Updated: Sep 10
We're so excited to launch our new 'Voices of TPC' series. We look forward to bringing you insight into the lives of some of our wonderfully diverse students.
NB: To maintain the integrity of the interview, no changes to structure or grammar have been made.
Name: Gnei Nazreen Kerima Hamit
Place of birth: Sri Lanka, Colombo
Date of arrival in Australia: 2013
Interviewer: “First of all, thank you so much for accepting doing this interview with us.”
Kerima: “ No problem at all, I am glad to do it. “
Kerima:“ We came the first time to Australia in 2002 during Winter, and we came a second time in 2006 during summer. So, we came during the extreme seasons, just to see how it was. And then, finally, we applied for the visa in 2010 and finally, we came to Australia in 2013”
Interviewer: Tell us about your life before moving to Australia.
Kerima: “ ..Only thing was that we had this war, a 30-year old war, and we were in the minority community. So, we had that insecure feeling that staying there in the current situation was not that secure. And that was why we decided to come to Australia.
Of course, my sister came to Australia in 1989 and settled down, she got married and settled down. That was another reason why I sent my son here for his education and then he also decided that Australia was the place for him and so we made up our minds to come”.
Interviewer: Were you employed before moving to Australia?
Kerima: “Yes, I was employed by UNICEF. I was working for the UN. I had 31 years of service.”
Interviewer: What was your job in UNICEF?
Kerima: “When I joined UNICEF initially, I joined as a Secretary and then I went on to become a supply secretary. I retired as a procurement assistant”
Interviewer: Do you miss it?
Kerima:“ Of course I do, because we had a lot of commitment, because we worked to improve the conditions of living for the mother and child. We went all over the world. And they sent me on training to different parts of the world. I miss that.”
Interviewer: In what ways moving to Australia has changed your life?
Kerima:“ It has not changed my life as such, it's just a continuation of life I had there (in Sri Lanka). Because, as I told you, I had my son’s family, my sister’s family and of course my dad’s cousins were here too. And we are good with English language so we found it easy to communicate and we had our get-togethers, the seniors’ get-togethers, and so we didn’t miss home as such. Of course Sri Lanka is where I was born, it is my motherland, there is no dispute on that, but Australia is our second home now, and we like it here.”
Interviewer: What are the positives/negatives aspects of your life in Australia?
Kerima: “Well, the positives are that this is a multicultural country and a developed country. It was very easy, because when we had our cultural events I found that we all blended well together (Australians and other cultures). It is a peaceful country; at least I find Australia a very peaceful country. And of course, the Australian government medicare system is very good, education opportunities are immense. When we came here we were told that when we got the visa we would get 2 courses sponsored by the government.
My son who was already here had 2 children and I was looking after them. Taking them to school and back, taking them to the swimming classes, ballet, because I had my driving licence. So I was in charge of them, because both my son and my daughter in law were working. We were very independent ( kerima and her husband). We were living with them (son and daughter in law) in the house, and we took over that part, we took care of the children.
We also have our senior events, every fortnight we have a get together with our community and we enjoy the chit chat, the songs, the Sri Lankan food, the different food that they bring, it is a full day event. We miss all that now because of COVID-19. We started doing Zoom sessions, so it is good.
We also have good infrastructure here. Housing, and good food and affordable.
My husband managed to find a job in the Council. So, we are on our own now. My son built a house and moved and we are on our own now – renting in Dandenong.
We do have some money, and we can go on a holiday once a year. We do not need a lot of money to be happy.
As a woman I was able to go to the mosque here because back in Sri-Lanka, women going to the mosque wasn’t encouraged. But here they have it. That was another good exposure for me. We were able to participate fully in all community and religious events, so that’s good for my spirit and my soul as well, you know? So these are the positives.
The negatives are the relocation, coming to Australia. I lost both my parents after I came here. I had to get back to studies. I did my first course in Australia in early childhood education. “
Interviewer: Do you have any work experience in Australia?
Kerima: “As I was looking after my two granddaughters, two other children were also entrusted to me, just to take them to school and back because the school was close to my house, walking distance. It’s like a babysitting job. And right now at Keysborough Learning centre, I’m a permanent part-timer - looking after a boy with special needs. (This is done via zoom at the moment). That’s it”
Interviewer: Did you find it challenging when you were looking for a job here?
Kerima: “Yes. My husband and I came here in September and until January we were going to the seminars, looking for places. But then at every place they said you have to have an Australian qualification. You can’t do it without one.
I was told by a lady at the local post office that I had to do any job that comes until the Australian people get to know me.
So I was doing some voluntary work, just so they would get to know me and if I needed a reference, they could recommend me, if there was a job somewhere. So we (Kerima and her husband) had to do that. Then my husband finally got this council job in January or February at the Monash council and from there he came on to the Dandenong council, thank God. So now he’s permanent. Even here at the Keysborough centre, I have been there since October 2018. I was volunteering and then now I am permanent in a sense, permanent part-time.”
Interviewer: As a woman, moving from another country to Australia, how would you describe the importance of standing on your own feet and taking control of your own life?
Kerima: “Alhamdulillah for small mercies, we had our savings and we had a house, my son’s house, so living was no problem. From the savings we bought a car the very next month. I had a driving licence, so no problem. Within two years, I got the Aussie license as well. Those are the things, the challenging ones. So it was not a problem, the housing, the driving to get about here and there and of course, the money. We had the money to buy food and things. To be independent you need those three basics.
If you are asking me if financial stability is important...Of course, It is very important. You know financial independence is necessary for an emergency and for the things like I mentioned, housing, food and if you want to go on holiday even within the country or another state.”
Interviewer: Through which kind of visa you came to Australia?
Kerima: “It was a temporary visa. We weren’t sure whether we would be okay with housing and all those things. My son told me that we could stay with them, so then we applied for a permanent visa. We got the PR within six months. I applied in May, I think, and by November we got it. It was quick. Then, after that, within four years we got our Australian citizenship as well.”
Interviewer: What made you pursue education again this year?
Kerima: “I did a course in early childhood education while helping out in my granddaughters’ school, which was very helpful of course for placement. Now I am doing my second course in Aged Care. Three years ago my husband had a small heart attack. I also had to take him for rehab for two months, that’s a reason why I am doing this course now. And I have an elderly person, as well, who is distantly related. Every week I go to see her. These are the two older people I am looking after. So that’s another reason why I am doing this course. And I get to know how to look after myself at the same time. Yeah, so that’s why I decided to do this course”
Interviewer: How do you feel about yourself now that you are studying again? How is it different than when you weren’t studying?
Kerima: “You see, in my younger days, I was not married and I had my mother helping me with house matters. I didn’t have to drive, the tension on the road, take my husband, the grandkids to school and back. I didn’t have all that. But now I have all that in my head. Now I have to wake up early in the morning for prayers, prepare breakfast, cook, and pray five times a day. Now, here with all that, studying, with my husband to look after, cooking and keeping him company…When I get assignments, sometimes I’m up till about 11:00 pm /11:30 pm ,reading over and over, so that is a challenging part. And of course, powerpoint presentations, because back in office days I always had someone (the IT assistant) helping me with presentations but now that I don’t, it’s challenging for me. I just can’t do it.”
Interviewer: Is there any advice that you would like to share with other women?
Kerima: “I think being a woman is a very proud fact. Do you know why? Because when you educate a mother, you educate a Nation. So you have to have your head above your shoulders. Very important. Don’t get carried away. If somebody says something to upset you, let it enter this way (indicating the right and left ear) and let it out the other way. Don’t let it settle here (the mind) and cause problems for you, it’s not good. It’s not worth it, I tell you. Just take things as it comes, insha Allah. And everything will work out fine.”
Interviewer: “Thank you so much for doing this interview with us!”
Kerima: “Thank you for having me!”
(Photos supplied by Interviewee)