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Posted by: Charles Apr 1 2018, 10:22 AM
'You've got to get out from your comfort zone': how one family adjusted to a new life in Australia

By Sue Lannin

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Photo: The Kesuma family became citizens in 2014. (Supplies)

Imagine relocating your life from the country you've always known to somewhere very different with a 7-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

The Kesuma family did just that.

After the violence of the May 1998 riots in Jakarta, Tendean Kesuma decided to move his family from Indonesia to Australia for a new start. It was 2005 before they could make their first step with a temporary move to Singapore. They landed in Melbourne in 2007.

It was tough. They moved from middle-class affluence to renting in suburban Melbourne and paying hefty fees for their kids to go to school in Australia while they waited four years for permanent residency.

But 10 years on, both kids are studying at university and the family is hoping to buy a house in Melbourne later this year.


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Photo: Tendean Kesuma decided to move to Australia after being caught in a violent riot in Jakarta. (ABC News: Sue Lannin)

Tendean Kesuma, 50, father

Real estate reporting analyst Tendean studied at RMIT University in Melbourne and returned to Indonesia to work for multinational companies. He hoped his children could get a better education by moving to Australia.

To be honest I don't think I'm Indonesian after all the hell that I've been through. But when we moved to Singapore, we reckoned we were Singaporean because we were so accepted over there. Now I'm proud I'm an Australian.

I decided to move here for a better life for the family after all the things I've been through in Indonesia.

Back in 1998, there was a big riot there. I got to make a split decision which luckily, I did. If went the other way I might have got killed.

I was in the office in Jakarta and there were riots. My younger brother called my wife and said, "Don't let him leave the house," but it was too late and I was in the middle of it. By 10 o'clock they blew up the shopping centre just across from our office.

The boss said: "You are not going home. If you go home I am pretty sure you are going to get killed somewhere around there because people are just blocking the road." He said the best way was to go and stay at a hotel.

By 3:00am I got a call from one of my friends in the military and he said it was safe to go home.

I just saw bodies everywhere, burning cars, burning buses.

There was a lot of hatred, a lot of hatred towards Chinese, a lot of hatred towards non-Muslim, Catholic, burning all the churches and all that.

Moving to Australia was hard especially for my wife because she had never been to any foreign country. Singapore was alright for her because she speaks Mandarin and the culture is kind of the same.

When we came here it was a bit of crisis, we couldn't find accommodation. About a month I stayed with my brother. It was so hard but finally we got in somewhere in Hawthorn (inner city Melbourne).

It has been hard financially. I've got to pay the full amount of money for my children as full fee-paying students. We were paying around $10,000 for the government school (per year).

Most of the money that I saved to come here — one day I thought I would buy a house — it's all gone to pay school fees. Basically, I just lost one house over there to pay for their education.

Yes, there are racists, even in Singapore there are racists.

But the good thing about Australia there is a law here. The law protects you. But back in Indonesia the law is there but it's not going to protect you.

My advice for people thinking of moving is that if your kids are still young, do it straightaway because it's going to be easier for the kids to adapt.

Secondly, you've just got to get out from your comfort zone. You've just got to learn the way of life here, not try to be together with your peers. That's the best advice.


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Photo: Sabina Deanita Kesuma wouldn't have had the opportunity to study neuroscience if she'd stayed in Indonesia or Singapore. (ABC News: Sue Lannin)

Sabina Deanita Kesuma, 18, daughter

Sabina was 7 when her family arrived. Now she is studying neuroscience and psychology at Swinburne University in Melbourne and working part-time in a fast food restaurant. She finished her final year of high school in Victoria in the top 10 per cent of students across the state.

I'd never really experienced what cold weather felt like. In Indonesia and Singapore, the climate is similar: humid, hot and warm.

When we first arrived at Melbourne Airport I had my big coat on and I couldn't wait to get outside and feel the cold weather.

One of the biggest challenges growing up was getting to know people over and over again because you meet people and they already have their best friends from childhood.

I'd never been to a school where I would start from the beginning and stay to the very end until I went to high school. I'm super grateful for the friends that I have because they are the longest relationships that I have.

I got teased or bullied a little bit but not too much. Sometimes because of my height — I'm short.

People would ask me if I do karate because I'm Asian obviously. No, but I do like watching Jackie Chan movies.

Leaving behind the culture was a sacrifice. My cousins have a closer relationship with each other and I feel like a foreigner in my own family because when I do speak Indonesian I have an accent and I'm not too fluent.

Sometimes I can't really connect with my friends here even though I can speak English so it's sort of separated who I am. They don't know what it's like to have family members over in Indonesia.

I see myself as Indo-Sing-Australian: a combination of being Indonesian, Singaporean and Australian.

Every time we go back to Indonesia I always feel like I'm going back to my past. Singapore is my childhood, because I went to school there and made friends there, I had really good friends.

Australia is my future because one of the main reasons we came here was for my education and if we had stayed in Indonesia and Singapore I wouldn't have been able to do neuroscience. I wouldn't have had as many options as I do now.


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Photo: Margaretta Kesuma found it hard to make friends in Melbourne at first. (ABC News: Sue Lannin)

Margaretta Kesuma, 47, mother

Margaretta loves her job as a chef at an aged care home in Melbourne. She worked as an accountant and a piano teacher in Indonesia. Coming to Australia with two young kids was a challenge.

The hard thing about coming to Australia is that I had to adjust everything. I had to adjust for the food, weather, friends, environment and especially the language.

In Indonesia, we had a big family. We had a maid to do everything in housework. I felt very alone because my family is in Indonesia and I'm just, "oh my God," I am here and I have to look after kids especially as the kids were very young.

But after that I am very thankful because now I have the skill to do housework, I have to know how to organise everything because I do everything now.

At first I felt a little bit lonely. I had a few friends from Indonesia, but I needed more.

I tried to do the best to make friends. Now I have a lot everywhere, in my work, in my neighbourhood, everywhere.

I feel happier now but sometimes I really miss my family at home, especially my parents.

My dad is sick with prostate cancer.

I'm just lucky to be here. My parents are very proud of me and us because they know we are safe.

My husband and I are very close now because we work together, especially the housework. We cook together, we depend on each other. We're very, very close now compared to Indonesia. We have to solve problems every day together.


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Photo: Sebastian Kesuma experienced culture shock when he arrived in Australia at age 11. (ABC News: Sue Lannin)

Sebastian Kesuma, 21, son

Sebastian is studying third-year engineering at Swinburne University and works as an intern at Melbourne Water. Although he was fluent in English when he arrived aged 11, Australian slang was a challenge at first. Sport was the way that Sebastian made friends. He follows Hawthorn in the AFL.

It was a different experience coming to Australia. Different culture, there was a bit of a shock.

And coming out from the airport it's like, "Oh wow, it's so clean and it's so quiet".

People accepted me when I came, they invited me to play soccer during lunchtime back in primary school. I was a little nervous back then but then I get used to it.

Sport helped me fit in. It was good to discuss sport with my primary school friends: footy and cricket.

My advice to someone moving here is to join a lot of clubs. It's really hard to talk with your neighbours in Australia since they are very busy with work. Try to do volunteering if you can't find a job.

My primary school teacher supervised me through reading skills and I also made friends through my communication skills and improving my English. I also watched English language TV show to improve.

In high school when one of my classmates told me to go back to where you came from. That was bullying.

I reported it to the teacher and the next day me and the bully we had a discussion on why is it wrong.

What I learnt that usually the bully has problems in their own life.

As human beings, we should take care of each other no matter what.

I see myself as Chinese Indonesian Australian and maybe like the rest of the world. I see people as one identity and one human race. We are all human beings.


http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-01/how-one-family-adjusted-to-a-new-life-in-australia/9605278

This story of a family migrating to Australia, making a new life, adapting to a new culture and contributing to society is repeated many times around Australia.

Sadly there are those who follow a different path, forming ethnic conclaves, relying on welfare and generally causing other immigrants to be regarded with suspicion and mistrust.

It is possible for immigrants to retain therir culture while enriching ours, but the key is integration. The Kesuma family are a fine example of this.



Posted by: Flin Apr 1 2018, 11:21 AM
Fifty years ago, "New Australians" were known to be hard workers and good employees. But so were most Aussies

Posted by: charka Apr 1 2018, 12:45 PM
Not enough "good" people imported

Posted by: scepo Apr 2 2018, 10:54 AM
Well done to this family.

It wasn't easy for them, but they didn't make demands or whinge about it, just got on with it, worked hard, made friends and have settled in.

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