Nay Blu Htoo Tha, 19

I have been in Australia for eight years. We came on September 6. I was almost twelve. We first came to Bendigo. I don’t know anyone and then after a couple of months I go to school. Found it a bit hard, couldn’t understand English. I didn’t speak any English. Probably took a year before I could understand. It was hard. I sit there quiet. I don’t talk much. I still don’t talk much. I was a good kid at school. Quiet kid, shy kid.

My family is mum, dad, brother, sister. My sister is the oldest, then me, then my brother. My cousin was here, and my aunty; he came three years before me. That sort of helped me a bit.

I wasn’t used to things in Australia. I liked school in Thailand. We had fun with our friends. But school in Thailand is very different to here. Back there if you were naughty or didn’t get work right, you got hit. The teacher hit you with a stick or metal ruler. You would bleed on the knuckles. It hurt. When I went to school here, I did ESL at Primary School. Now they call it EAL. That helped too cos we had a Karen group and we learned English, more English. It helped because the teacher teached differently. We had lots of Karen there that made us feel more comfortable.

I do roofing, roof-plumbing. Basically, we just build people’s houses and their roofs. Sometimes we do a bit of general plumbing. I’ve been doing it almost a year. Next month it will be a year. I got the job because Bu Gay told me. She asked me if I was looking for a job, because about that time I was about to finish Year 12, so I told them year I’m looking to do plumbing job and they got me one and I joined it for a week to see how I go and I like it and yeah, then I joined it. The people I work with are kind to me and nice to me. Even though my English isn’t that good. I used to live next door to Sylvia from Multicultural Services. We didn’t know each other but we would talk to each other sometimes. I didn’t know she worked at Multicultural Services. Then my parents told me. She helped me get my job. After I finished Year 12, I didn’t know what to do so I thought I will do study and try something but then I got this job.

I turn twenty this month. Twenty-seven of October. I am getting older and mature. But I am Seventh Day Adventist, so we don’t celebrate birthdays and Christmas. Some of our celebrations are a little different. But I like that my Karen culture is about people getting together. Meeting each other so we don’t forget our culture.

There have been times when I didn’t feel so comfortably. But now more Karen people come here, more support. I work with people. When I first came here, I don’t know anyone, so I felt left out. To belong feels like home. Now that I belong, I can start a new journey, new beginning, start a new life again. I think a Multicultural Hub would be great for our community. Other Karen people that are new here that don’t speak English much could get help and meet people from other communities.

Now I feel home is here in Australia. Back in Thailand where we live is in refugee camp, where we sort of can’t go anywhere, have to stay in camp, can’t go outside. Feel like same day every day. Go to school, come back home, play with friends. In the morning same thing again. No opportunity. It’s different now in Australia. Now I feel I belong here. I got my citizenship. People are kind in Bendigo, they treat people well in the community.

I like to go out in nature and go walking and hiking. It helps me relax and have relief. I like to go anywhere in Bendigo and outside; the Grampians, Macedon, Woodend. Back in Thailand we used to sneak out of the camp with friends, go hunting, kill birds, the we would eat them. Nothing wasted. We would bring them back home. One time me and my friends went outside the camp, they had wild mango trees. Me and my friend were climbing the tree and some of our friends told us security, Thai security were there. I just jumped down. But he was joking. I was so scared. I was about 9 or 10. I was scared they would take me back to the camp or put me in jail. But here you are free. You can go wherever you want.