It's never too late to teach regional and remote


Primary special education teacher Melissa Smith never imagined moving her entire family from Brisbane to Cairns would be easy. She thought moving to a regional city to teach was something for younger members of the profession—not someone who had a young family and 3 cats!

'I thought it would be too difficult to move when my children were settled in school and day care. I liked the idea but thought I was too old and that ship had sailed since I wasn't young and single anymore,' Melissa said.

In reality, seeking out a regional teaching position turned out to be one of the easiest career moves Melissa ever made.

Relief teaching helped Melissa find her teaching niche

While living in Brisbane and starting her family, Melissa made the most of flexible work options offered by the Department of Education. Working as a contract teacher and a casual relief teacher at Sunnybank Hills State School and Mackenzie Special School gave Melissa the valuable opportunity to experience a variety of school settings.

It helped Melissa identify her true area of passion as a teacher.

'In 2016 I did a relief day at Mackenzie Special School and loved it. I knew teaching kids with intellectual impairments was where I wanted to be career-wise. I did a few more relief days at Mackenzie and they offered me a contract 3 days per week,' Melissa said.

Supported to make her biggest career move yet

Despite the professional fulfilment she found and the flexibility of her part-time position, Melissa and her husband decided a move to Cairns to be near her parents would be best for their young family. Melissa took a few important steps to find her perfect job up north.

Melissa attended the Teach Queensland Career Fair in late 2017. She spoke with recruiters from the Far North Queensland region, got on-the-spot answers to her questions, and discovered the specific support and incentives available for teachers taking up permanent employment opportunities in regional and remote areas.

She also kept her eye on SmartJobs and when a job came up at the new special school in Cairns, Melissa took action straight away.

'I spoke to my principal at Mackenzie who agreed to be a referee for me.

'I received so much support from both principals (Mackenzie and Cairns) who allowed me paid days off to fly up for my interview and covered the cost of my flights.'

Financial and relocation assistance

When Melissa was offered a permanent position at Cairns State Special School, the department paid for her family's move.

'It saved us so much money. The entire contents of our house was packed and moved for us, as well as my car. My husband chose to drive up with his precious computer equipment and the department reimbursed his travel expenses. They also paid for the kids, cats and me to fly up.

'We felt very lucky to have those costs covered. It took away the financial burden of moving and made it a lot less stressful.'

Her advice for other teachers considering moving away from home to teach?

'Just go for it!'

Melissa's career progression and her family's supported move highlights the varied professional pathways available to teachers in Queensland state schools.

Could rural and remote be for you too? Check out our rural and remote service calculator to learn about the financial benefits.

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Last updated 23 July 2021