Born in the UK of Jamaican and British heritage, Lisa Smith knew as soon as she got to Perth that this was where she belonged.
“I came here from the UK to visit my brother in 1990 and I felt as if I was meant to be here.”
Adopted when she was a baby by a family who worked as missionaries, Lisa remembers spending six months as a young child in France.
“The family had been sent to learn French before going on to work in West Africa. I remember being petrified because I didn’t speak any French at the beginning,” said Lisa.
“I was sent to school in France and didn’t understand what anyone was saying to me — not the teachers or the other children or anyone. I just longed for playtime so I could be with my brothers and sister.”
This experience gave Lisa an insight about how hard migrating to another country can be.
“It made me realise how easy it was for me as a migrant when I moved to Australia years later. I’m in awe of people who have to move to a country where they don’t speak the language and who have to struggle to make a success of it.”
After several happy years in Côte D’Ivoire the family went back to the UK, and from there, Lisa applied to move to Western Australia.
“I realise that when I came here I was in a very different situation to so many other migrants — I had a beautiful choice. No war was driving me away, no conflict or being forced.”
Lisa remembers writing in her journal that it was going to be a great adventure — she had employable skills and was willing to start from the ground up.
“I re-established myself and focused on temporary contracts so that I could meet people, make friends and establish a network.
“I had a dream to be self-employed by the time I was 50, and I’ve achieved that by setting up a business where I help people from all walks of life to set up their own businesses.”
As someone who was a migrant, Lisa feels that International Migrants Day is an important opportunity to make migrants feel welcome.
“International Migrants Day challenges those who were born in Australia to look at their social circle and ask themselves how many migrants are in it.
“It’s a reminder to ask yourself if you are reaching out to make the most of how inclusive and multicultural Australia is — it’s like a kaleidoscope.
“We should look to expanding and welcoming and reaching out, expanding our knowledge of different cultures.
Her advice for anyone arriving as a new migrant is to reach out.
“It might take a little time but there are people everywhere who are ready to welcome you embrace your opportunities and make your life here the life you want to live.”
Did you know? The number of migrants around the word reached 272 million in 2019, 51 million more than in 2010. This is 3.5 per cent of the global population.
(source: United Nations)
The United Nations (UN) International Migrants Day is held annually on 18 December to recognise the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide.
For more information see https://www.un.org/en/observances/migrants-day