Sounds like you’re more interested in being an illustrator than a designer. They’re related but different things. Many good designers are not particularly adept at drawing.
Not too many companies hire illustrators as permanent employees any longer. My wife is an illustrator who lost her job at a daily newspaper and was unable to find permanent work elsewhere. She’s doing something totally different now.
Freelance illustrators are mostly judged on their portfolios of work since that’s all that really matters. You might say the same thing about designers, but designers tend to get hired as permanent employees at companies with human resources departments who operate under hiring guidelines. Freelance designers, of course, are in a different situation.
Where I work, for example, we’ve typically been getting over 100 applicants for every design opening. There’s no way we can interview 100-plus people or look through hundreds of portfolios arriving in various ways, so our HR people do the initial screening based on whatever criteria we’ve created for the job.
Two of the most efficient ways of cutting the applicant numbers down to manageable levels is to draw cut-off lines, like must have 4-year degree in relevant field and XX years of experience.
This undoubtedly eliminates some talented applicants, but it goes a long ways toward ensuring that those we’ll be interviewing or asking for a portfolio meet the minimum standards and can begin being productive with very minimal training.
Unfortunately, for everyone else, this has become a very common procedure at many agencies and companies. There’s just a huge over-abundance of designers with bachelor’s degree in design and with impressive student internships. Anyone without a degree will be competing (and generally losing) against them when looking for work. I don’t know if that’s the case down under.
When it comes to hiring an illustrator, for us, it’s always a freelance thing where we care a whole lot more about demonstrated ability and a style that’s appropriate for the job at hand.
I don’t like to be pessimistic, but from a purely practical standpoint looking at the numbers, the odds aren’t in one’s favor when trying to take shortcuts into graphic design.