James Xing and Lucy Zhuang love their new life in Victoria.
The couple were just 18 years old when they arrived in the capital, Melbourne, in 2001.
While they could have expected a comfortable life in their home city of Harbin in north-east China, James wanted to see more of the world. With help from an education agent, they enrolled to study in Melbourne.
James and Lucy had few English skills when they arrived in Australia but after a few months of classes they began studying for their Victorian Certificate of Education, which can provide entry into university studies.
The couple lived in Melbourne for two years and enjoyed being part of a large community of international students.
They never felt like outsiders in Victoria’s diverse population of over 5 million people from more than 200 countries. Victorians speak more than 230 languages and dialects and follow more than 120 religious faiths.
Victoria also has a proud Chinese heritage starting from the 1850s gold-rush and Chinese people have an active role in public life today. For example, Chinese-born businessman John So is the longest-serving mayor of Melbourne (serving from 2001 to 2008) and there are Chinese people at every level of government in Australia.
James and Lucy made a big decision to leave the city after completing their certificate of education.
'We took weekend trips outside the city when we were studying and found the areas outside Melbourne were fantastic,' James said.
‘People are very friendly and interested in where you have come from and your plans for the future. They are very encouraging.’
The couple fell in love with Victoria’s spectacular coastline and so enrolled to study nursing at a university campus in the coastal city of Warrnambool.
Warrnambool is a thriving rural centre with a population of 30,000 located 260 km from Melbourne on Victoria’s dramatic coastline.
The campus operated by Deakin University where James and Lucy studied had just 1200 students. They enjoyed close and informal relationships with teachers and made many new friends.
After achieving their Bachelor of Nursing degrees, James and Lucy qualified for independent skilled migration visas which gave them permanent residency.
They received job offers from several public hospitals as soon as they had completed their studies.
A personal introduction from a university teacher saw both accepting jobs at the Portland hospital along the coast from Warrnambool.
With a population of around 10,000, Portland is a commercial and industrial hub and an important fishing port. The region has pristine beaches and national parks that support a thriving tourism industry.
Like all Victorian regional cities and towns, Portland is well-connected to Melbourne by road and inexpensive public transport.
‘We love it here because life is very relaxed and people here are very friendly,’ James said.
James and Lucy always feel safe and welcome in the area, where 14 per cent of residents were born overseas. Regional communities welcome, respect and support skilled migrants as they provide vital services that help their growing populations.
In 2008, James and Lucy were excited to welcome their son, Caiden.
While Lucy had a difficult pregnancy and Caiden was born prematurely they received world-class medical support. This type of medical treatment is provided free to Australian permanent residents and citizens through the public health system. Lucy also qualified for the Australian Government’s ‘baby bonus’ which gives cash payments to eligible parents of newborn children.
‘I received nine weeks of full pay maternity leave from my employer (since doubled to 18 weeks) and if I go back to work within two years I am guaranteed a part-time or full-time job at the same level’, Lucy said.
The Australian Government will also subsidise the cost of Caiden’s child care when Lucy resumes her career.
Another big achievement for James and Lucy is their brand new home.
Just a few minutes from the town centre, their modern house has three bedrooms, a two-vehicle garage (they own two cars), a front yard and large back yard.
‘We have a very large yard here. I am really enjoying growing vegetables and there is lots of room for our son to play,’ James said.
James is also building his nursing career. Government scholarships for post-graduate courses have allowed him to specialise and increase his salary. He is currently working as a theatre nurse and has strong friendships at the hospital.
‘Many people here own a boat and I have enjoyed many days fishing with them,’ he said. ’I have even been tuna fishing and I fish in the surf.’
Lucy has also settled in well and is part of a mothers group which regularly meets for activities.
James and Lucy became Australian citizens in 2009. It was an exciting time and they have achieved more in Victoria than hoped for.
‘We have a very good life in Victoria with good opportunities,’ James said. ’This is the best place for us.’
The couple plan to stay in regional Victoria and continue growing their family.
‘We are very comfortable and have everything we want in Portland,’ James said. ‘Life just keeps getting better here.’
Hear James and Lucy talk about their life in Victoria.