In November, skilled migrants who had moved to Launceston shared the experiences of racism that caused them to leave. There are also, of course, many skilled migrants who move to this city and love their lives here – but it doesn’t happen by accident.
Three skilled migrants shared the secrets to their successful moves to Launceston with The Examiner.
Robert de Souza, a chiropractor with Tamar Chiropractic and Allied Health, is originally from Brazil. He moved to Launceston a decade-and-a-half ago with his wife via the United States and Fiji. They now have two sons, aged 13 and 15. Mr de Souza decided he wanted to move to Tasmania the first time he visited. He visited again to scope out employment opportunities and hand out resumes – going so far as to get in touch with the Chiropractors Association of Australia – before moving with a job already secured.
Alice Kaushal is of Indian descent and was born in Uganda. She moved to Launceston with her now ex-husband in 1989, and was then sponsored by the hotel Launceston International to return. After time living in Hong Kong, Dubai, Hamburg, Singapore, Canada, the United States, and Chile, she moved back to Launceston for good in 2013. From here, she runs an international consulting firm called Refine Consulting, that advises companies on business etiquette for different cultures.
Krishna Kalpurath is a physician working in the public health system, where his wife is also an anesthetist. The family moved from India to Alice Springs in 2002, with the local hospital sponsoring their visa. There, they worked for two-and-a-half years before moving to Hobart, and then Launceston.
Ms Kaushal is an active volunteer in the Launceston community – you may have seen her volunteering at Carols by Candlelight in December. She said volunteering was her number one piece of advice for getting deep into the community.
“When I first came here I delivered Meals on Wheels, and you meet people who have a community spirit,” she said. “You get to know people in a kind environment.”
For Dr de Souza, it was a church community that helped his family find a place to belong within Launceston: the iSEE Church.”That was a great way to meet lots of people: people with similar interests,” he said. “Those are the same friends that we have 15 years later and, hopefully, for a lifetime.”
Dr Kalpurath formed friendships, at least at first, through work.
“We found there were quite a few pockets of migrant families [in Launceston], so we started creating a support network – firstly, through the migrant doctors here – and that became a friends network,” he said. “We would meet on Fridays or weekends, and have lunch at somebody’s house. Thankfully, after 18 years, that has only gotten bigger.”
Dr de Souza said it would have been “challenging” to integrate successfully into Launceston if he didn’t already understand English.
“The language barrier can pose a big threat to a lot of migrants, who feel a bit more isolated,” he said.
“However, let’s say in the instance of my wife – her English was not as skilled as mine when we first arrived. But she availed herself to go to TAFE, and that was great for her, and for my in-laws as well.
“[Another factor was] our willingness to speak English at home.
“A lot of migrants come in, and they retain their native language, which is great – that’s what we’re doing with our boys, they’re bilingual. But the fact that I spoke English at home forced my wife to speak more English, and then she didn’t feel isolated from the rest of the community.”
TasTAFE offers a range of courses for migrants to improve their English, including the SEE course designed for job seekers to improve their English, the Adult Migrant English Program and the Young Migrant Education Program. Courses also teach students about living in Australia and its people, society, customs and culture.
Dr de Souza spoke effusively about his family’s experiences with TAFE.
“They have amazing volunteers,” he said, “people who will even meet with you outside of classroom hours to converse, and to help people improve their conversational English.”
“I learned academic English through university, so I could read and write very well, but my conversational English was not on the same level. These are the people who helped me.
“And you know, sometimes I didn’t know how to contact Service Tasmania or go to the bank for an issue that I needed to resolve, and these are the people who helped me to learn how to do it.”
EXPECT CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
A significant problem for new migrants, many say, is that the more reserved culture of Australia can come off as rude for people who are not used to it.
“I had to understand when I came here that my friends are not just going to turn up at my house every other day and have a meal with me unannounced, because that’s not part of the Australian culture,” Mr de Souza said.
“When I built this house, I remember my mother-in-law came here and she said, ‘Where is everybody?'” Ms Kaushal said. “Because in India, everything happens out in the front garden, and here you have a back garden. In India, in a house, you would usually keep water and, in some cases, fruit, for any itinerants who were walking by.”
But, she said, new arrivals should not give up trying to understand the behaviour of the people that now inhabit their daily lives. “We can’t become a ghetto of Indians when the community becomes large enough,” she said. “Whenever new people come in, I encourage them to get to know their neighbours.”
In about 2005, Dr Kalpurath and his friend’s began a small celebration for Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights. Now, they are having trouble finding a hall big enough for everyone who wants to attend.
“It’s important for the mental wellbeing of the families, the children, to be part of the culture that they belong,” he said. “If they can fulfill these things in a beautiful environment such as Launceston, then what happens is they stay here. They belong. They don’t have to leave. When you don’t identify culturally, then you start to have problems.
“A lot of our friends actually say that, you know, you guys in Launceston have a unique thing – with our cultural get-togethers and retaining our identity. So that – this platform we are able to provide – is something we are very proud of.”
He has a simple way of explaining the internal balance between assimilating into Australian culture, and remaining connected to India. “When Australia is playing England, we root for Australia. End of story. But we do have our own roots, and those roots are important for me, because therein lies the foundation for the future. So, if India is playing Australia, I support India.”
HAVE A CERTAIN ATTITUDE
“For people like me, we will always stand out,” Alice Kaushal said. “For people who are not visibly different, the integration is much easier, once they learn the language. I was always very conscious when I came here that I was an unofficial ambassador for my ethnic group.”
“It’s actually driven me to be better than perhaps I would have needed in India. It’s given me the opportunity – actually, the need, at first – but then I was able to recognise that it’s an opportunity, to excel.
“My advice to any immigrant is to be better: be better than the competition. Because if you are the same, you will not get called in. That is a hard fact. It can be called a disadvantage to have to prove yourself continuously. But I regard that as an advantage.”
“There are no free lunches in life,” Dr Kalpurath said. “That has been my experience, my wife’s experience, and my children’s experience too. You have to work hard. There is no shortcut to that, whatever your profession.”