Support in settlement

Written by Kerrie Alexander

Some people immigrate to Australia in search of work or economic opportunities, to join family, or to study.

Others move to escape conflict, persecution, terrorism, or human rights violations.

Whatever the reason is, moving to a new country can be extremely confronting especially leaving family and culture behind and learning the Aussie way of life.

Farzina William knows firsthand the challenges immigrants face when arriving in a country that is vastly different from hers.

The Hervey Bay resident was born in Fiji and lived in a small koro (village) with her siblings, uncles and aunts, and grandparents.

Fijian households are usually headed by a senior couple. The man is the primary breadwinner of the family unit and the woman generally supervises all other females in the house and disciplines the children.

Children often live with their parents past the age of independence, and marriage is patrilocal (with the daughter-in-law moving in with her husband’s family at marriage).

Farzina’s schooling, food, clothing, and general living expenses were all paid for by her family so learning to budget or be independent was a challenge.

“However, my mum and grandma taught lots of cooking, which was a blessing when I moved to Australia,” Farzina said.

“One other very important thing I was taught at home was how to save up, things like where to buy from, having a garden, altering your own clothes etc.”

Marriage was always going to be arranged, and the girls must be home by sunset each evening.
Failing school was also frowned upon.

The only technology Farzina had been exposed to before coming to Australia as a 19-year-old was typing in a Word document.

Imagine leaving her culture in search of better education and coming to Australia without knowing how to use the internet, how pay bills, or simply be by herself.

“Coming to Australia and doing everything for myself was like ‘Oh wow’! I was homesick for quite a while,” Farzina said.

“Moving to Australia was my biggest dream to come and study but I was always going back to Fiji.
“Growing up in Fiji was massively different.”

Farzina could speak English well but learning about everyday living was tough.

“In Fiji, the food and bills are paid by your Elders. They won’t take money off you.

“When I moved to Australia I was paying out of my own pocket and it was really hard.

“I could only work 20 hours a week as a sales assistant on my Visa while I was trying to study different courses and do different things, but that was only enough to cover my course fees and rent.

“When I go home now, I say to my family that I was spoilt rotten in Fiji,” she said with a laugh.

“I was very blessed to have a beautiful family and close relatives whose support I will cherish forever.”

Farzina started her education from scratch, starting with computer courses at TAFE and eventually earning a university degree to be a counsellor/social worker.

Now 27 years on, she met her Fijian husband, in Australia, and together they have created a home in Hervey Bay with their teenage son and daughter.

They also own and operate the very popular Hervey Bay Fish ‘n’ Grill/Taste of Fiji which boasts lots of Fiji-inspired menu items.

“Moving to Australia was my biggest dream to come and study but I was always going back to Fiji.
“I didn’t have a clue that I was going to meet my husband, and that changed my life!

“My daughter was born in Queensland and my son was born in New South Wales and we love the Australian culture, but we will always be Fijians at heart.

“Our Favourite leisure time is watching rugby footy season where my son plays locally and of course cooking.

“It’s (restaurant) is a small place but we’re very proud of it. It’s hard work mostly for my husband but very rewarding.

“We love it when customers walk in saying BULA with a big smile”.

By night, Farzina is using her passion to serve Fijian food at the restaurant but by day, she is using her extensive multicultural background to help others who were in her shoes when first coming to Australia.

For the past five years Farzina has been the Project Officer for the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre’s Community Action for a Multicultural Society (CAMS): Creating Culturally inclusive communities.

The initiative supports the multicultural community to have equitable access to services and programs that respond appropriately to their needs and to fully participate in and benefit from all aspects of life in Queensland.

Farzina and her team’s mission is to support a sense of belonging in a cohesive and harmonious community by providing Conversational English classes for migrants every Monday, a garden club, a migrant book club, and a Birri Bula Dhaanban (multicultural) Group, meeting and activity once a month.

CAMS also organise the popular monthly Culture Caf, showcasing a particular culture five times a year, offering a taste of their cuisine, entertainment, and information about their history.

It does help of course that Farzina can also fluently speak and write several Indian languages.

“I meet all sorts of different people from all different cultures who come from places with all sorts of rules and regulations.

“It reminds me every day that I have to follow my culture. I can’t just let it go.

“But I do love Australia and the freedom of speech and the independence, especially for women.

“So, it’s very rewarding to help other migrants moving into the area who are looking for support, employment, and even help with their visas.”

Farzina said her exposure to the Western world and creating a life from scratch in Australia have been vital in her success as the CAMS project officer.

She now has the tools and experience to help those with employability, budgeting, and Visa applications, and connect people with the right resources to help with mental health and domestic violence issues.

“There is a huge focus on settlement, what services are here, and how to tap in to get those connections started.

“Mental health is a taboo subject for some cultures. Mental means mad in some cultures.

“You can see that person is suffering and you have to find a way to help them.

“It is a very rewarding career! I love my job and the environment.

“I’m thankful for the entire team of staff and volunteers at work for the work they do and create an inclusive platform.

“I believe in respect, inclusion and equality… I can say where I work has it all.”

To find out more about CAMS email or phone 4194 3000.