I came to Australia in 2007, January. I studied my post-registration in nursing in Ballarat Uni for one year, then I moved to Bendigo. I don’t have much time now. I have three kids, I work almost full time in the community plus in the hospital, I care for the kids and if I have any spare time I read to improve my knowledge because I recently finished my Master of Nursing.
I am president of the Bendigo Malayalee Association. We started with ten families in 2010 and now it is an emerging community with over 140 families. We are in partnership with Multicultural Services and registered with Consumer Affairs Victoria and Multicultural Association Victoria. We want to showcase our culture in the community; to share the richness of our culture – different types or art, music, dress, food – for the people in Bendigo.
We have a good relationship with Multicultural Services and with council. Many of the people in our community are working professionals; Multicultural Services provides supports and gives them opportunity to learn certificate courses, make them aware of jobs and volunteer work. We also participate in other community programs with drumming and dancing. For the last two years Multicultural Arts Victoria and Multicultural Services helped us get the men opportunity to share our drumming – it was on the television and the news. At Zinda Festival our girls performed Bollywood and our men did drumming. We had a stand with butter chicken and fried rice; our food was finished in one hour! Last year we also organized a dance program. Professional dancers came from Melbourne. It was amazing. And teach traditional dance; teacher comes from Melbourne every Saturday to teach the kids. It is a lot of work but I know people like to know about our community and culture, our art, our food, what we do.
Initially when I came to Australia it was a big challenge. I was very scared, thinking oh, why I came here, I don’t know how I bring my children up here, the culture is totally different. There was a lot of questions in mind. Culturally India is very strong. The older generation want to keep that alive and want the children to follow that – each of the states is totally different. I am from Kerala South Indian state. In our custom there is lot of people in the family. The children grow with massive information about their culture and how they need to be, to behave in society, to behave culturally, to behave religiously – doesn’t matter if they are Hindu or Christian.
When I first came to Bendigo I was planning to move to Melbourne but it’s years now I settled here. I know lots of the people in Bendigo, through my work and through the Malayalee Association. I can be a resource for other people. This is my home now. My home, my place. For that attachment and feeling of home, a lot of people helped. A lot of people helped us to settle well. When people came from different place to Bendigo now, we also do the same thing as a community group. Do they have enough food and clothes? Are they fine? We feel that Bendigo is our home, so we want to share. Bendigo is becoming more popular in a strong multicultural way.
A hub would be a cultural exchange. Working together, people can gather, kids can play and meet, like a playroom. If you give the different community groups an opportunity to come together it is a very good idea. We can all work together. Some communities don’t have as much information or resources; some are weak in some areas and some are stronger in other areas. A hub would give an opportunity to get more involved in education or health or women’s groups. It would be a good idea.
It’s really working together.