As part of 10 Stories from Bankstown, Bankstown City Council’s Community Harmony project, Cathy interviews Chinese-born migrant, Ji An Yuan. In 1991, with her daughter, Ji An joined her husband in Australia.
Translator: Teresa Huang
What was life like before you came to Australia?
I lived in Shanghai. My family lived in a comfortable house. I have two sisters and two brothers. We went off to school from 7.30am to 4pm, but during the lunch period we had a two hour break and we could go home. I didn’t do any chores because I was the youngest of all the family. We also had servants and a nanny living in the house. My father was a banker, an esteemed profession at the time in China. After he died and my mum was widowed, things became tougher for our family. My brothers and sisters were required to go out to work to help financially.
During holidays I went to stay with my uncle and aunty. They had a large two storey house in the countryside. Once I married, my husband and I lived in an apartment. Life became more hectic once my husband came over to Australia. I had to raise one child by myself and go to work as well.
Why have you come to Australia?
It’s a new experience for us. It’s a better life here than back in China. There is more freedom in Australia and I feel I can do anything I want. People here are more open to what they can do and the opportunities that exist. Education is better here than back in China. It’s a stronger economy here and there are more available jobs. It’s also easier to support a family here.
You came to Australia because your husband was here?
My husband and I planned to come to Australia. We saved our money to migrate. He came first. We were also assisted with the immigration procedures by a friend of my husband’s. We knew a few friends and a relation who was also living here.
How long have you been living in the Bankstown area?
About six years. Before we lived in Beverly Hills for a couple of years, and before that Marrickville for a couple of months.
Why did you choose to live in the Bankstown area?
We were looking for a new house and were attracted by Revesby because it’s a quieter area and it’s a safe area as well.
What makes Bankstown unique or special compared to other communities?
Bankstown has a lot of different cultures and people around, like Chinese, Lebanese, Greeks and Anglo-Saxon people. There’s a mix of people in the one area and everyone is being accepted.
Have you encountered any racism in the Bankstown area?
I think people in this area and from different cultures do get along. You see people coexisting together in the community, people working alongside each other. I work at a clothes manufacturing company and in my workplace there are people from different countries, and we all talk to each other in a simple English way. Everyone gets along.
Do you see yourself living in the Bankstown area for a long time?
Yes, I am happy here. When we first arrived in Sydney, we had a neighbour that wasn’t used to living with Chinese people. It made them feel strange and uncomfortable so they just shut themselves off from our family. Now I know the neighbours here pretty well. We go to each other’s houses. Everybody is friendly. Once I get to know more English, I will be able to communicate better and with more people in the area, and they will see I am not so bad. Also, I like to go to the Asian shopping area of Bankstown to do my groceries. I feel comfortable there because I can speak Chinese with people. I can also buy Asian groceries there.
What are some changes that you have seen in this area?
More houses being built, commercial areas expanding, roads being repaired and constructed and parks for children. There are more people from a Chinese background coming into Revesby. Before, Revesby was filled with Anglo-Saxon Australians only and now it’s more multicultural.
Do you feel secure where you live?
We have been living there for six years now, and nothing bad has happened to us. When I first moved to the area I felt a little strange because it was unfamiliar to me. I felt the house was a little too far from the shops. Now I am used to it. I walk to the train station and I feel more comfortable. I know my way around.
Do you feel that there is a generation gap between teenagers and older generations? Do the teenagers respect their elders?
I think some younger people respect older people. I see it in small ways like younger people helping older people cross the road, also young people making way for older people as they are coming off the train.
What do you do in your spare time?
I go over to friends’ houses, watch videos and I am also learning English. When I was a child, I was very athletic. I still enjoy sport, especially swimming and table tennis.
Have you been back to your homeland, China? If so, is it different to when you left it?
About six years ago I went back. I felt uncomfortable when I went back. I was no longer used to seeing those types of houses over there and there’s a lot more traffic. With the amount of theft there, I didn’t feel secure.
Would you say you consider Australia or China your home?
I feel comfortable in Australia. It is a beautiful country, there is little pollution, more land for less people. It’s a great feeling being here. But still, inside and deep down, China is my home.
Do you feel there is a sense of community in the Bankstown area and what is the most important aspect of that community?
Yes there is a sense of community. The most important aspect is probably safety, feeling secure in your own community. Respect is also very important, people being respectful of one another and being tolerant.