My family lives in another city to myself and as migrants in Australia, they have never become proficient enough in the English language. They arrived here in their twenties, during 1970 and 1971 under an assisted migration scheme with the promise of wealth and opportunity. Seeking a life of opportunity, as most migrants do, they were thrust into work immediately without any lessons in English. They have somehow bumbled their way through life experiencing change and retrenchment from industry to industry. They have always worked in low skilled jobs; initially factory work including the PYE television factory, a wool factory, a plastics factory, meat factories/abattoirs, textiles factories, shoe factories and the building industry. I recall vividly the personal experiences of the various retrenchments as manufacturing underwent significant change and decline in Australia during the 1970’s and 1980’s. The most recent change my mother experienced was the decline in the textiles industry in Australia during the 1990’s as factories shut down and shipped offshore. My father experienced the decline in the building industry with the GFC. This background paper gives a picture of manufacturing over this period in Australia. Now, whilst close to retirement, they both work as cleaners. An industry I gather will never be in decline!
I arrived as a toddler to Australia. Therefore I grew up here, was schooled here and as a result have not had to contend with barriers of language nor barriers of technology. I have not had to contend with such shifts in employment due to change from external forces both economic and technological. Although, arguably the change in the information landscape is certainly producing significant shifts in the field of librarianship. However, there is much that is incredibly positive with the growth for information specialists.
I am not sure I can fully grasp the emotions associated with the experiences of my parents. Courageous is certainly a descriptor I would apply to them along with adaptable, persevering and tenacious. Their spirit has been incredibly resilient despite the circumstances endured.
Last week whilst in Sydney, I visited my family and I noticed my father had eagerly signed up for the internet; he has always been an adopter of technology in life starting with photography and filmmaking in the 70’s and traveling through the various changes in formats such as VHS and then digital. The internet was somehow more of an enigma and as technology shifted from mechanical processes to digital the understanding became somewhat more difficult to master.
I helped set up the internet for my parents and went through a few capabilities. I also bookmarked some sites for them that were from their initial country of origin. I chose Google Chrome as their browser for its ease of use and visual style, particularly as the address bar acts as a google search. This removed steps and enabled them to feel that the internet was not too hard after all. It was a pleasure to observe them navigating the news sites in their own language and of course who can deny the delight of youtube; especially when you discover clips that relate to your own specific cultural background.
They informed me that in their country of origin everyone is communicating via computer with their relatives around the world. That’s right they are skyping and my parents wanted a part of this. They wanted to speak with their siblings overseas and even see them. They wanted to speak with me this way also and they wanted me to help set this up. They were bewildered with the possibilities and wanted a part of it.
So Skype was set up. We encountered a few difficulties and determined a headset was the easiest way to fix the problem and get them skyping!
Last night, whilst back in Melbourne, I had my first skype with my parents. My mum was in her pyjama’s and when she realised she could see us and we could see her she commented that next time she needs to ensure she is dressed properly for the ‘occasion’. Both my parents laughed a great deal and it is great to see how something so simple could bring so much joy. They are now trying to find all the contact details of family overseas. The last time they visited overseas was 1981 and I imagine there will be many tears of joy when they first connect.