Why your story matters

Woman On Phone

Once upon a time, in 2012, a lady in her early 40’s arrived in Australia with her husband and her mum.

She came from a city about 3,745km away, arriving in a foreign country with no other family or friends. Along the way, she was called a Muslim pig and told to leave and go back to her country because this is not her place.

We often hear many such stories but they are real stories that either make or break a person. Every migrant has a story to tell.

When we judge, does it reflect others or ourselves? Is there a judgment about judging?

We all judge. We are predisposed to this natural tendency; it is part of human nature.

But why do we judge?

“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” – Carl Jung

Judging is easy and does not require much thinking or reasoning.

Our brains are wired to make automatic judgments about the behaviour of others so that we can move through the world without spending much time or energy in understanding everything we see.

Understanding is harder as it requires deep thinking, patience, compassion and an open mind.

About 9 years ago, I would have never imagined myself talking to others about my story nor talking about the journey of the Intercultural Action Group Inc. which I co-founded in 2018.

My name is Yen Hawkes; a Singapore born Australian. In 2002, I visited WA and travelled to Margaret River and thought “I would love to live in this beautiful town”.

I am grateful that my silent wish came true.

It is here in this town that I discovered more about myself. It took me a few years before I could settle in because deep down inside, I was still a city girl.

In Singapore, I was used to shopping malls closing at midnight and a variety of 24 hours food outlets to choose from when the tummy rumbles.

I was used to the ease of public transportation; buses, MRTs, taxis zooming by every 5 minutes or less (I still do not have a driver’s licence and I am thankful for my husband and a few friends that help me to get from Point A to Point B). I was used to living and working in an intercultural community; always being respectful of every individual no matter where they came from.

I was working remotely for an international market research company when we moved to Western Australia and the laptop was my constant best friend.

It was only after I resigned that I realised I had no friends. I felt very isolated! A few years later, I co-founded the Intercultural Action Group Inc. together with Ellen Lahti from Finland.

However, can you imagine someone with no friends trying to start a group?

To be honest, we really did not know where to start but when the Facebook page was created, an English teacher from TAFE, Kathleen O’Shea, wrote and offered her assistance.

It was at this time that we launched Your Story Matters, hoping that migrants would come forward, eager to tell their stories. Easy peasy right? Wrong!

We did not get a response except from one Indonesian lady, Ina Williams.

We were invited to Kathleen’s English class and it was at this point that we realised the most important part of creating the connection with others is TRUST.

The person must feel comfortable, not judged, and able to trust us with their story.

Fast forward and many smiles later, we have been organising intercultural events in Margaret River and Busselton. If you love world food and colourful cultural performances, come along with your family and friends to our events, you will not regret it!

I am blessed to be the first Asian migrant from Southwest WA selected and sponsored by the National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC) for their program RRR Women’s Canberra Muster in 2019, a premium leadership and capacity building program designed for rural, remote and regional women.

I am passionate about assisting migrants in Margaret River and the region to overcome isolation and language barriers.

Co- founding the Intercultural Action Group Inc. has provided me with lots of opportunities to be involved with other organisations. I am a member of the District Health Advisory Council, Harmony Alliance, FECCA, WACOSS and Welcoming Cities which enables me to spread the word and highlight the challenges faced by migrants in the region.

I am absolutely enjoying my journey while slowly building trust together with the migrant community in the region. I really hope to see you at our next event!

Yen Hawkes is a Board Member of Mindful Margaret River.

First published in the Augusta Margaret River Mail December 6 2021

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