"a new life experience means meeting different people, learning from others, exploring places, and becoming part of the culture"
Country of origin: Brazil
Occupation: Journalist. State of Residency: VIC. Favourite place in Australia: Melbourne. Biggest surprise when arriving to Australia: The Australian English- not the English I had learned.
By Cristy Abela
Denise is a journalist and a Doctor in Social Sciences in the area of Migration. She is the co-author of the 2018 book `Brazilians Abroad: Emigrant Voting and Political Engagement’. She is the General Coordinator and Spokesperson for the Brazilian Citizens Council of Victoria (CCBV) composed by Brazilian volunteers residents in Victoria who develop projects addressing the Brazilian community and she is also a member of the Council of Brazilian Representatives Abroad (CRBE).
CONTRIBUTIONS TO VICTORIA
Assisted in the establishment of the CCBV and contributes by helping Brazilian immigrants with the process of adaptation to this country.
She helps promote Victoria around the world when attending annual CRBE conferences in Brazil.
Tell us your story
I came to Australia in February 2012 with my husband Cristiano, we were seeking a new life experience and a chance to improve professionally. In less than six months we were certain that Melbourne was the place for us. Cristiano was studying, and I wanted to enter the academic field by doing a PhD. So I dedicated my first year to meet all requirements to apply for it: IELTS exam, document translations, research project development, scholarship application, etc. In the meanwhile, started to teach Portuguese as a second language.
In 2013,I was granted a scholarship at Swinburne University to start a PhD on Brazilian emigrant voting. Being involved with the Brazilian community in Victoria and with the CRBE gave a special touch to my research. As a member of CRBE I have had the opportunity to meet with Brazilian community leaders from different countries at conferences to discuss issues and demands of the Brazilian immigrant community abroad, and to contribute to government policy towards this community. My research qualified to be published as a book and upon finishing my PhD I co-authored with Bruno Mascitelli the book “Brazilians Abroad: Emigrant Voting and Political Engagement”.
Book Launch 2018
Since my arrival in Melbourne, I have been involved in different projects related to journalism, education, and communities. My interest in the community development sector has increased as I became more involved in advocating for immigrant communities. I am currently working at Holden Street Neighbourhood House, where I am responsible for the areas of Community Development and Communications.
In journalism, apart from working with institutional communications, I have also collaborated with articles about the Brazilian community in Victoria for the book Brazilians in Australia and on Open Forum website. Recently, after years teaching Portuguese, I have shifted to teach journalism at RMIT University in Melbourne.
Outside the work world, I never forget the main objective that made us come to Australia: a new life experience. That means meeting different people, learning from others, exploring places, and becoming part of the culture. There is always something interesting to do and to see around Victoria. You can easily use public transport in Melbourne, taste delicious food wherever you go and meet nice people always wiling to tell you a nice story. I love travelling and do not miss an opportunity of exploring this wonderful country. I have quickly adopted the Australian camping culture, and every now and then I am waking up by kangaroos chewing grass beside my tent!
University life - Adapting to the university culture in Australia was a challenge for me in the beggining as I found it completely different from Brazil. But being able to adapt to the place where we had decided to live was my biggest achievement.
Language and information - For us, Brazilians, who learn American English in our home country, “Australian language” can easily put us down, mate! I was lucky to meet people who gave me the best message which I pass on in every opportunity I have: “learn the language spoken here, learn the pronunciation, learn the system, learn the culture, and no worries!”.
Distance - My niece and goddaughter Laura (11yo) often says that “Australia is the furthest place in the world!”. Unfortunately, she is right. We are 15,000km distant from Brazil, what makes it difficult to meet family and friends back in our country. Most Brazilians would visit Brazil every two years, and each trip would last at least three weeks to make it worth. Many families, including my family, come to spend time with us here, what makes life a bit easier and much happier.
Population - Brazil and Australia are similar in land mass, however the population of Australia is only 10% of the over 200-million people living in Brazil. In everyday life we can see this enormous contrast when comparing, for instance, road traffic, public transport, landscapes, and work opportunities.
Career changes - It is interesting how people easily change their careers in Australia, and how this is amazingly understood as part of their life. In Brazil there is a tradition of deciding “what you wanna be when you grow up” and, once decided, one feel like it is definite. Many people would even work in the some place for their entire work life.
Food - Brazil has a rich food culture that has been built with the influence of people that colonized every region of the country. For instance, South Brazil offers a beautiful range of Italian and German food; the east coast would have traditional food inspired by the Portuguese and African cooking; the north grounds its cuisine on Brazilian indigenous peoples’ recipes. This characteristics contrasts with the Australian food culture which in general offers similar traditional food across the country.
Piece of advice
Participate in your community - It is amazing to see how people can feel valued and engaged when they are part of their local or cultural community. No matter your country of origin or your level of English we are all here and can make a difference. When engaging with others say what you think but be mindful as you never know what others have been through.
Every challenge is an opportunity to learn - We learn a lot from our experiences living abroad. Do not see a challenge as a hard time, take it as a chance to build your strengths.
Do not limit yourself for being an immigrant - Yes, you are from another continent, you speak another language, and now you live between two cultures but you have a lot to offer to Australia. Open you mind, understand the local culture and be proud of yourself and what you can do.
In the next FEW years
Denise sees herself involved in projects related to journalism, community engagement and immigrant advocacy. Her goals may change over the years but her essence will always be connected with these social topics. If you want to contact Denise email us at firstname.lastname@example.org