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Amir and Nazneen

Nazneen: I grew up in Bangladesh and came to Australia in 1994, sponsored by my sister. In 1995 I returned to Bangladesh to get married.

Bangladesh has a population of about 130 million and the capital city where we lived, Dhaka, is very crowded. But still it is a wonderful place and, since Bangladesh is my motherland, of course I have strong feelings towards it.

Amir: In Bangladesh arranged marriages are prohibited but Nazneen and I married according to our familiesí choice. After our marriage I discovered that Nazneen was a permanent resident in Australia and our families talked together and decided that we should come to live in Australia. I was unhappy about allowing my wife to come to Australia alone but fortunately I only had to wait a few months for my visa. I joined her in Australia in May 1996.

We are both highly skilled professionals - I am a doctor and my wife is a lawyer - and we thought that Australia, as a developed country, would allow us to improve our skills and expose us to the highest level of technical assistance. We thought the financial situation in Australia would be much better than Bangladesh and that educational opportunities would be better for ourselves and our future children.

I knew it would be very difficult to move to a new country and that it would take us a while to become established but I hoped that once we were settled, things would be good for ourselves and future generations.

Nazneen: When I first arrived in Melbourne I felt very, very lonely, even though I was staying with my sister and her family. I didnít know anybody and there was nowhere I could go by myself.

Amir: For the first month I was in Australia I was very excited but that excitement soon disappeared as I discovered the reality of migration. We had problems getting the Ďassurance of supportí which was required by the Australian Government from our relatives in Australia. Centrelink would not give me unemployment benefits so, for two years, we were living on my wifeís benefit alone. We lived through a great amount of hardship at that time.

We decided that I would try to establish myself in my profession and later my wife would establish herself as a lawyer. However, because I was trained in Bangladesh, it was two years before I was able to find work as a doctor in Australia.

My wife studied for a Graduate Diploma in social work at Latrobe University and did voluntary work but was unable to get a job. She has a Masters Degree from Bangladesh as well as a Graduate Diploma and I think over qualification is causing her problems.

Initially we lived with our relatives but we wanted to find our own house so we could establish ourselves and not be dependent on others. Some people accept shared accommodation in our situation but we thought we would rather miss a meal each day than live with other people and compromise our privacy.

We discovered that getting a house is tougher than getting a job. Most landlords would not give us a house because we were unemployed but when we saw this unit in Clayton South we liked it and the landlord was happy to rent it to us even though we were on unemployment benefits. This seemed like heaven for a new beginner. The rent was cheap and we knew we could maintain our life without a car because the shopping centre, university and hospital are close by and the area is not too hilly for walking.

There is no conflict between races in Clayton South. Everyone has the same standard of living and we donít get an inferiority complex because there are no palaces and no huts.

There are many new settlers in this area and we receive help from our neighbours and from other Bangladesh people living nearby. Sometimes we think we must be living in Bangladesh because at festival time so many Bangladesh families go visiting.

Nazneen: We try to respect and maintain our culture in Australia but we find this is difficult because some Bangladesh people conform to Western culture and some do not.

Amir: We are now in a better situation, financially, than we were in Bangladesh but we still think about the life we had back home. In Australia we feel that there is no land under our feet and that if we have a problem there is no one to give us support. A little while ago, one of my brothers in Bangladesh was killed by a hijacker and I didnít have any relatives in Australia to cry with.

We still hope that one day we will become established in our professions. We also hope to bring a few relatives here to make our own family and create our own surroundings. It is our dream to provide our son with support, good health care and education.

Article Cat. Blended Voices
Article Ref. 167

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