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Northern Ireland man told to sit English language test for Australia job

A man from Northern Ireland was left stunned after being told he had to do an English language test as part of a job application in Australia.

Gerard Kellett, who grew up in Belfast before emigrating Down Under several years ago, had applied to become a graduate nurse at a hospital in Brisbane, Queensland, and believed he had all the necessary qualifications.

But the 41-year-old was then told that, because he had undergone secondary school education in Northern Ireland, he would have to pass the English test first.

“It was a ridiculous situation,” said Mr Kellet, a former pupil of Campbell College in Belfast.

“Even though English is clearly my first — and indeed my only — language, I was being classed as a foreign student and therefore someone who may not have been able to speak the language very well.”

He added: “In Australia, these students have to sit a competency test to determine their capability in English.

“I don't, however, believe it's a fair one. Having seen the test, I think even native English speakers would struggle with it.”

The Ulsterman's bizarre predicament made headline news in Australia and attracted considerable internet traffic, with many bloggers describing the ruling as “patently ridiculous”.

The publicity surrounding the case persuaded the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which registers nurses, to have a rethink — and they reneged.

Sitting the test would have cost Mr Kellett, who recently completed a Bachelor of Nursing Studies at the Queensland University of Technology with honours, $535 (£306).

The Australian policy on testing foreigners is controversial, and last week some 400 international nursing graduates in Victoria faced deportation after an increase in the English-language requirements for registration as nurses. It followed the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia increasing the English Language Testing System score required for registration, meaning that applicants would have to score an A or B on the Occupational English Test to stay in the country.

But after a protest outside state parliament, and intervention from the Australian Nurses Federation, the board granted concessions to the nurses.

Mr Kellett, meanwhile, says he is just glad he can continue his nursing career with a post at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.

The AHPRA said it would not comment on individual cases.

Belfast Telegraph