REGIONAL journalist Sahil Makkar has faced a steep learning curve since arriving in the Central West from India, via Canberra. He has faced challenges and unexpected hurdles – but has also found a warm, welcoming community and a gentler pace of life. Here, he gives his take on the Federal Government’s push to move migrants out of the big cities and into the Australian bush.
Three months ago, I arrived in Canberra to live my Australian dream.
I was overwhelmed by the prospect of moving to a more advanced country, but the thought of starting from scratch had always worried my wife and myself.
We are still settling down and our day remains incomplete if we don’t reminisce about our well-established careers, close-knit family, lifelong friends, chaos, Hindi cinema, street food, and the comfort of a fully appointed home and cars in India.
All of a sudden we lost our identities, comfort and became homeless when we moved here.
We are not complaining, as we knowingly chose this new life over everything else.
We are making all efforts to find our place in society and I am recounting our initial experience in the wake of the Scott Morrison government’s intentions to send new migrants to regional Australia for the first five years.
New migrants should know that finding a job in their profession could take months in big cities and even longer in regional Australia.
Everything in Australia is centered on employment. It is almost impossible to rent a house in cities as well as regions without a full-time job. Landlords prefer tenants who can show them proof of steady income.
We faced the same difficulty. Every weekend we would join queues to inspect houses, only to be rejected by the real estate agencies.
Property managers would advise us to secure full-time employment first and employers would reject our job applications on the premise that we didn’t have local experience.
Rejections from low-paying and less attractive jobs would leave us in tatters, making us believe that we might have made the wrong decision in moving to Australia (my wife, despite having had a successful career in human resources in India, is still struggling to find employment).
No house without a job and no job without local experience left us in a chicken and egg situation. Worse, I could not apply for a driving licence as I didn’t have any document showing my proof of local residency.
We had no option except to live in shared accommodation, a concept which was new to us, until I got this job in Bathurst a month ago.
I know many migrants who are living in shared accommodation for months and struggling to secure a full-time job in their professions.
Yet, they prefer big cities and odd jobs for a living.
It was a difficult decision for us to move to Bathurst from Canberra, but my love for this profession preceded everything.
I took up this regional position and I must say I am not disappointed working in this beautiful and quiet city.
Bathurst welcomed us with open arms and I find people are more warm and helpful in regional Australia.
We have realised life is much easier here compared with Sydney as it takes me only 25 minutes on foot to reach the office.
Schools here are less crowded and there is less competition in every field. The cost of living is reasonable and property is still affordable.
But has our initial struggle ended? The answer would still be a no.
In a regional area, life is difficult without a car as you can’t visit a GP, can’t go to dinner and can’t do a bulk grocery shop.
We had always preferred a new car, but we were denied the loan in the absence of a credit history.
One can’t apply for a credit card again without a job.
I would suggest the NSW Government and the Federal Government make regions more appealing by luring multinationals to set up factories and corporate offices.
New Delhi moved all industries to its satellite towns, which are now thriving and bursting with people.
I would also like to see more public buses on country roads. Currently the buses in Bathurst are few and don’t run after 6pm on weekdays; there is no service on Sunday.
There are no Ubers and regular taxi trips can be expensive.
Compared with the big cities, regional Australia is not as multicultural and can seem less vibrant. As well, there are fewer job opportunities.
Like they say, there are always pros and cons with everything. It is up to an individual what he chooses for himself.
Though the things have started to fall in place for us, I can’t imagine a life without a full-time job in regional Australia.