At 81 the things I enjoy are; my dogs, aquarobics, gardening, singing and doing all I can to support refugees. I came to Tasmania in 1964 and have raised four children, spent many happy years as an ESL teacher, mainly with adult migrants and refugees.
I start every day walking my two dogs on Nutgrove Beach - I believe there is no better way to start the day than with a lovely community of dog walkers. Three days a week I head off to aquarobics and then do some cycling in the gym. I sing with the Tasmanian Chorale each week and I am a member of the Hobart Baptist Church where we have a refugee settlement group which I started in 1981. I belong to a Christian women’s group called Sophia, which has been very important to my well-being. I knit with the Tassienannas every Friday in the Mall to protest our government’s treatment of asylum seekers and I do some work for the UTAS Medical Faculty role-playing as a standardised patient.
I am passionate about social justice and in 1980 was teacher-in-charge of the English language programme for the Vietnamese refugees who came to Tasmania and lived at Mt St Canice Migrant Hostel. This introduced me to what it is like to be a refugee and in addition to teaching I started offering cultural sensitivity workshops to government departments and others to try to assist in achieving access and equity for my students. Ever since then I have been an advocate for refugees. I’ve done a lot of volunteering, helping to settle refugees in Hobart. In particular I have been angered by our border protection policy and treatment of asylum seekers. I have lobbied, written letters to the newspapers, phoned and e-mailed politicians, written articles and knitted regularly with the Tassienannas in the Mall. Who would have believed this is our fourth year?
I dream of a world where all individuals are valued and treated fairly with compassion and humanity. This comes principally from my own faith but also as a result of my experiences in life. I believe we are here to share with others, not to be selfish and self-centred and we have a huge responsibility to the environment. If we live every day as if it is our last opportunity to contribute to society, we will have made the world a better place.
It wasn’t easy leaving behind much-loved family on the other side of the world and I have learned to straddle two cultures at the same time as contributing all I can to my chosen country. I’ve had to rebuild myself as a single person and that was made easier by my loving children and friends. I have done things I could not have done as a married woman-like volunteering as a teacher in Laos and writing and publishing my Masters thesis “New Mountain, New River, New Home. The Tasmanian Hmong” (which is now being republished) and sharing my home with others who have needed somewhere safe to stay. I have learned to have belief in myself, that I cannot be all things to all people but that even as an elderly woman there are many things I can do to contribute to community. I am learning to cope with the shrinking of my world as I age and the various aches and pains which accompany ageing but I am happy and manage many a laugh. It helps to live in such a beautiful place as Tasmania!
I feel very fortunate to have four children, eight grand-children and three step-grandchildren. I have an interesting extended family including former students and asylum seekers who have shared my home. I loved teaching and feel satisfied that I did a good job. The fact that some of my former students are still my friends suggests I didn’t do too bad a job teaching them!
Contributing to improved English in Laos was life-changing. Writing my Masters in retirement was very satisfying and the fact that six publishers have approached me to republish it is gratifying. The jingles I write make people laugh and that is satisfying. Adjusting to ageing isn’t always easy but it is better than departing early!
Photos By Ninna Millikin
This project was assisted by Bellendena Small Grants and City Of Hobart