Our move to Australia has resulted in the biggest spring clean that we’ve ever undertaken, but not everything that we’ve ditched was by choice, and we’re still nervous about some of the stuff we’ve elected to take with us.
Why? Because Australia has some of the most stringent rules about what you are and aren’t allowed to bring with you of any nation in the world, and a tiny misjudgement here or there could result in your possessions being impounded at best, and at worst, destroyed.
When we moved from the UK to Denmark, things were pretty simple. We just booked a removals company who packed up all our stuff into a container, drove it over to our new home and unloaded it, all within a few days.
For Australia, the timings vastly different – containers can take between eight and ten weeks to arrive down under, which means an extended period of living with minimal furniture and sleeping on bare carpets in sleeping bags at one end of the trip or another. In addition, there’s a whole list of restricted items that can’t come with you, and another list of things that have to be scrubbed, disinfected and freshly repainted if you want them to pass the very strict customs inspection that will await your container when it docks in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or wherever you’ve decided to settle.
Items of interest to customs
Basically, anything that originates from a plant or animal is banned outright. That means plants, seeds and pretty much any foodstuffs. Also, anything that could be contaminated with plant, soil or animal residues will likely attract attention so, think bikes, lawnmowers, hedge-trimmers, walking boots, gardening tools, camping equipment, garden furniture, food containers, food preparation and cooking appliances, pet bowls and toys and so on.
They are also pretty hot on wooden items, for fear that they may be contaminated with woodworm or similar parasites, or may be harbouring hidden ninja warriors (I made that last bit up). But all the same, they warn that special scrutiny will be given to picture frames, Christmas decorations, laundry baskets, furniture, wooden ornaments etc.
For stuff that is not banned from the outset, Australian customs demands a rigorous cleaning regime. For wooden furniture, this may mean stripping it back, fumigating it and retreating it with paint or varnish or similar. For garden tools or bikes, it means a thorough cleaning with disinfectant and then wrapping to prevent recontamination prior to and during your move. Vacuum cleaners need to be free of dust and cookware needs to be free of any food residues.
In truth, the requirements for some outdoor equipment, such as lawnmowers, outdoor barbecues and even garden furniture, are so strict that it’s hardly worth the effort to try and meet them and I think we’ll be selling a lot of our stuff and using the proceeds to buy new replacements when we arrive in Australia (which makes me wonder whether this migration programme isn’t just a sneaky way of boosting the Aussie economy).
One thing’s for sure, we really don’t want to end up like this poor guy, who posted his tale of woe to the Poms In Oz forum.
We also need to guard our time preciously. There’s a lot to do and not much time to do it in, and we have to question whether a whole weekend spent cleaning up a barbecue, which still may not come up clean enough, all so we can ship it to a country where barbecues are a way of life, is actually worth it.
In the end, we’re trying to strike a balance. Yes, everything we decide not to take helps to reduce our shipping bill, but equally, we don’t want to arrive in Australia with just the clothes we’re standing in so that we have to spend years re-accumulating all the things that we now take for granted. But most of all, we don’t want all our stuff impounded a few weeks before Christmas with the stark choice of having our stuff destroyed or paying a massive bill to have it re-cleaned by customs contractors.
Oh, and one last thing… if you have a wine or spirits collection, you’d best start drinking it now. Australia allows you to bring your standard duty free allowance with you when you move. Not a drop more. Which is pretty sobering when you think about it.
You can read the full regulations about importing your personal possessions to Australia at the Department of Agriculture’s website here.