In the past five years, 1.3 million people have migrated to Australia from 180 other countries. Of those, 163,000 (or 12.5 per cent) hail from India, with some of them now proudly calling Dubbo home.*
Dubbo ORISCON (Orana Residents of Indian Sub-Continental Heritage) secretary Hemant Jadhav estimates that there are 1500 new residents from the subcontinent, including him.
Originally from Mumbai, he moved to the Middle East before embarking on his move to Australia.
“My journey started in 2007,” he said.
“I worked with a British company in Dubai, where I spent four and a half years.”
Hemant says that he wanted to give his young family the very best start.
“We moved in order to have a better family life,” he says.
“I started looking around at other countries. I thought Australia would give us a good future. As a country, it has physical parameters that offer security, being surrounded by sea. I started researching in 2008 and found it to be a land of opportunity and acceptance. The worldwide talent was being attracted to Australia so I started to seriously think about migrating.”
Hemant looked into regional sponsorship visas and found Dubbo by using his civil engineering skills.
“I opened a map and saw that there were five major roads converging (three highways) so I knew that there was going to be a future.”
He also knew that Dubbo was part of the Evocities program, which is geared towards encouraging city dwellers to move inland to regional areas.
After landing in Dubbo, Hemant worked in a range of jobs before gaining employment in his field.
“We had to compensate with careers,” he said. “I worked on a farm then started looking for a job in civil engineering.
“I did a range of odd jobs before getting a job at Barnson’s.”
Hemant says that the hardest part of moving to Australia has been the language barrier. And it’s not just a matter of learning textbook English.
“The Australian English language is not part of the immigration process but Australian English testing would help ease into the community and inclusion with other people. We should have interaction and socialising with the Aussie accent,” he said.
Hemant helped himself by interacting with people.
“I integrated through volunteering with the SES. I have done a lot of training, and that gives me experience with local people, to get closer to them.
The best plan, he said, “was to find a friend and learn the accent from them and then apply that.”
In that regard, he believes that everyone who moves to Australia should be able to speak and understand the language.
“The immigration English requirement is a must for new Australians. Not knowing English, it can make for very unsafe conditions. English is a worldwide accepted language.”
Through the network he has now established, Hemant is assisting other migrants on their journey.
“I’m trying to help the newcomers through local experience,” he said.
While he acknowledges that there is also criticism along the way, Hemant doesn’t let it bother him.
“Every country has racism and most Australians are against racism.
“People in regional areas are now accepting new people. Nowadays, almost everyone has come from somewhere else.”
Hemant’s initial frustration at not gaining employment in his career path has been made up for by the love of his new country which in turn has paved the way for him and his family.
“India is too overpopulated. We like it here because it’s not crowded.
“It was frustrating not working in my field but I was more attracted to Australia – jobs, income, food, agriculture. It makes it easy with less population for land, that gives us success.”
Hemant says there are a few other differences which he has noticed about his adopted lifestyle.
“Australians work 40 to 50 hours under healthy work conditions. Indians don’t, they do more. Where there is a shortage, Indian people are saying they will work on holidays, weekends, anytime.
“The Australian tax system is also really well developed. In India, there is so many loopholes in the system, with the law and police.”
There are also no temples in this area because Hinduism is a minority religion.
“Many people just worship in their homes,” Hemant explains.
All in all, the father of two is pleased with his decision to raise his children in Australia. “I am happy because my children are getting a good education, we have a happy family life. I started with something that has given me happiness within a new culture.”
Fellow immigrant Gargi Ganguly also loves her life in Dubbo after moving to Australia in 1994.
“I came to Brisbane first and then moved to Armidale. I lived there for five years then I moved to Dubbo,” she explains.
“My first impressions were of this little plane and this vast country that’s in front of you. At the time, Armidale airport was a small shack, it was freezing cold and I thought ‘where have I landed? This is a wasteland.”
Gargi was fortunate in that she had gained a scholarship to do her PhD in gender and communication studies at the University of New England. However, she also had to manage that with raising her young son.
“I was privileged in the sense that I had something to come to,” she said.
“I had to create a new identity in a new land and I was a single mum so I had to support my child. There are the challenges of getting a job, building up my reputation, so that people knew me for who I was.”
Moving to a new country can be a frightening, alienating experience.
“It was incredibly difficult,” Gargi said. “You are leaving behind all of your network and the things that are close to you, things that matter. At the same time, you are attempting to take in a new culture and people.”
But for every time that she may have felt lonely or defeated, Gargi feels enormous gratitude towards those who helped her along the way.
“There were people who were willing to listen, willing to help, I have been lucky.”
Like Hemant though, she has also encountered the ugliness of criticism from a racial perspective.
“I have met some amazing helpful, kind and generous people. That’s not to say that I haven’t met racism. But there are also people that help to stand against that.”
*Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 census