Living in Victoria is a childhood dream come true for Yawen Qin.
As a boy in southern China’s Guangxi province, Yawen imagined living in another culture but never thought it would happen.
He forgot his day-dream until 1995 when he was studying a computer science degree. A teacher impressed him with stories of life in Victoria after spending a year teaching in the capital, Melbourne.
‘He said that Victoria was very beautiful and a friendly place with lots of opportunities, so I began to think about living in another culture again,’ said Yawen.
The idea stayed with Yawen as he achieved a masters degree and began his IT career with China’s largest insurance company, China Life.
When a friend married an Australian and moved to a small town in regional Victoria called Ararat, Yawen was again impressed with descriptions of life there. With an eye on a better future for his family, Yawen decided to follow.
With help from a migration agent in China, Yawen successfully applied for a Skilled Independent Regional (495) visa which provides a three year temporary visa to live, work or study in regional Australia, with the right to apply for permanent residency after two years.
‘It was difficult to leave my elderly father and brothers but I decided this was an opportunity that I must take,’ said Yawen.
In 2005 Yawen arrived in Australia and stayed with a friend in Ararat while settling in.
‘The first three months were very challenging,’ said Yawen. ‘I had studied English in China but I needed to work hard to practice and improve my English speaking, listening and writing.’
He received 50 hours of free English lessons at a community house where he also met new friends.
At first, Yawen worked at the meat industry while he practiced his English and searched for an IT job.
The Victorian Government’s local migration coordinator kept in touch, and personally introduced Yawen to a potential employer at the local government, Ararat Rural City Council. This led to Yawen starting an IT job with the council in 2008 and he still works there today.
Yawen grew up in a big city but prefers the quieter life in Ararat.
Located about 200km from Melbourne, Ararat has just 8,000 residents but services a wider agricultural region. Some of Victoria’s best national parks are nearby and there is a thriving tourism industry.
Ararat has large supermarkets and stores where Yawen can easily find Chinese food. He enjoys exploring the local area and occasionally takes the inexpensive two-hour train trip to the state’s capital, Melbourne, to visit its vibrant China Town.
Yawen feels connected to his Chinese culture in Ararat as the town was founded by Chinese people (during the gold rush in the 1850s).
Ararat remains proud of its Chinese heritage today. It has a Chinese museum and a strong and active sister city relationship with Taishan in Guandong province.
Each November, Ararat has a week-long Chinese Racing Festival with many events to celebrate its Chinese founders.
‘A ceremony is held in Ararat each year to respect the contributions of Chinese people, which I have attended,’ said Yawen. ‘I am impressed with how Chinese people are remembered here.’
Yawen has decided to stay in Ararat and was proud to purchase a home in 2008.
‘When I first arrived I was surprised to see that houses here have a front yard and a back yard and now I own a house like this myself,’ he said.
He is becoming part of the Ararat community and his co-worker at the Ararat council, Colleen White, said Yawen was respected and well-liked.
‘Yawen is brilliant at IT and very knowledgable but he also contributes in many other ways,’ she said. ‘When we welcome Chinese delegations to Ararat Rural City, Yawen helps us with the official protocols and interprets for us. He is also teaching some of our staff the basics of Chinese language.’
Yawen now has permanent residency and says he has completely adapted to Australia’s culture and customs.
‘I never thought my childhood dream would come true but I am glad to be here,’ he said. ‘I think the future is very good. If you are prepared to work hard there are many opportunities here and life is easier.’