In Australia, local experience is everything. You might have many years of overseas experience behind you, but it doesn’t carry the same weight as your experience within Australia. From an employer’s perspective, it’s understandable…
First of all, it’s hard for them to gauge the real value of the work you’ve been doing for a company in a different country (unless you were working for a well-known international organisation). Secondly, businesses operate in a slightly different way in Australia and, subconsciously, employers tend to be reluctant to take a ‘risk’ on someone who is lacking in local experience. Letting staff go and recruiting replacements can cost a company a huge amount of time and money, in terms of advertising, interviewing and training, so they often prefer to take the ‘safer’ route of choosing a candidate who has already demonstrated their ability to adapt to the local environment.
If you have already worked for an Australian company or, even better, for a direct competitor, it shows a potential employer that someone else has already trusted you with a similar position. From their point of view, this immediately eliminates some of the risks associated with your future employment. Unless you are the only person who can reasonably do the job, preference will often be given to a candidate with local experience. This doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance, you just need to be flexible and smart about how you approach it.
You might also want to consider doing some volunteering. Yes, you may not get paid a salary, but it will add significant value to your resume as evidence of local experience. For some people, this is the first step in a long and successful career.