Less stress, a healthy environment and better opportunities for their children convinced Taiwanese doctor, Sam Huang and his wife Mei, to move to Victoria.
As a doctor at the Australian Embassy in Taiwan, Sam knew quite a bit about Australia before setting foot in the country. He also kept in close contact with his brother-in-law who moved to Victoria in 1995.
Sam first visited Victoria in 1998 after investing in his brother-in-law’s hydroponics farm in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburb of Cranbourne. “We came out on a family holiday and really liked it, and after that I used come out every two years to check up on my investment,” said Sam.
After each visit Sam and Mei found themselves comparing the lifestyle in Victoria with their hectic life in Taiwan and considered the possibility of moving to Victoria permanently.
“We found Melbourne very welcoming and Mei’s brother and his friends kept telling us what a good place it was to bring up children. They said it was a good environment, with fresh air and clean water, and not stressful, which was very important to us.”
After much discussion, Sam approached a migration agent to apply for a 457 temporary work visa to help his brother-in-law run the hydroponics farm.
After receiving news he was successful, Mei and their three children, Angela, Rebecca and Victor, moved to Melbourne in 2004 and lived for a couple of months in a small house on the farm while Sam finished up at the embassy in Taiwan.
When Sam arrived he took over joint management of the hydroponics farm which produced fresh basil for Australian supermarkets. “I managed all the farm systems and supervised three workers. It was hard work but I enjoyed it,” said Sam.
While managing the farm he also applied for and received a business migration visa, with the assistance of migration agent, Katherine Chen, from Austar Business and Migration Pty Ltd. “Katherine was a big help to us. Her advice made the application process a lot easier and less stressful than I imagined.”
At its peak the farm produced about 1000 plants per day. But after two years working side by side, Sam and his brother-in-law agreed to sell the business, with Sam wanting to improve his English and establish a career as a doctor.
Since selling the business in late 2006, Sam has completed a number exams to verify his medical knowledge and English language skills. When the process is complete he hopes to work in the emergency department of a major hospital before applying for a position as a general practitioner in regional Victoria. “I would really like to work in a country area because I have a strong background in general and preventative medicine.”
When it came to choosing a place to live, Sam relied on the advice of his brother in law and settled in Melbourne’s family friendly eastern suburb of Glen Waverley. “It’s a great location for us – close to schools and shops, and not too far away from the Monash Freeway which is very convenient,” said Sam.
Finding the right school for the children was also important, particularly for their eldest daughter Angela who was passionate about music and starting Year 10. The family chose their local high school, Brentwood Secondary College, where Angela did very well.
“It was hard at first because the teaching style is so different from Taiwan where they cram you full of information. Instead I was expected to do my own research and work on projects,” said Angela, who is now studying a Bachelor of Music in viola at Melbourne University.
Sam agreed, “Taiwan is very stressful for children. They put a lot of pressure on them to succeed, whereas here a student can study in a more enjoyable and flexible way.”
Angela’s dream is to perform viola as a soloist or with a small classical ensemble. “After I graduate I’d like to play in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for a few years. If I can work there I’d be really happy.”
Angela’s younger sister Rebecca, who is now in Year 10, plays the viola as well, while her brother, Victor, who is in Grade Four at Wheelers Hill Primary School, plays the guitar.
Overall Sam said it was fairly easy for the family to settle into their new life. “We didn’t have any specific demands. We lead a very simple life here – we focus on the children's study and also on learning about this community, this society and improving our own language skills.”
In Taiwan Mei worked as teacher but stopped work after Victor was born. When her English improves she hopes to study welfare and perhaps get a job in the national unemployment service, Centrelink, or work with newly arrived migrants. “The children are growing up now and it’s time to start thinking about myself.”
One of the things they all enjoy, said Angela, was more time together as a family. “We now have dinner together, which is great. We’ve grown much closer and our relationships are more open.”
The family has also joined a local church and made many friends. In their spare time they like to see the occasional concert in the city or visit a museum. Last year Sam and Mei watched Angela perform at Hamer Hall in the Victorian Arts Centre as one of the top young musicians in Victoria, following her Year 12 examinations.
Being close to nature is also important for Sam. “I have a desire to be close to nature, and so much of Australia is a very natural environment. I even love the gardens around every house – the different plants and flowers are fantastic.”
Angela said the family loved to go to Jells Park, a large regional park in their area with picnic facilities, walking trails, bird sanctuary and a lake surrounded by native vegetation.
“Sometimes after dinner we walk down there and around the lake. It takes about an hour.”
Said Sam, “My life is not as complex here as in Taiwan but I really like that. It means I can focus on what matters – studying and working hard and enjoying family life. Mainly I focus on my children, watching them grow up in a very good environment.”