My husband and I both came to Australia as teenagers and we joke about how the only time we feel like we belong somewhere is when we fly over an ocean, because although we belong in two worlds – Zimbabwe and Australia, we also feel we don’t belong to either.
My last visit to Zimbabwe, I was overwhelmed because I couldn’t remember how to do a lot of things as an African. For example, some of the food I would have grown up eating, I couldn’t eat anymore. On the other hand, when I come back to Australia, I feel I am still primarily considered a black woman, still a Zimbabwean, even though I’ve been here for a long time.
We moved to Australia when I was 16. Things weren’t the best in Zimbabwe at that time – the economy was crashing, there was no clean water, no electricity and no work. My dad went to work as a nurse in England so he could support us but after a while, he decided he wanted his family together and the way to do that was to migrate to Australia.
I went into year 11 at a private school in Perth, which was a bit challenging. Firstly, I hadn’t been to school for the past two years, as my school had been shut down due to the political turmoil. Also, I was one of only two black people at the school. The staff were very accommodating but they struggled with some things. For example, they didn’t know what to do with my hair, and I was always getting called into the office for having the wrong type of braid.
I remember feeling shame for a while, wishing that I was white and that my hair wasn’t so different. I also struggled to make friends. I often used to hide in the bathroom during recess and lunch, and what stuck with me was that no one even noticed I was missing. I think I developed depression and anxiety around that time.
After high school, I did a degree in Health Sciences. In my final year, I asked if anyone in the lab could help me change my document into landscape and this friendly guy said he would help me. Four years later, we got married!
For a couple of years, I worked part time as a nurse’s assistant. But then I felt like I needed to shake things up in my life, so I made the decision to apply for a government job in aged care in Meekatharra, 8 hours from Perth. When we arrived, it felt so Australian – there was red dirt everywhere, kangaroos would come to feed on the grass, and my absolute favourite thing was the people, as it is an aboriginal town.
The population was only 1000 and the closest shops were 400 km away. But it was wonderful to be in a community where you knew everyone. You really had that sense of ‘we are all we have’. The wisdom I got from that time, the feeling that we are all interconnected, I think for me was one of the most eye opening things I have ever experienced in my life. After only a short time, I felt like I had been living there all my life, like I was born there, like I was part of the people.
We are now living in Bridgetown, where I am doing my Masters in Public Health and working as a nursing assistant. Living in a regional town is an experience that I think every young Australian should have. It’s a life changing experience, where you see a different Australia, an Australia that is less busy, where you can grow at your own pace.
It has been a wonderful experience, and something I needed.
Photographer: Davina Dean TwoDee Creative
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