Envisioning a different lifestyle for her young family, Scottish optometrist Lesley Allan decided to move to Australia. Here, she describes the process of qualifying to practise optometry in Australia through the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand (OCANZ), and how, with Specsavers’ assistance, she was able to realise her dream.
My optometry career began in 2001 when I qualified from Glasgow Caledonian University and completed my pre-registration (similar to an extended Deakin University clinical placement) with an independent optometrist. Prior to moving to Australia, I had spent 11 years working for an independent practice in my home town of Greenock with my husband, Michael, and my now 7-year-old son, Andrew. Andrew was the main reason we initially thought to move to Australia; we envisioned a different, more outdoors lifestyle with a better work / life balance.
When I started the daunting prospect of the OCANZ journey, I was on my own, unaware of the support available. When I signed up for a course to prepare for the practical exams, I was asked if I wanted to pass my details on to Jerry Dunn, Specsavers’ International Development Manager. This was a total game-changer – I went from being alone with no idea of what was ahead to being overwhelmed by the support provided to help me thoroughly prepare for the realisation of my Australian dream.
The OCANZ exams were extremely challenging and nerves did get the better of me at first, but with a more level-headed and confident approach, I passed. This was definitely a credit to the Specsavers preparation team; not only did they give me useful advice on performing techniques, but they also provided me with endless words of support, and their belief that I could do it was really encouraging. The OCANZ group ends up being a bit like a family; no one else really understands the process like the other candidates sitting the exams, and I built some strong friendships along the way.
Having passed the exams, I thought the hard bit was over – but then the next process of visa application, job interviews and AHPRA registration began. Without Madeleine Curran, Specsavers’ OCANZ Recruitment Consultant, helping me through all these processes, I don’t think I would have made it to Australia. Madeleine really did all the hard work; she sent me forms for AHPRA, started the visa process, and lined up job options and interviews for me. I was lucky to have a couple of options in the area near Adelaide and following a successful interview with Specsavers Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley, I was able to secure a role as a full-time optometrist.
With my job and visa in place and my AHPRA registration underway, my family and I left Scotland for Australia in April 2018, once again with Madeleine assisting by arranging all our flights and temporary accommodation. After a couple of hiccups caused by a kangaroo hitting our hire car within a week of arriving (thankfully, the kangaroo and ourselves were completely uninjured) and confirmation of my registration taking a little longer than expected, I commenced work at Specsavers Nuriootpa in May.
Everyone made me feel so welcome. The Specsavers Nuriootpa directors fully supported me as I learned and familiarised myself with the store’s procedures, and it wasn’t long before I felt like I was part of the team. My family have also settled in well. Andrew is loving school and is enjoying playing sports outdoors and making lots of friends along the way. Michael has also found work and we spend most weekends exploring our new surroundings.
I owe everyone from every part of my OCANZ journey the biggest and most heartfelt thanks because without them, I very much doubt if my family and I would be enjoying our current life in Nuriootpa. Grab opportunity when it presents itself, embrace the challenges placed in front of you, accept the support and knowledge of others, and most importantly, believe in yourself – all this will help you realise your dream.