Au Pairs – A Cost Effective Child Care Solution


With many families having two working parents these days, child care is a necessity for most families. The prices for day care can range from anywhere from $75 per day and up to over $100 a day, it certainly is not cheap, especially if you have more than one child using day care or before and after school care.

An au pair is an affordable childcare alternative to traditional day care – from just $170 per week families can host a live in au pair who can help with child care and light house work. An au pair is a young foreign girl (or guy!) who comes to Australia to experience our local culture, improve their English skills and travel around the country, a bit like a gap year where they get to work and earn their travelling money.

Typical au pair duties include getting the kids ready for and off to school for the day, picking them up when school ends, taking them to after-school activities, helping them with homework, making dinner for the children and getting them ready for bed. Light housework can also be part of their duties, such as laundry for the children, vacuuming and general tidying, but these should be agreed in advance. If required, families can also include a night of babysitting to give parents some valuable time together. Average hours for au pairs are 25-35 working hours per week.

It should be noted that au pairs are not nannies – they do not have the same level of qualifications or experience but most will have experience looking after children and enjoy working with young children. They are also not to be left in sole charge of children under 12 months old, but can certainly help out with babies when parents are home. An au pair agency will run background checks on all au pairs so using an agency will ensure your chosen au pair will have a police check and a working with children check.

So instead of paying exorbitant day care fees, why not consider hosting an au pair in your family? All you need is a spare bedroom for the au pair and the willingness to embrace a new person into your family. Most au pairs stay with their families for around 6 months, although it could be as short as 3 months depending on the family’s needs and the au pairs visa restrictions. Smart Au Pairs is a respected Australian au pair agency which helps match families with their perfect au pair – register to start your search for an au pair with Smart Au Pairs online today.


What Is An Au Pair?

With the ever-increasing cost of childcare these days, parents are exploring alternatives to traditional day-cares that fit in better with their often busy lifestyles. One of those alternatives is choosing to host an au pair. Hiring an au pair can be done directly or parents can choose to use an au pair agency

A few years ago, having a nanny was considered a luxury that few parents could afford. With the advent of cheaper travel around the globe and the rise of the two working-parent family, au pairing has become a popular option both for families looking for childcare within the home and for young girls (and guys!) looking to travel and earn at the same time.

While an au pair does not have the extensive experience that a nanny has, they also do not command the remuneration that a nanny can. Au pairs are usually young foreign girls, but sometimes guys as well, who enjoy working with children and have proven babysitting or childcare experience. They choose to live with a host family so they can experience living in a new country, learn about a different culture and have the chance to improve their English skills.

Most au pair placements are for around 6 months but can vary depending on the family and the visa restrictions of the country they are visiting. Au pairs typically work for 25-35 hours per week and their main responsibility is looking after the children of the house. They cannot, however, be left in sole charge of children under 12 months old though but can help out when parents are present. They can also help with light chores around the house when required and provide one night of babysitting per week so parents can get some quality time together.

A typical day for an au pair will involve getting the kids ready for school, making breakfast and school lunches and doing the school drop off. If the family only has school-age children, they will then have a few hours to themselves while the children are at school or perform some light housework. If the family has younger children not yet at school, the au pair will look after them and organise fun activities at home such as baking or craft activities, or take them out to the park, beach or on a playdate. At the end of the school day, the au pair will pick up the kids, take them home or to after-school activities and help them with homework. They will then get dinner ready for the kids and perhaps help out with bedtime as well.

An au pair will live with their host family and have their own bedroom. Pay is decided between the au pair and the family but not less than $170 per week, which is substantially less than fees for daycare, and even more so if you have more than one child.

Using an au pair agency has several benefits over finding an au pair directly. Au pair agencies have access to lots of screened candidates with working with children and police checks and sometime even medical checks. Going direct means having to do all this homework yourself and making sure the references the au pair provides are legitimate. An agency will also help you find candidates that match your family, taking all the legwork out of interviewing candidates that would not fit with your family. Smart Au Pairs is an established and reputable agency that assists families with finding their perfect au pair.

Au Pair of the Month Aubrey

Aubrey brought an easygoing warmth and kindness into our house. Her background as an elite gymnast helped our daughter take it up a few notches on the trampoline and at dance! Her disciplined approach was also a blessing for juggling homework and the children’s many activities.


aubrey nsw








Aubrey made a beautiful video to music of her great times with the family and hand drew her unique designs on a pair of very special runners for our daughter.  The children absolutely love Aubrey and we will miss her very much when she sets off to see the world. 

Nicole on Radio NZ on behalf of CAPAA

We encourage our host families to include au pairs in meals, celebrations, activities and family holidays. The unfortunate event of French au pair Manon being refused entry to New Zealand to join her host family on their family holiday caused shock and disbelieve.

Au Pair on holiday – Radio NZ


Juliette is quoted in the Herald Newspaper

Juliette was asked to contribute her knowledge to this article about childcare in the Sydney Morning Herald, written by Barbara Drury.

Another low-cost alternative is to welcome an overseas student, or au pair, into your home. Juliette MacGregor, of Smartaupairs, says most au pairs are looking for a cultural experience with the chance to earn some pocket money for travel.

Au pairs typically work up to 30 hours a week, minding children and doing light chores before and after school with the occasional night of babysitting. In return they receive bed and board plus pocket money of around $170 to $200 a week, depending on hours and qualifications.

MacGregor says her agency places 500 to 600 au pairs a year in major cities around Australia but has to turn away many families. That’s partly because of to a seasonal shortage of au pairs at the start of the school year because most European students begin their gap year in the northern summer.

“We also get a lot of inquiries from regional families because there’s not much formal childcare in their area, but we have to turn them away”, MacGregor says.

Up until recently au pairs – who are generally overseas students on a 12-month working holiday visa – were restricted to working with each employer for a maximum of six months. But last year the Department of Immigration and Border Protection removed this restriction, allowing au pairs to stay with a family for up to 12 months.

The Cultural Au Pair Association of Australia is also in discussions with the government to create a specific au pair visa open to more nationalities to help meet demand for their services.

Read more:

Smartaupairs team sponsor Christel in the Philippines

Through Plan International, we were introduced to Christel, her family and her community.

As an au pair agency, we talk to many families every day and enjoy making a difference by helping them find a nice au pair to be part of the family and help out to give parents a better work-life balance. We wanted to help a different family too, or, more specifically, a young girl who has very different challenges from the families and au pairs we deal with every day. We want to make a difference in her life and give her more opportunities for her future.

Christel is 5 years old and lives with her family in a house made of cane with a thatched roof and an earth floor. She lives with her mum and dad and 2 sister. The family uses wood for cooking and their main source of water is a well, 30 minutes away. Christel attends primary school and it takes approx. 45 minutes to reach school. Not all children in the Philippines attend school; although most go to primary school, by the time children reach high school, a shocking 40% is no longer in school.

We hope that our sponsorship with enable her to keep happy, healthy and allow her to finish high school.

European Agency visits and planning for 2016

Last November, Cynthia and Juliette travelled to Europe to meet our overseas partners.  They had meetings with our 5 largest partner agencies, located in Germany and the Netherlands.  As you can imagine, this was a great time to exchange ideas and share ‘best practice’ to continue to develop the Au Pair in Australia program further. These lists proved to be very successful and help us with the planning for a busy 2016. As a team, we believe its very important to invest in strengthening our partner agency relationships. 

Feedback from the visit so far is that our partners now understand exactly what Australian families are looking for. Agency prescreening and preparation of candidates is thorough and we feel very confident in every candidate they send our way.

The trip is a great opportunity for our entire team to collaborate to developing the program further still, and to ensure that all of our families have a great choice of candidates, all year round.

Differences between Au Pair and Nanny

In October, the CAPAA team represented the au pair industry in a groundbreaking meeting with the Fair Work Ombudsman. Smartaupairs and CAPAA continue to campaign for a better understanding of the Au Pair program as an International Cultural Exchange program and this dialogue with Fair Work gave us the opportunity to highlight the differences between a nanny and an au pair.

Unless we have an recognised Au Pair program in Australia, we risk au pairs to be seen as ‘workers’ with potentially complex obligations for host families which we believe are of no benefit to the au pair.

Here is what we think are the key differences:

Au Pair
1. Usually unqualified [in Childcare/early learning]
2. Unlikely to chose a career in childcare; main motivation to chose the au pair program is for the opportunity to experience cultural exchange in a family orientated gap year program
3. Does not know Australian customs and both agency and host parents should inform the au pair of ‘Australia specific’ do’s and don’t (example: swimming pool risks, snakes & spiders, slip-slap-slop, bush fire risk and evacuation plan)
4. English is second language, able to communicate but still improving
5. First Aid certificate from own country
6. Limited knowledge of [Australian] nutrition, should know some simple recipes
7. Need some training before they can care for children, most of the planning should be done by parents and communicated in the host family handbook.
8. Communication diary to be agreed and guided by host family
9. Police Check from own country and WWCC* on arrival
10. Not employed; au pair program is based on family invitation. Pocket money guidelines are provided by agencies and confirmed by au pair invitation.
11. No childcare rebate structure
12. Placement for 6-12 months care
13. Unstructured play with the children (unless parents specify certain activities in the handbook)
14. Communication with parents. Parents remain main point of contact for other care providers such as school and kindy
15. Driving license from their own country (International Driver’s license); needs help to get familiar with driving in Australia
16. Use of family car, safety, insurance and maintenance is family responsibility. Child-seats fitted by host family
17. Interview by Skype – multiple interviews are encouraged
18. Background check and references organised by recruiting agency in source country of the au pair
19. Sole care for children under 2 is not too much responsibility for most au pairs
20. Newborn care should only be with close parental guidance and supervision
21. Always live-in
22. Invited by host family, childcare provided in exchange for Full board and pocket money and chance to be part of their Australian host family. Working hours/on duty hours should allow for social life and sightseeing and should not be excessive (**50 hours is seen as excessive!)


1. Usually [childcare/early learning] Qualified or working towards a qualification
2. Likely to be a professional in childcare; wanting to have a career in childcare
3. Knows Australian customs e.g Child safety/methods
4. English is fluent
5. Accredited First Aid and CPR training
6. Trained and experienced Knowledge about nutrition and able to cook
7. Independent [capable of un-aided planning] and uses own initiative to resolve challenges
8. Will report daily with communication diary and summary at end of day
9. Working with children check
10. ABN or employed by family
11. Eligible for registered provider rebate
12. Long term continuity for child
13. Age and developmentally appropriate activities
14. Communicates with other care providers such as School or Kindergarten
15. Confident driver
16. Own transport
17. Can meet with family for interview prior to commencement and undertake a trial
18. Full background checking available
19. Can be left in sole charge care of children
20. Can care for children from newborn upwards
21. Often live-out
22. Employed and paid as per the legal requirements in Australia [Childcare award] – no limit to working hours

Passionate Customer Service consultant with smiling voice.

Smartaupairs is seeking a passionate customer service consultant to talk to families who are interested in our au pair program.


We are fortunate to have a very close-knit team and it often feels like we are all part of the family. On busy days we help each other and we are always looking for ways to improve our service and seek feedback. Many of our team members have been au pair or nanny and/or spent time living, working and studying overseas, so we each feel very closely connected to the au pair program. The strength of the team in the Sydney office is a combination of wonderful personalities and a true commitment to each other, our partners, our families and our au pairs with a joyful daily atmosphere.


Our team is looking for a part time customer service consultant/receptionist to handle the majority of enquiry telephone calls and have the confidence and skills to turn the calls into customers. The role will based in Frenchs Forest and will initially be for 3 mornings per week with flexibility to take on more hours if another team member is absent.


Key responsibilities include:

  • Providing prospective families with fast, efficient, friendly and knowledgeable service
  • Answer customer queries in a courteous manner by telephone and email and passing messages to other team members for follow up if needed
  • Making notes of your communication on the online family profile (customer database)
  • Working independently yet cooperatively in a team environment


To be considered for this role, you need to be able to meet the following selection criteria:

  • Passion for Customer service
  • Outgoing and enthusiastic personality
  • Ability to work with ‘online’ tools such as e-mail, Google calendar, handling basic database tasks
  • Work in a fast paced team environment
  • Perform repetitive tasks as well as learning new ones
  • Portray a positive attitude at all times
  • Demonstrate clear written and verbal communications skills (fluent English!)
  • Previous experience in a customer service, sales consultant or receptionist role

Nominate your Au Pair for the “Au Pair of the year” award

We have received so much exceptional feedback from host families this year, we would love these families to nominate their amazing au pair for our Au Pair of the Year Award!

Your nomination should consist of an essay written by your family host family, describing the characteristics that make your au pair exceptional. The essay should be between 500-850 words (approximately 1 page). The essay should only describe the experience, without referring to the name of our agency or our service.

IAPA (International Au Pair Association), the host of the contest is looking for compelling reasons why you believe your au pair is exceptional.
• To ensure fairness and objectivity by the IAPA selection panel, the names of the au pair and the sending/receiving organisation/s will not appear on contest entries.
• All contest entries will become property of the International Au Pair Association, including rights to edit and publish the material.
The winning au pair will be notified by IAPA.

birthe AP pf the year


Birthe from Smartaupairs Australia won the “Au Pair of the year” award in 2012






In addition to the au pair of the year award, host families can also nominate their au pair for our internal “Au Pair of the month” award, where the prize is a 150$ travel voucher they can use in every Backpackers Worldtravel store in Australia.