by Christina Chia, Contributing Brilliant Member, The Brilliant Foundation
SYDNEY HARBOUR - On a beautiful autumn’s day at Australian National Maritime Museum’s stunning waterfront location in Sydney Harbour, I was excited and humbled to be added to the Australia’s National Monument to Migration, which celebrates and honours the contribution of migrants to Australian life, culture and diversity.
It was an honour as a guest speaker at the unveiling ceremony on Saturday 20 May at the Australian National Maritime Museum Wharf 7.
As part of the ceremony, 574 names were unveiled, representing 53 countries. Donations were made that contributed to the Migration Heritage Fund which supports the Museum’s work to celebrate Australian migration.
The Monument is a major Museum initiative which promotes Australia’s multicultural identity Australia-wide. The monument features more than 32,000 names engraved on a series of bronze panels which thread along our waterfront site at Sydney’s Darling Harbour. It is backed up by a database of migrant stories and we have exciting plans for this digital program in the future.
Migration is not just about crossing a border. It's about the courage to embrace new beginnings and contribute to a brighter future.
Australia truly welcomes those who dare to dream.
The impact of migration on Australia is a testament to the power of unity. People from different corners of the world come together to create a mosaic of opportunity, harmony, and shared prosperity.
My first memory of Australia was when I was an international student in 1991. It was a hot summer’s day in February & my Marketing Communications lecturer came into our class in a wrinkled shirt. I was speechless.
And after the initial culture shock of the lecturer presenting in a wrinkled un-ironed shirt, he casually said “Hello” and asked us to call him by his first name, Michael.
You see, in my home country Malaysia, this type of casual behaviour is contrary to what I was used to. In Malaysia, culturally, lecturers are presented in ties and crisply ironed shirts . We are expected to formally address them as “Mr or Mrs”.
It was years later that I found out that linen shirts, like the one worn by my Australian lecturer Michael are worn during summer & good quality linen is expensive.
I completed my undergraduate degree at RMIT University in 1995.
I got married and worked in Melbourne for University of Melbourne.
I gave birth to my two beautiful daughters, Zoe and Ashley.
After some years I moved to Malaysia for family reasons.
This sounds like a fairy tale - educated, married & a young family.
However, this was not the case. I migrated back to Melbourne in 2005 - I was a single mother, with 2 young daughters in tow, 2 suitcases, little finances & limited network. It was one of the toughest times of my life.
As a determined single mother and sort of ‘new’ migrant again, what I brought with me was loads of courage & hope to succeed and grow. I saw this as a period of opportunity for all of us. I saw a promising future in the land of abundance - Australia!
I was not one of the very early migrants of Australia. In the early 90s, there were already Malaysians in Melbourne.
My parents, like many at that time, worked hard, sacrificed and sent their children overseas for tertiary education. I recalled that I saw Australia as a land of opportunity if I persevered and worked hard.
As a migrant, and as a single mother with two young daughters, socially & culturally, the environment was more accepting. We were able to have a quality lifestyle filled with opportunity despite being on a modest income.
Being Asian and as most Asians were known for our strong work ethic, I worked very hard and was given the opportunity to progress & have a good rewarding career whilst raising young children.
Let’s fast forward over the next 18 years, my career grew and I gained numerous management and executive positions. Currently, I am the Chief Operating Officer of a national education business called North Shore Coaching College, a national education business. I even found love & married to my second husband, Roger, who is here with me today.
And yes, one of most beautiful parts about living in Australia is multiculturalism. Melbourne, like most cities in Australia is now a culturally diverse melting pot of many races. Diversity and inclusivity is normal - there’s fairness and opportunity to contribute for a better living!
You see, when I first arrived in 2005 as a single mother with two young daughters, we decided to go on a picnic. I used all I had to buy a roast chicken & salads from Woolworths and headed to the park. We did not own a luxurious picnic mat as I used one of our blankets as a mat and my daughter’s tea party set as cutlery.
The families there invited my daughters to play with their children. They even gave them some lollies. That summer’s day in the park with my children playing and laughing - with the generosity of the families around us, remains one of the most cherished memories in my life. We were treated by those families as equals and with care & kindness.
This experience and many other examples of the generosity shown by those around me inspired me to give back to my community. I truly believe in the ‘Circle of Abundance’ - when you do good for others, those around will feel good. They will then continue to give the goodness and soon the entire community is being lifted with this joy. This ripple effect is continuous because I believe there is an innate intention in us all to wish joy and abundance for each other.
I am very proud to continue the circle of abundance - serving and leading in my various community portfolios.
Some of the examples of my voluntary communities I serve and contribute to are:
Mental Health Foundation Australia as Multicultural Attaché for close to 9 years. One of my favourite experiences was to serve & cook for thousands of meals in Victoria for the disadvantaged during the 2020 & 2021 lockdowns.
Promoting Chinese culture & language in my role as the Vice President in the Chinese Association of Victoria and President of the Australian Asian Family Association
Contributing to the RMIT University mentoring program AND
Reaching out to multicultural communities, locally and globally through my MYC Heart Connectors podcast
So for me to be standing here, with the opportunity to be a community advocate, AND in a career where I am blessed to be involved in educating our youth and, a migrant for over 30 years, is a defining milestone in a long and important journey.
I was honoured and humbled to be recognised for my community service over the years by various organisations. In 2022, I was inducted to the inaugural Honour Roll by the Victorian Multicultural Commission for my community service.
Distinguished guests & friends, my story was not pre-destined but grew out of courage, chance & hope. In more recent years, I have made a conscious effort to give back, serve & lead for a better Australia.
I followed my passion and intuition and I will continue to do so. I have assimilated, collaborated & immersed myself with other community groups - & I will continue to work hard to bring communities together in this land we call home.
As I close, I believe the migrant mentality should be one that celebrates the uniqueness of the land we call home, whilst honouring the uniqueness of where we have come from.
We must embrace the diverse presentation of humanity as we help to create a harmonious, fair & inclusive country. This is our home. So, to live our very best life, we need to continue to work hard, not take things for granted and be the change we want to see. - END -
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