People’s parents expressed the value they placed on education or encouraged their children’s schooling in different ways. As shown in the first video on this page, many people described their parents as being busy working or involved in church activities and providing support indirectly. Examples included setting an example of working hard and trying to provide financial stability for the family, talking to children about the importance of education, or providing financial support for extra tutoring or private schooling.
Other people talked about parents who provided more direct support – these experiences are the focus of the second video. For example, some parents intervened in times of crisis to keep their children in school when they were struggling, while others gave of their time by providing hands-on support for children’s academic work or by supporting them to deal with social challenges such as bullying or racism.
My parents had a fair few different jobs before finding their long-term job which they’ve had. Like my dad, he didn’t finish high school in Fiji. He pretty much just did whatever he could to get here, whatever he did to get started in life.
It was always those factory jobs that my dad had. He worked fricken hard, and like most other Pacific Islander men, he did security on the side as well, just for a bit of extra cashflow and which, you know, he did what he had to do to get us through.
My mum, I think her first job was working at […], and then she went and did I feel like admin jobs, reception jobs, had some kids, and then actually went back to […] and is still at […] now, working within like the management roles.
But I think my parents always knew that they wanted us kids to… I’m getting emotional. To be better, to…you know, they come here for better opportunities, and this is why we do…I think the biggest reason why we do this, or I do this, and I’m so thankful for that, because I love my job. I’m so fortunate. Oh, I’m so sorry.
No, it’s okay. It’s okay.
Yeah, it’s not very often you can say that you wake up every morning and you’re like, “I love my job so much,” you know, and my parents are my biggest motivators. Yeah, and they come here with nothing. They only recently just…my parents have rented their whole lives, and have only just been able to purchase a house, and they’ve really set themselves up, and seeing them do so well after struggling for so long, is a real big motivator to me. Oh gosh.
So yeah, I think they, if I can be quite frank, because they’ve done fucking awesome to come from nothing with barely a high school education to where they are now, and I think, you know, that’s always a driving motivator and I always…I think my siblings sometimes forget, and I think other Pacific Islander kids forget how much your parents or your grandparents struggled to get here and to raise you. You know, if that’s not in the back of your mind, that should be your number one driving, you know, so it’s a motivation to do well, I think. We’re really lucky that we live here and have so many opportunities, whether it’s trade or going to uni or just getting a job.
My dad was very studious back in Tonga and he studied in […] but didn’t finish his studies because he ended up coming to Australia at that time. But his family were always really strong on education and making sure that their kids prioritised education. So dad was always encouraging us to do the best that we can. He didn’t necessarily scold us or…I have to be honest, both my parents didn’t come to parent-teacher nights, not really into that, more involved in church activities. But dad was really like, “I want you to study hard. And the reason being is because we want you to have better life. This is why we fought to stay in Australia, is so you kids can actually be educated here and create a better life for yourselves and your future generations.”
So that was always part of my dad’s speech about, “Study. Do better than your mum and I. Get a good job and not have to rely on other people like we did.” And it’s a great motivator and for my siblings and I. I think my parents were really strong on not being…well, and they would say, “And don’t forget where you came from.” So it was just kind of a balance of try hard to have a better life than us, but also don’t ever forget the people that have helped you along the way and the struggle that you’ve had.
So my mum worked two jobs to get me through my private school education, to support me during university and to get me through the GAMSAT, the medical school entrance exam. And so, whenever I talk about my parents, I get very emotional because I’ll always remember the sacrifice that they made coming from Tonga with nothing, looking for a better life for their children, and that’s something that I’ll always remember. My mum she’d go to work in the morning and we wouldn’t see her until the night. She’d go work one job and then come back.
My mum was also paying for me to go to, not courses, but coming towards the end of Year 12, there’d be like pop-up, what would you call it? Like summary courses of different subjects that I was doing in high school. A lot of my subjects were science, so I did biology, chemistry, maths. I can’t even remember, but a lot of them were science-heavy. So I was attending courses for those, as well as my own study at home, and trying to utilise the teachers. I would see them outside of school hours for extra tutoring or for questions that I wasn’t quite sure about.
But my mum, coming back to that, my mum always reiterated to me if I needed a tutor that she would pay for one, but I didn’t really want to put her through that, because I already knew how much of a financial strain putting me through private school was, so I was trying to use what I already had in terms of the teachers.
As I said, my mum, with her, education was a big thing with us, and I think that is because her parents were the same, too, while they couldn’t afford to send her away. She was the eldest. So my grandfather was still working through and working his way up to have a good job. And by the time my mum’s younger sisters came through, he was in a stable job and good job that he could send them away to New Zealand to study. So my mum’s younger sisters finished their high school in New Zealand and my grandfather funded that. And for my mum’s family, education was a huge thing.
So then I started high school by then I, by then it was, it was getting difficult. I was understanding then that I was different. I was understanding then that, especially coming back from Tonga, there are expectations of a Pasifika young woman and what the stereotypes were for me and what those barriers were going to be and being stubborn. I suppose. I wouldn’t accept those things without challenging them.
And I didn’t like that. So I rebelled. I didn’t take school seriously in year seven. I cannot tell you how many times I was suspended, kicked out, in detention. And I remember my mom, she came to the school and she said, she was so embarrassed. She wasn’t happy. She came to school when she picked me up and came home and regardless of how many times she had to pick me up from the school or how many times the liaison officer had to bring me home and talk to my parents. It didn’t matter to them how many times they had to take me back. They took me back every single time to the school, to the principal’s office. Every single time. I couldn’t tell you how many times, but yes, bless her cotton socks. She took me back every single time, sat me in the principal’s office, made me apologise.
And she didn’t only make me apologise. She made sure that I was genuine about my apology. And I think she valued education for us. It was one of the biggest motivations for her to come here to Australia to raise us here was for the education. And she would be 50, was 52 years old. And she will still go out and pick a box of grapes in the heat for us and her grandchildren.
So it’s a work ethic that’s passed on. And when you’re very grateful for that, we’re very grateful for that work ethic and the opportunities that come with it. So yeah, very, very proud of that journey. We have a home, we have education. We have cars, we have all these things from picking grapes, initially, picking grapes and doing the hard yards in the heat, in the 40 degree heat. So, and here I was wasting my education being stubborn, getting kicked out of school while they were picking grapes. And I became aware of that and I wish I became aware of that very much sooner than I did, but I didn’t. And I think that’s something that I regret, but I feel is a big motivator to why I work so hard now.
My parents were very, very supportive. And even when I bring my homework home, my mum was that type, she’s on top of everything, she’s always helping us with our schoolwork. If dad was at work, he would come home, and he would check over with us as well.
They were always at our school events, all our concerts. From us having the right correct uniform, Mum and Dad were always on point with that.
I was actually so blessed to have supporting parents from a young age up till now who never ever had the incorrect uniform, always up to date with our homework, always getting us kids to study because we have a timetable at home whereas soon as we get home, even though we finished six hours of school, they make us go over the work we did at school.
And studying and education is one of the number one things here in our family, and also keeping active and healthy. So just to have the support from my parents, they were always there for us and they weren’t out just working, working, trying to earn some money. They sacrificed what they wanted to do in their careers for all 12 of their kids, especially for me.
So my parents have sacrificed a lot to get me to where I am today. And just to have their advice and support every single day.
And, yeah, just growing up, I had a really good life at home. I’m so blessed to have had great, amazing supportive parents who helped me every single day and helped me stay in line and not get distracted and go off the wrong track.
When things happened at school, Mum was always like, “Don’t let anyone push you around”. It doesn’t mean you go and be violent – Mum’s like, “That’s not what I mean”, Mum’s like, “You stand up for yourself, you let them know that you are someone important and that you don’t let them put you down”. And that’s what my Mum would always say to us.
And if we went home and we said, “Oh, Mum, this person said this to me”. And Mum said, “What did you say?” And be like, “Well, I just said to them that they can’t talk to me like that”. And Mum was like, “Good. You don’t let anyone talk down to you because you are someone important and you are somebody and you will do good things and great things”.
So I think it was having Mum at home that kind of helped keep the peace within the house all the time. And Mum always being a person that was like, “No, no, know your worth, know your value, don’t let anyone put you down because you are somebody,” and that helped even at home. So I think living in such a big family and also having extra people at home, nothing really phases me anymore because, I remember being at school one time and there was a review happening and saying, “Oh, there’s so many different personalities and different little cliques or groups.”
And they’re saying this and it’s getting a bit toxic, the atmosphere at school and the principal asked me how I felt. And I was like, “It doesn’t phase me really”. And she’s like, “What?” And I was like, “Well, I grew up in a big family and I had lots and lots of other cousins and friends who moved in with us to go to school and things like this happened. But I’ve just learnt its water off a duck’s back. You just keep moving forward”. So Mum was very much, she was very big on perseverance and resilience. And I think that’s one thing that Mum instilled in us was that perseverance and resilience because we had such a big family and had so many people with us. There was so many issues and problems and hardships, but we got through it all because we were together and we could talk about it. And I think that’s the priceless thing with Mum was that we could talk to her about it.