling women in touch with each other for support, friendship, advice and fun). Members are mostly middle aged women who have relocated recently to Melbourne (and their husbands or partners at some events). Regular meetings include coffee, a book club, excursions to attractions outside of the city, and games (bridge, mah-jong).
This is not a Melbourne-based group, but it is a great site for the spouses of expats. Expat spouses (usually wives) are often the most affected by expatriation. Although 68% of spouses of expats in Melbourne were working before the family moved, only 16% work during their time in Australia. This is due to a multitude of reasons, but the portability of professions is a major one. ExpatClic recognise this and are an invaluable source of advice, humour and support. They also have some great links, tips and resources on how to re-shape your skills to fit a portable niche that allows expat spouses to work in Melbourne.
BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL ORGANISATIONS
Melbourne Business Network
http://www.melbournebusinessnetwork.org.au/ Organises regular business networking events in and around Melbourne, sometimes with a focus on a specific industry, but generally with no restrictions. All events involve a fee, but could be well worth the cost to make a connection with some of the ambitious business people who frequent these meetings.
Women’s Network Australia
http://www.womensnetwork.com.au/index.cfm A nationwide organisation that hosts regular networking events for professional women. All events have a fee, and usually include a guest speaker before the mingling.
The Hive, Entrepreneur Network
http://thehive.org.au/category/melbourne/ This group meets regularly to give entrepreneurs and small business owners a chance to meet and exchange ideas, strategies, and stories of success. Most meetings are free and feature a special guest who has met with success in the Melbourne business scene, such as Tony Wheeler (creator and owner of Lonely Planet).
http://www.d73.toastmasters.org.au/courses/ The Melbourne chapter of this international public speaking and business networking club comes highly recommended by expat executives. Known for being a little less formal than chapters in other cities, members are outgoing, gregarious, and often known to socialise outside of the club.
INTERNATIONAL CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE
In addition to networking groups, there are a number of international Chambers of Commerce in Melbourne. Expats can become members, particularly if they own a business, and interact with other members of their home country’s business community. Each Chamber has its own protocol and Events calendar.
Japanese (no website)
99 Queen St, Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia
03 9642 2120
Most of Melbourne’s Private Clubs are extremely exclusive, with eligibility based on legacy, or invitation by an existing member. While it’s highly unlikely that you will be invited to join unless your father was a member, or you own a company large enough that people actively try to curry your favour, they may be worth investigating if membership in an exclusive social institution is important to you. However, if you are a woman, disregard this list, as none of these social clubs accept women as members.
Melbourne Savage Club
12 Bank Pl, CBD
03 9670 0644
The Melbourne Club
35-36 Collins Street, CBD
03 9650 4941
87 Collins St, CBD
03 9654 3200
Yarra Valley Country Club
9-15 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen
03 9850 6311
http://www.yarravalley.net.au/ An accessible club with open membership representing a diverse variety of people. The course has seen better days, but a major renovation is in the works.
Mulgrave Country Club
Wellington Rd, Wheelers Hill
03 9582 4600
http://www.mulgravecc.com.au/ Members here are mostly 50 or older. A long list of day-time social activities in addition to golf course and lawn bowling facilities.
Patterson River Country Club
The Fairway, Bonbeach
03 9772 1972
http://www.pattersonriver.com.au/ A beautiful course on the bayside peninsula. Membership is pricey but open, with visitors’ rates to allow you to evaluate full membership while playing the course.
Heritage Golf and Country Club
Hughes & Yarraview Rds, Chirnside Park
03 9722 2500
http://www.hgcc.com.au/ An affluent and established club and course in the Melbourne area. Memberships are limited and highly sought after.
Kingston Heath Golf Club
Kingston Road Cheltenham
http://www.kingstonheath.com.au/welcome/index.mhtml Offering one of the best courses in the world, membership is extremely limited and requires nomination by two existing members (unrelated) as well as references from a further three members. If accepted, you will be placed on a waiting list for between 1-5 years.
COMMUNITY SERVICE ORGANISATIONS
Volunteering your time and skills is a great way to contribute to your new community and establish a strong network of supportive colleagues. The following are several charities or organisations that are actively seeking volunteers and come with good recommendations from expats.
Big Brothers / Big Sisters
http://www.bbbs.org.au/bbbs/home.sok?ID= Melbourne arm of this international organisation aims to pair disadvantaged children with adult role models.
Brotherhood of St. Laurance
http://www.bsl.org.au/Get-involved/Volunteer-with-us.aspx With the stated goal of abolishing poverty in Australia, this charity needs all the volunteers it can get. Volunteer services generally include feeding the homeless or delivering care packages to disadvantaged families.
Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria
http://www.mifellowship.org/ Lend a hand helping those with a mental illness, or families of the disabled.
If you enjoy playing sport, Melbourne has hundreds of local sporting groups. Sports clubs in Australia are welcoming communities, and there will be something for each member of the family to be involved with. If you’re not actually playing, you will be needed to lend a hand turning sausages on the barbecue, rounding up the small children and handing out the beer. A local sports team is a great way to make new friends, especially if you are moving to Melbourne with your family.
You can find a local club using the Melbourne City Council directory at http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/ParksandActivities/SportsandRecreation/Pages/Melbournecitysportsprogram.aspx
Muslim Women’s National Network Australia
http://www.mwnna.org.au/ English language assistance, support and friendship
http://www.indiandownunder.com.au/ Online meeting place for Indian expats in Australia (including a classified section devoted to ‘Matrimonial’)
Fitzroy Learning Network
http://www.fitzroylearningnetwork.org.au/ English language skills, cultural assimilation and support. More for refugees than expats, but a great resource to help fight culture shock
Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association
http://www.avwa.org.au/ Meetups, cultural assimilation tips, social and professional networking for Vietnamese women, their family and friends.