Field Officer (HR)
Age at interview: 39 years
Occupation: Field Officer (HR)
Country of birth: Australia
In this video
|0:00:00||Early Years and Primary School|
|0:05:29||Community and Religion|
|0:16:10||Leaving High School and Supporting Family|
|0:22:55||Marriage, Raising a Family and Financial Pressures|
|0:36:25||Leaving Career and Challenges for Pacific Youth|
|0:39:39||Moving to Tonga|
|0:43:12||Advice for Youth|
|0:47:47||Moving Back to Australia and Finding Work in Melbourne|
|0:54:34||Advice for Youth|
|1:01:45||Current Career and Future Aspirations|
|1:04:19||Religious Influence and Advice for Youth|
|1:17:44||Challenges and Support in School|
|1:21:22||Parent’s Support and Expectations|
|1:25:17||Cultural Practices and Language|
- Early Years and Primary School
- Community and Religion
- High School
- Leaving High School and Supporting Family
- Marriage, Raising a Family and Financial Pressure
- Changing Careers
- Cultural Obligations
- Leaving Career and Challenges for Pacific Youth
- Moving to Tonga
- Advice for Youth
- Moving back to Australia and finding work in Melbourne
- Advice for Youth
- Current Career and Future Aspirations
- Religious Influence and Advice for Youth
- Challenges and Support in School
- Parent’s Support and Expectations
- Cultural Practices and Language
- Role Models
Early Years and Primary School
Hi. My name is Chris Fine. Growing up in school, my name to my friends was Chris Maamaloa. I was born in Wollongong, and we were probably there for about four years before we moved into a town just up Northwest Victoria called Robinvale, it’s near Mildura. Mum, dad decided to move there. Obviously for dad, it was a change of scenery. Not only that, it was a place where they seen that they could settle and grow a family. Growing up, I guess, through my young years, I grew up and went to school in Robinvale. The school was kind of…we were pretty much maybe only the 2% of Islanders in the school, so it was kind of very hard during those times, only because our parents were obviously grape farmers, or grape workers.
They were picking grapes out there, and so a lot of the students in the school that I grew up in, a lot of their dads and that were pretty much the bosses of my parents a lot of the time. And growing up it was a bit of, kind of say, a bit of a struggle having to know that you’re a son of a picker or a son of a farm labourer. And to see kids the same age as you being able to receive a lot of good things growing up. So obviously, we weren’t the average, or even the rich side of things. We were a family of me, my brother and sister, the three of us and our parents. Obviously, the five of us, it was kind of a struggle growing up in a small little town and trying to get used to growing up in a town where it was kind of new in that sense, for our family.
And I guess, probably through primary school growing up, there was a lot of challenges. And I guess one of the few challenges that I was kind of met with, was the colour of my skin, obviously the ethnic side of things. I’m obviously Tongan/Australian. Even though I was born here, my parents are Tongan and a lot of the things that I kind of went through in primary school was, yeah, things like…today nowadays they call it bullying and…but to me, it was more like them profiling you on who you are, and so that was some of the things that I had to deal with growing up. And obviously in my class, there was only two Tongan kids, myself and another guy who was a cousin of mine. And growing up, it was kind of funny most of the time, because when you get into a fight you got some good kids in your school who try and defend you and they’ll go, “Oh, leave my picker alone.” And so you, you feel like “What the…?” because you feel like, “Am I a picker?” But obviously they’re referring to the job that your parents are doing.
And so it was kind of degrading at the same time, but I guess I was the type of person who wasn’t too affected by it, because I kind of was…maybe just had this blocker in my mind growing up as a kid to push through, even through those things that I went through in life. And then obviously growing up through primary school, other things that I learnt, especially education-wise, I was kind of…I didn’t realise until I’d left school, that they actually put me in a class that it was kind of like a specialist class. They had to ensure, or to make sure that I could read and write, and then obviously, spell my name.
For me, I thought I was pretty good at what I did at that age. I think I was probably seven years old, but they used to always get you to go with this teacher into a separate room and go through these things. And then growing up, it didn’t really affect me because I didn’t really know what kind of class that was, but then in the end I realised that it was kind of…I felt, when I finally realised, I thought it was more of a colour thing or an ethnic thing that they just wanted to say, “Hey, this guy doesn’t really know how to read and write properly, so let’s put him into this kind of class,” which I’m grateful. It’s made the layers of who I am today. And I guess growing up and going through those things, we experience a lot of things growing up. And obviously, when you get through those difficult times, you can kind of reassess yourself and realise that you’ve gone through those hard things, man, you can go through anything that comes in life. So I guess they’re the kind of pillars, or you could say the foundation, of growing up in that kind of lifestyle.
Community and Religion
My parents were hardcore churchgoers. In the Island community, we…obviously, Sunday is church. And the church that I grew up in was church on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. And then growing up in that kind of environment, you thought that that was the norm, knowing God. Knowing God and all, so doing all these activities for Sunday school, for youth. I thought that was it. That’s what you got to do as you’re growing up. There’s no other world out there. And obviously, growing up in a Christian family, there was a lot of strict things that we had to abide by.
Image. Image was a big thing in my culture. When you’re seen as a certain way or a certain person, they label you, or they identify you as that kind of person. So growing up, that was something that I learnt, and had to learn quickly. Obviously, it’s like, “Oh, don’t be a naughty kid” or “You should walk down this path. You have to be a good person.” And I guess that’s what you call, nowadays, holy-holy kind of kids, and that really affected me growing up because then I realised that I had this big mountain to climb, or to keep up a reputation and to help everybody that you got to help.
We went on a lot of tours in my teenage years. Our church went over to Tasmania. We pretty much went around spreading the gospel. Also, doing action songs and things like that in the youth, but there was…I guess there was a part of me that didn’t really reach the spiritual side of things. And I just looked at it as we’ve got to act a certain way. We’ve got to act a certain way and just keep acting, and then eventually you’ll understand. And so from that kind of point of view in teenage years, obviously you’d get up to no good when you’re growing up and you realise there’s alcohol, there was drugs and there were things that were kind of in the background. We used to go on tours and things like that, but then we would all meet up and go get drunk on a weekend or straight after doing something on a Saturday, we would go and get drunk straight after that.
And I guess with that kind of mentality, it really did take full effect on me, which I didn’t realise during my teenage years and growing up in high school. I thought that that’s…I guess it was just like a mental blocker, and not only that, a mask trying to disguise yourself during those times because you want to keep your parents happy. You also want to be a cool kid at school, be with the boys and them accepting you for who you are. And in those days, it’s always about who’s the toughest, who can throw hands. Back then, it was kind of like a different world for me, especially there was a few brawls that I was involved in, and things like that.
And any kind of change, well, it kind of changed the kind of mentality or the mind that I had growing up and how I would learn to be strategic in the friends that I had, and being strategic in a way that, hey, it’s kind of like…you can kind of say you’re forming a gang, and you’ve got to keep these guys happy and protect yourself on this side of things. Eventually, I ended up in a few things that I’m not proud of. Ended up doing things that I’m not proud of as a teenager. It was kind of hard for me, and I guess mentally and physically and spiritually, it kind of broke me down bit by bit, growing up. And with the brother that I had, he was a very challenged kid, and my sister…we kind of went through a lot of struggles in trying to keep up with the Joneses. Trying to keep up with your neighbours.
And that’s what…it affected me in a way that I didn’t really know until I got a lot older in life. So coming up through high school, obviously, I did a lot of sport. I was very keen. I’d just put my hand up in any kind of sport that there was. Cricket, rugby, even football, Aussie rules. Did a lot of sprinting in my days. I was kind of, thought I was proud of what I did, but not realising that the scope of things was…we’re only a little town of 4,000 people, but I thought I’m a champion of 10,000 people, but yeah. You get to wake up to reality when you realise. You go up to the bigger cities and you realise, whoa, there’s a lot of people. You say, “Yeah, you probably ain’t that good.”
And I kind of learnt the hard way when it came to that. Well, I guess in high school, it was a different thing. Obviously, you start meeting up with girls or you got girlfriends, boyfriends, things like that. I learnt I was kind of reserved in that way because I think I had, what would you say…issues, confidence issues. I always used to think that “Man, I am not good enough for this girl.” I’ve got to do better. I’ve got to be a certain way. And I guess that kind of…it was like building bricks. As I was a kid growing up, I kind of realised that I felt that I wasn’t good enough to be someone’s girlfriend, or you’ve got to be certain things that you see on TV.
Because obviously in those times in the nineties, a lot of this whole thing was about how you looked, what style of clothes you’re wearing and…well, I guess it is nowadays, but I guess…but in my days, it was very, very like a prominent thing. You need to look good. You need to have the latest gear and that. And I was kind of embarrassed when you feel like you go to, if you’ve been to the Melbourne markets or Sydney markets, and you find these USA jumpers and that, that was what we were rocking. You could call it, kind of say, the rip-off kind of clothing brands, but we had to. That’s all we could afford in those days, hey. I never wore Nikes growing up.
I was wearing hand-me-downs from my brother half the time, so Nike and those kind of big brands was like a distant thing that you could reach. And I was a very materialistic kid, too. Not crazy materialistic, but I was embarrassed with the car that we had and things like that, because I thought that’s what defined me. That’s what defined my family and who I was. I could tell you a story. We were driving down the main street in town, and the town of Robinvale is only just this one street. And it’s probably only, maybe 700 meters, our town strip, with a whole heap of shops. And one day my parents said, “Let’s go into town,” so we jumped in, we went downtown, and we had this old bomb. It was kind of like an old school Chrysler. Oh, it was a Valiant. And it was like a long shape piece. The back you had to wind down like a window.
And so as we’re driving down, I could even remember me and my brother and sister, we’d be sliding down our chairs, so no one could see who was in the car. And I guess as mum and dad parked in, it was straight. By the time they looked to the backseat, we were already out of the car and walking along the street as if we weren’t even a part of that family. And when I look back at it, obviously, I realised that materialistic things, it’s just materialistic. It’s nothing that defines you as a person. And I had to learn that when I got married and moved on in life. But I guess as a teenager, it’s your surroundings and what you think media, social media, shows you and stuff like that. I think I’m probably blessed to not have been growing up in the social media era because I think my mind would probably have been, maybe a lot…I would’ve scrutinised myself a lot more, and even looked at myself a lot more, and I’m kind of blessed and grateful that God didn’t give me that kind of journey growing up, and also I’m a lot mature in life.
And so that was my upbringing throughout high school. Obviously, well, I did a lot of good things, especially in my sporting career, played really well, but then as growing up, you learn. You try new things, so I started trying alcohol at a pretty young age. I was probably maybe, 13…13, 14, at the time. And that really did affect me as a person and the performance when I was looking at schooling or even sport. And you don’t really realise that until you have grown up and you look back at your life and you went, “Man. If I didn’t do this, or if I didn’t do that,” then you probably would have had a better roadmap to, I guess, what they call success in life.
Leaving High School and Supporting Family
And so that’s something that I kind of struggled with growing up. By the time I got to Year 12, and I left Year 12, I was…I could pretty much say I was a drunk because I drank a lot. Obviously, in my Year 12 and graduating, I actually did drink a lot for Year 12. And I wasn’t proud of it, but it was like in that moment or in that time, it was just all I could do. I could just relax and just enjoy what I was doing at that time and not really think of the consequences. Later on down the track, I actually…a lot of my, and I’m not proud of this, but a lot of the times I did my exams, I’d pretty much rock up on that exam morning, or get home from drinking that morning, revise what I’m going to be doing and go to exams like that.
That was not cool. That’s not cool, but I guess everyone, each to their own in their lives. And that was how I was brought up. Well, not brought up, but I mean, that was the journey that I took. And I knew now that, or know now, that I could have done better in my VCE, if I just channelled all that energy into my education, or into what I need, what I want to do when I leave school. And I think I could have probably been a better person, or maybe done a lot better after I’ve left school, so I think my experience, especially with work, growing up as in…from the age of nine onwards, I used to remember going out to work, going out to the grapes, out to the farms. It wasn’t an easy job.
When it was holidays, my dad, mum and dad, used to just drop my brother and I to a block. And he’d be like, “There you go. Do your job. Two weeks. There you go. That’s your school holidays.” And I grew up like that. I grew up doing a lot of very hard, physical work and obviously, not seeing that money. And you think to yourself, “Man!” But growing up, you never thought that you get paid for that kind of stuff. Obviously, you’re helping your parents in doing those jobs, but that was when OH&S and that kind of stuff wasn’t really strong or prominent in nowadays business, and when I grew up, that was things that we did. We had to pick oranges. And even at a younger age, sorry, in primary, roundabout six and seven years old, I used to remember going out to my parents when they were picking carrots along the ground, and this is early in the morning.
And so then they’ll drop us to school. So we started in the farm when they’re working and then they drop us to school. And then we end up in the farm at the end of the day. And I guess it just, you just realise, like I realise now, that the sacrifices that my parents did for us was crazy. Without that kind of sacrifice, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And then obviously, there were certain things that you were taught growing up. My parents, or my dad, was very, very, very strict on my being a pastor in your future life. “You’re going to be a pastor. You have to be…you’ve got to be this. You’ve got to be that.” And it kind of, to me, it didn’t really line up with what I really wanted to be.
And so I was kind of confused in my teenage years when it got to that. There was a certain point in time in our lives, something happened, and it kind of just…I just felt like, man, that’s just lost all hope in trying to do something with my life. And obviously, when I left school for two years, I was just being a straight out, just go work our bush, or go work out in the farms, get your money and just spend it on the weekend, just get drunk. That was the kind of reoccurring life that I had after high school. And I thought that that was just…that was just the cool thing. Go hang out with the boys, get wasted. And there was no real plan in the future, roadmap to try and say, “Yep. This is what I want to be. And this is how I want to get there.”
And when I did finish high school, I really did want to go to uni. I was so interested in business, especially business management. I actually asked dad, “Could I do that?” And during that time, dad was like, “No, no, no. Leave it for a year or two, and then we can go back and look at it.” And that broke me, because I thought, “Man, I can have an opportunity in doing business management,” but then, obviously my dad was saying, “No, don’t do that,” and I feel like that was kind of a kick in the guts in that sense. I really kind of had that ill-feeling towards my dad from that time, because I just felt like that he wasn’t supporting the ideas or the things that I’d like. And I ended up being the one who stayed home and worked for the family.
My sister went away, did schooling. My brother went another direction, did what he did. And I was probably the only one there helping mum and dad out. I literally, I could tell you, I literally only got $50 a week. I would work six days. Listen, guys, I would work five to six days a week and only get $50. That’s what I got. So obviously, getting 50 bucks was kind of like saying, “Yeah, I’m going to go drink it all away” because that was it. I’ll probably get $100 here and there, but I never really received wages growing up in high school and even obviously, after high school while still living with mum and dad. And I guess that’s why I just thought drinking it away would just let those issues and those problems and those hopes and dreams just be at a distant memory for me.
Marriage, Raising a Family and Financial Pressure
And what that did was, it snowballed. It was like a snowball effect. And then one thing led to another and then I realised, “Hey, I got a girl.” I mean, I met my wife and I dated her. And then in the end, I was only 20, and we were looking at getting married. So I ended up getting married at a very, very young age, 20 years old, and had my daughter when I was 21. And that’s when life for me changed. And it changed in a very big way because obviously, I don’t know. Growing up, I didn’t know how to deal with kids. And I loved kids growing up, but I mean, actually looking after a kid of your own was a major event in my life, and it didn’t start out well in a sense, of when I had my daughter, because she was sick. She was two months prem. My wife and I were just new at this, and also the struggles of just trying to keep up with rent and keep up with this and that. It was just, yeah, it was just so much, so much pressure, for someone at that age.
And it was a time in my life that really moulded me to understanding there’s another level that you have to step up to. And especially being a father and then being a husband, that was a new level that I entered, or a new world that I entered into. And, maybe, because I was brought up the way that I was. In my family or my parents taught us a certain way, I never had a quitting attitude. Everything was, “If this needs to be done, it’s got to get done.” And so, I would see when I walked down the path of marriage, and said, “I do,” I realised when I had a kid, “Man, I’ll do whatever it takes.” And that’s the attitude I started to adopt in my twenties was, “If I don’t know the answer, I’d get it. If that’s how my family is going to live, do it.”
And that’s when I started to realise finance and realise there’s all these other things that I wasn’t taught when I grew up. And that was called bills and paying for food. I never realised that the $50 that I got paid growing up, the rest was going to help my parents so they could feed me. And I didn’t realise those signs until having my own little family and then realised that “Hey, things do start to cost a great…” I was really tight with money, because obviously only having $50 every week. It taught me to just hold onto the money and spend it wisely, or I thought wisely was getting on the booze half the time. But what it also taught me was that kind of attitude that I had of being tight, it showed when I was married to my wife.
We didn’t have our first daughter yet and we went to a shopping mall. And I was walking around while my wife looked at the shoes. And she’s like, “Ah, can we get this? This is on special, it’s a bargain.” And I’m like, “How much is that?” She was like, “It’s $20.” And I looked at it and I said, “Ooh. Can’t afford $20.” I was like, “I’m not even working.” And I said to her, “We need the money for food and to pay our bills.” And I listed all these things, and she just broke down. And, when I seen that happen and she was really sad as we were driving home, that affected me in a way, because I realised that I couldn’t provide for someone, especially someone that I love, my wife.
I couldn’t provide for her, and I realised at that moment, I need to do a lot more. I need to put a lot more effort into things. But, having the education that I had and growing up in farming, the way that I did, working on farms, and not knowing financially how to do things, I could only do the best of what I knew at that time. And, that was working harder, I’d go out there, bush, and work harder. Obviously, you’re only going to get a certain amount of wages in that period of time. And I thought that that’s what you do to generate income and getting more money. But then as you mature and you get older, you learn, “Nah, that’s the old school way of doing things and getting money.” And so, I think when that point of time happened with my wife and not being able to provide $20 for her shoes, I realised that I needed to do something, I needed to develop something or work at something.
And, when that happened, I scored a job doing sales, selling fridges and that. So, I had a shop that I scored a job with. And that actually changed my mind in all views of work. Because, obviously growing up in the farmland and that, I entered into a market and tasted something that was different. Something that I wasn’t used to, and it was something that was fun. You see all these new products and obviously being materialistic, not crazy materialistic, but being materialistic and growing up, it was so cool to see gadgets and things that growing up you wish you had, now you’re there selling it. And so, I started to learn about things like sales, approaching people, the way that you talk to someone and all those things.
It started to build the world of…I could say the business world of my life. And, then started to make me understand that there is a lot of ways of doing things, and certain ways of getting somewhere. I became a person who is driven that way of when I see something. And it’s not that I want to obtain it, but I want to learn more about that area. And so, that opened up another space for another dimension in my mind, to follow those dreams. And, in realising the dreams that weren’t there, or I couldn’t reach, they were unreachable in high school and in growing up, it started to become clear that, “Yeah, you can reach that. This is the way. You can go through this way. You can work smarter and not so hard.” Because, if you’ve ever done any of the jobs that I’ve done in farming, I guarantee you, anybody who is probably coming from city, they’ll give up first day. Boom, “See you later, not doing this job, I’m going to sales.” Now for me to go and see the sales side of things, I realised, “Hey,” it was like a light that went off in my mind.
Realising why I like business and why I wanted to do that at uni in high school, was a conversation that I had with my Year 12 business teacher. And, as I was finishing VCE, it was our last few lessons before going into exams. He said something that inspired me, and I believe even till today, I still hold that. And he said these things, he’d said, “Chris, if you…” Sorry, he said, “Chris, would you like to go to the UK, or go to England?” And I looked at him funny and I said, “Why?” And, then he goes, ” Looking at your studies for this year and how you’ve gone through in my subject, in business management. You’ve got that kind of mind that you could do well over there.” And I was like, “Okay, but what do you mean by that?” And he started saying things like, “Business people in England, they love Aussie businessmen, or up and coming people, so they can bring over there and get them to go through the process of expanding their mind over there in the UK.”
And I thought to myself, “Man. I am an Islander kid, with parents who work out bush, in the farm, how the heck does this guy see something like that in me?” Like, “Eh. Sorry, buddy.” That was quite literally my answer. “Yeah, no. I don’t think that will happen.” And, having strict parents, as in the way, the parents that I grew up with, man, I’d have to runaway to the UK, because my parents were like straight, “No.” My brother, he had a pathway of doing sport, and it was only just a weekend thing in Canberra, and it was straight, “No.” That was, the answer’s “No.” So, I already knew the answer’s going to be no after being suggested that. But I guess that seed was planted in my life.
And, that seed there, as I’ll continue to share with you, that seed became bigger. And it started to sprout into a tree that I am still experiencing now in my life where that tree is growing and it’s still growing. And, with that seed, I took it, and for many years, I just felt like that there’s something that’s missing, and I can’t quite pinpoint it. And, obviously with my kids, or having a wife, having a young girl growing up, I put that dream aside. Even though I was in sales, and I was selling in this company that I was with, I put the idea of stepping up to the next level, or even thinking about stepping up into management on the back burner, because it was about making money and looking after my family. And obviously church at the same time.
And, with the families, being an Island kid, a family is not just you and your wife and your kid. It’s you, your wife, your wife’s brothers and sisters, and cousins, and aunties. And the same as me, likewise, my brothers and sisters, uncles and aunties. You marry the whole family. And so, a lot of those things that we worked for and saved for and that, it was a burden on your wages, and a burden on your life, because I was a people pleaser. My wife used to always say, “Chris, you’re a people pleaser. You want to please everybody.” And I didn’t realise that until 10 years down in my marriage life, that I can’t please everybody. And, then I got to the point where I had to stop, because I was sacrificing pleasing everybody, I was sacrificing my time with my kids, my time with my wife and being a father for my kids.
And that was hard, because I was a very…I didn’t realise I was a person with pride, but I had a bit of pride that I didn’t let those, you could say teachings, all those things that my wife wanted to share with me. And I knew she loved me in that way that she wanted me to change that mentality, because you can’t please everybody growing up and the more you try and please those people or your family and that, the more you take a piece of you. And that becomes something that’s just dug out. You’re just digging a hole in you, but you’re fulfilling the promises of others. And it did take a toll on my marriage.
Leaving Career and Challenges for Pacific Youth
I ended up having kids. And, we had six kids in the end. But it did take a massive toll on my marriage and a massive toll on my direction in life. Especially business-wise, or workwise. And I ended up leaving the job that I did do with the sales, and I ended up back out on the farm. And, then when I went back out there, I looked at things in a different light, because obviously you’ve seen the sales side, and then now you’re seeing the farming side in a different way. You see the business side of the farming, not just the working and the labour that you do. And, what that did in the end, going back I realised that not only that it affected me in my teenage years, I started seeing a lot of the teenagers dropping out of school and not even finishing school to come and work in the same place their parents are working.
And it made me sad to watch youth or the younger generation coming up and still working in the same job that their parents are. And, I’m not saying that’s bad. But, the kind of work, especially farming work, it’s not easy. And I see it as our parents came here and they want a better life for you or for me, or whoever their kids. They want a better life for them. And, then to see them finish school and then come out and work in the exact same position they are, it’s not degrading or anything like that, but we should be able to step to the next level, because our parents, you could say the first generation here in the Western world, in Australia, why not us try and do a bit better than that?
And it’s not that that to be better means to be rich and to have these cars, the Bentleys or Mercedes, or whatever tickles your fancy. But it’s like saying that your progression has only gotten to the progression that your parents set, like that platform when they came here. And, when I see that in the generation younger generation, it screamed in my heart too try and do something. So, that was a light of me starting to see where I can step up in…not the corporate world, sorry, but in the business or the company that I walked into, try and step up into senior roles, to be able to encourage the kids or the youth that come into to the positions that they do in the workforce that I was working in at that time.
Moving to Tonga
When we went through that, I left that and moved over to Tonga.
So, we moved away for a bit. I wanted to go and see the island of Tonga. We actually moved for a couple of purposes. One was, my wife and I were going through a very hard time in the town. And secondly, was to go and run my father-in-law’s company, or business that he had there overseas. So, I started to roll into certain roles that became…you could say leadership roles. The company before, that I worked for out in farming, it was funny, because no one teaches you leadership, you’ve just got to learn on the go. But I was grateful. And I’m lucky that I did have a dad or a father who led a church. I had adapted the things that I grew up with and seeing him do for the church. I used that same role in the positions that I did when I started becoming a leader in a few things, obviously started as a team leader, into a supervisor and so on and so forth.
Tonga, to me when we went there, was a very, very different atmosphere, a way different atmosphere. Especially in business. And it taught me a lot. It taught me a lot about, it’s sad to say, taught me a lot about corruption. And that is huge in Tonga. And it also taught me that you have to have thicker skin, your skin has to be thick. And so, in that side of things, and it taught me that in business, sometimes you do need thick skin to be able to get through or propel through a lot of the challenges that are thrown at you. And Tonga was my challenge. I could say that was my number one challenge in my business life and my work life, because we were in a foreign country, even though it was my parents’ country, they grew up there. We were in a country that we didn’t know how they ran things in business.
So, obviously, growing up and looking at what I’ve learned in business and in going into a different country, which is third world country. And running their way of business was two totally different things. And, over there, it was almost like I need to do things to survive. It wasn’t like a prosperous country that we came from in Australia. You’ll go into a country where it was everything like, “I have to lie, cheat, steal, to get what I need to get, because in case my family go hungry.” And, going into that kind of world and seeing the business world that they have over there, it taught me that with the challenges or the things that you do get in business here in Australia, it’s always good to share a bit and to show a bit more love. If you’re receiving, you’ve got crazy profits and things like that, share that, give it out, or channel it in a way where it helps people.
And, Tonga is a giving nation, I’m not saying that they don’t do that. But, obviously, a lot of the business that does happen in Tonga, it’s more for gain than it is for giving.
Advice for Youth
And so, I learned that you’ve got to find the balance to give and the gain. And, that there in particular will help, especially with what you set out in life. And, talking about set out in life, I started to learn a lot of things. And I can tell you in probably the last 10 years, I started learning things about self-worth. I started learning things about planning, organisation, and also about financing and keeping up financially, and understanding that everything that you do, you’ve got to map it. You’ve got to have a goal. And that were the things that were neglected growing up in high school and that. I just never had a goal in mind. “What goals you have?” You go, “Yeah.” Just because you couldn’t see it, you could set it, set a goal and say, “This is what I want to do.”
And I wish I had someone that could do that for me. But I tell you right now, in what I do and what I’ve been doing for the last five to six years, I’m very passionate about helping people. And the way I see myself helping is when you ask them those questions, “Do you have a goal in life? Where do you see yourself going in the next three to five years?” That’s something that you do in business. And I’ve applied that in a personal sense, because I believe that what is business side…the way that business is ran, it can be applied to your normal day life and, everyday life, is set goals for yourself. And, I had to learn that. And, learning it past your thirties, I wish I could do that in my twenties. And that’s what my advice is to a lot of kids who’ve just come out of high school and are in their twenties, I’d say. “Dude, don’t waste your time.”
And I use myself as an example and say, “Look at where I am now. It could have taken me a shorter time to get where I am now. If I took this advice that I’m giving you right now, when I was 21.” And, then you realise that the advice that you hear, or that people who are wise that are giving you that advice, they’re trying to cut your time in half of trying to get to where you want to get to. And my advice is listen to those kinds of advice, because they’re very handy and helpful. And, if you feel like, “Oh, well, I don’t know where to go,” start with your parents. Ask your dad, ask your mum, “How did you get to where you are? And how do you…” And, then from there, you go to your uncles, aunties, and even people that you’re close to, your teachers, people that are doing business, that are doing well, they don’t even have to do well.
You can even ask those who are not doing well, because in life, every failure is not a fail for me, it’s just a learning curve. It’s just to get to the next stage or jumping that next hurdle. Because, if you look at things as a failure, you’re only going to put yourself on a pause and say, “I’m going to stop here until I work out how to fix this failure.” But you can’t, because then you can’t progress to forwarding that. What you got to do is when you fail get back up and keep walking, it says that in the bible. And, learning those things and learning the spiritual aspect, especially with God and the Christianity side of things, you realise that biblically, a lot of things do make sense, but you’ve got to look at it in the nowadays terms. And that’s what I realised what I learned in high school…sorry, Sunday school to Youth. And, then what I learned now, I realised, “Man, there is so many answers there that we do not ask the right questions.” And that’s what my advice is, for those who are seeking that is. Ask the right questions and you’ll get the right answers or ask the right questions and you’ll get the right direction, or the right pathway. And that was me. That’s something that I’ve been learning now or have been learning in the last five to seven years.
Moving back to Australia and finding work in Melbourne
Back to my Tonga story, fly back to Tonga. In the end, Tonga was a major fail in my eyes, failure as in not business sense of things, but a failure is in operations. And we were going over there thinking that we’re going to be the bosses or not just the bosses, but are going there to make a change, be able to turn things around and that. And, going there to a market or to a place where they’re totally running business…you could say, running business upside down to the Western world.
And, that there, put a big, massive dent in my relationship with my wife, my relationship with the company. And, then we just decided, “No, this is just too much. Let’s go, let’s go back home.” It was, with our assessment, we looked at it, it was past the point of repair. And, when you see that kind of things in life, pray about it. And that’s what we did. We prayed about it and realised, “No. We’ve been called to go back home. That’s the best way to do it.” And, so we did, and we came back to Robinvale, and then we realised, because we’ve opened up that gate in our hearts, of being able to go somewhere or leave, to just pick up and leave, when we came back to Robinvale, and came back home, it just felt like we’ve just gone back into this little cage, and then we felt that this is not for us, we need to go.
And, in that point of life, you’re learning your journey in life that whatever your gut is telling you, or in that point of time, listen to it. If you feel that you don’t even know what to do and you believe in God, pray about it. And you feel like the answers do come. And prayer is an important thing. And, in the companies that I’ve worked for, especially out on the farm, prayer is a thing that we start with every morning. So, we come together in the farm, we say a prayer, and then we start work. Those things you’ll barely see in the business world.
But applying something like prayer does do wonders and it does do wonders physically, spiritually, and mentally in your life. And then I realised that prayer was something that we needed to focus more on. And then they started to build up more things or more and asked us – and also answers to questions that my wife and I had been thinking for about 10 years, 10 years before that. And so we decide we’d move to Melbourne and we literally didn’t plan for anything. It was just a straight pickup and go.
Call my aunty, “Hey, you’re going to have…” We only had two kids at that time. Oh sorry, three. So it was like, “Yeah, we’re coming over. There’s five of us that’s going to be over there.” And my aunty being the way she is, and at that time she just opened up her door. And that’s a typical aunty. Obviously, Island community knows that, that family. They just drop everything and say, “Yeah, come.”
And so we did that. We moved over there and then the hunt work started. I was actually looking for work for five months and I was at a point where I was like, ” Man…” And to give you scope on things, that was my first time in the city married and looking for work. I was like, “Oh my goodness.” It was no longer easy finding jobs because in the farm world in Robinvale, you can find work. It’s pretty easy. A lot of farmers offer so much work. But then going into the city, and now you’ve got this thing that they started, I learned really quickly, called a resume. You don’t see that kind of stuff in the farming aspect.
I had to do a resume, which totally didn’t know that or understood that. I had to do interviews. So the pressure, took us long to just try to find work. And it was only until probably five months later I kind of scored a job because of my previous experience in the sales. Working down through that sales job, I was able to obtain a few things and learn a few things.
It’s kind of funny. I don’t know if it’s, say, an omen that’s over me, but every company that I’ve worked for from them have seemed to gone bankrupt. The corporate, it was a big company. It wasn’t because of me. I didn’t steal anything or anything. But corporately, that large company did collapse. And that happened three times.
So the job that I found after five months in Melbourne, I was working there for I think six months. And then I found another job, moved over, which was a similar job. And they gave me full-time because I was only part-time with the job that I found in Melbourne. And the funny thing was when I left…they collapsed when I left, when I’ve gone already. So when I moved to the new company, that company collapsed as well. And I started to really quickly realise the business world in the city, and I realised what corporate was.
When I lived in Robinvale, I for years was saying, “I want to be corporate. I want to be corporate. I want to be corporate.” And then when I moved and I’d got to Melbourne, even though it was in sales, I’d seen how corporate was in the ladder. I was like, “I don’t want to be corporate. I don’t want to be corporate.” I was going backwards on it because I learned really quick that the city, it’s all about the grind and working hard. And not only just hard, but also pressuring sales. You’ve got to be a salesman. You’ve got to sell anything and everything.
Advice for Youth
And I learned really quickly that this thing called manipulation in sales. You manipulate the customer. And I had a few tiffs because I consider myself an honest bloke. I had a few tiffs with salesmen of mine because I said, “No, you’re lying to someone.” Or “You can’t do that. You can’t do this.” And especially with your Christian values, that plays a massive role. I was just like, “No, no, no.” It didn’t end well with some of the conversations that I had. But I knew that I had to stand firm in what I believed because I’ve always viewed customers as someone that I’d want to help, or I’d like to help or I’d love to help. And that’s what I applied in my work life.
You’ll learn that if you do apply that. One thing you learn when you’re working or if you want to do well, is you need to work hard. That was one thing I learned. Secondly, you have to be honest while working hard. And they’re the two things that can get you a long way. And then thirdly, always look outside. Not always look outside, but if you view things outside the box because then your mind can expand. You can start expanding and then you can also help the company or the business or whoever you’re working for grow in that sense.
And in that job there, that was first time I started to climb up into senior management and I realised that I was cut out for it. It was amazing. I could have been there for long enough, but I was only there for probably two years. And then my mother-in-law fell sick. So, obviously, there was a big change of events and I had moved back home back to Robinvale. The thing that I learned there was that events do and can change your life.
And that there did change my life because when I was starting to leave that job, I said, “Look, this is my last two weeks.” The last few days before I left, a lot of the staff were saying, “You could have been the next manager of this.” And they were saying, “Do you know how long it takes to get to this management?” A lot of these guys that have been managers, it took them seven years. One guy who was a 2IC, which is like second-in-charge, he’d been there for 20 years almost and still hadn’t gotten management. And so they were saying, “Chris, you’ve only been here two years. You’re at where you’re at. You could have been the next in line.”
So that taught me a lot about applying the things that I said and valuing you as a person and valuing…people that go out and work, I see ourselves as the asset. You’re the asset, I’m the asset. If you don’t understand what that means is you’re the product. And when you go there, you’re not only going there to sell yourself, but you’re the product. You’re going out there and showing them that, “Hey, this is what I can do and this is my value.” And when you see that value in yourself, your value can only increase because you believe in that, and you believe in yourself.
And I didn’t realise that until further down after many other jobs that I had, like in Melbourne, that I realised that value is a great way of starting. You’ve got to value yourself and providing that value to your employer. When you realise that, that you have value, and then your intentions or your potential can only grow. And that’s why I’m saying you need to apply goals in your life because only people who look further, they’re people who can start climbing up any ladder. Corporate ladder or running a business. It’s only people with vision and hope. If you don’t have a vision, you don’t have hope, and you don’t see value in yourself, you’re going to just stay still at what you’re at, your current status.
They’re the things that I learned before I left Melbourne and I came back. And then when I came back to Robinvale, my perspective changed again and I’d no longer seen working on the farm as something as a dirty job, it’s pointless, you’re not going to make anything, or it’s just going to be the same repetitive thing over and over. When I came back to Robinvale, I realised there is so much potential.
Growing up and working as a teenager, and then working, being married as a young couple, and then going away and experience what you’ve experienced, and then coming back to the same job that you did, I realised that it was there all along. It was your mentality, it’s your perspective, it’s how you see things. And then I realised, man, if I changed my perspective 10 years ago or when I started in…I’m in the almond industry right now, and if I changed my perspective to that day or that time, maybe by now, I would probably be where I am right now. Like in senior management or senior role, and it would not have taken all this time to realise that.
18 years to my life, 18 years of marriage, and doing that I realised, man, I could’ve just done it in probably five years. And that is because I didn’t have a goal, I didn’t set anything, tasks in front of me, and I didn’t want to learn quick enough. You just have to have hunger. When you want to learn something and you want to get somewhere, you’ve got to be hungry for it. When you’re hungry for it, then you want to go and search for those answers, asks for those questions. And then in the end, you start landing in places because you apply your honesty, you apply your hard work, and you start getting the results or you’re getting into the pathway that you wished and you hoped that you could have been at.
Current Career and Future Aspirations
So I’m currently a field officer, I also work in the HR side of things for the company that I work for. I’m very grateful for what I do. How I operate right now is kind of funny because I operate things on not what they educate you on, but on my experiences. And obviously, with those experiences, we kind of look after a team of 200, 250 people. The current team that I kind of oversee or look after is about 90 to 100.
And being in the position that I’m in now is a dream because it was something that I wished I was years ago. But obviously, coming back in and getting into this kind of position, one thing you’ve got to remember is not to regret those things. I mean, not to take it for granted. A lot of people that do start getting into senior management roles and things like that, they start to neglect who they were when they first started. And one way of seeing that or viewing that is just always remember the first day that you walked in and you asked for the job. It doesn’t matter where you get to and how high you climb, you’ll always just remember the very first day that you were looking for a job and you walked into their office and said, “Hey, I need a job.” And then when you see that, then it keeps you grounded, it keeps you humble. It makes you remember those things and it makes you not look down on those who are up and coming. I don’t really believe in trying to do the other person over to get to somewhere. I always believe in working hard and being honest, it will always get you to that top job or being able to climb as high as you can. And then obviously later on, you can teach yourself or educate yourself. Do more education to be able to boost that side. But you can do it. It is achievable.
In the industry that I’m in, I see a lot of people that have achieved that. And in my current job that I’m doing now, I’ve got other things that are kind of on the side. I’m trying to do a few other business ventures because things that I learned in business is never…well, I’ll give you this.
Religious Influence and Advice for Youth
This is kind of an advice that you probably heard of a guy named Pita Warner. He was a very close family friend of my father-in-law. This is the company that I work for. And that advice that was given to him many, many years ago was never put your baskets all in one. I mean your eggs all in one basket. Sorry. Never put your eggs all in one basket. That advice was in the 2000s that I heard that advice, and I see that. In life, I see that.
Through all, through my marriage, through my working life, I see that. It’s very true. And you need to just pursue that. Pursue that side of things. If you believe that you can be a businessman or a business owner, go try it. Give it a go. But everything comes at a price or it comes at a cost. Whether it’s a sacrifice yourself or sacrifice a bit of money, but it does come at a cost. And it depends on that, what you’re willing to do to be able to amplify that return or amplify what you want to do in the bigger side of things. Everything’s achievable and I believe that you can achieve anything.
With me, personally, I know I can achieve anything with God. There’s a lot of us that speak about that. On your Christianity side and your belief side, it’s a system that does teach you that anything is achievable. You can do anything because God is the saviour. I mean, He’s also the creator of this and He knows exactly how to get through all of these things. But if you were to apply it as something in your life, like a principle, you just want to set up probably key things, and then make that become your principle when you’re doing things in life. Whether it’s in your marriage life or your teenage life, even in your work life.
I always see that there’s a similar pattern as what you have in your work life, you need to apply in your marriage life the same thing, or in your single life, being married. But these are the things that I’ve learned, and these are the things that I love to share because I know I’ve been there in places where kids or where youth is and feeling that’s the only thing, that’s the bottom. I call it the bottom of the barrel. And you feel like that there is no hope, that it’s just the same usual thing over and over and over. But it’s not like that. It’s the perspective that you have and if you can view it…
I’ll say taking your glasses off and putting new glasses on, you’ll see life, and you’ll see direction, and you’ll see pathways a lot better than I guess what you’re currently seeing now. Don’t always be influenced by the people that you hang around, especially if they’re a bad influence. People know what bad influence is and all this when they want to, “Hey, let’s go and do this. Let’s get drunk or let’s go do drugs.” Let’s do the opposite of things that are good. If you go down that pathway, it’s going to end bad. I can tell you that only because I’ve been a youth leader.
Sorry I didn’t mention that, but I have been a youth leader. I have had youth stay with me in my household. They were family, but they were youth. I also opened my doors up to youth who are looking for somewhere to live or change their life. A few of those youth kids, they did end up at home and I tried to apply the best that I could. And that was trying to love them. Also, show them, give them an understanding of life. It’s probably even like 80% giving it to God and letting God do His work as well.
But those journeys that I’ve seen these youth kids go through, it’s disheartening to see where they started and what they went through, but it is also encouraging when you’ve got people who can support you. That was the one thing I wanted to make clear with these youth that did come home is that I’m there to support. I’m there to do what I can do. I don’t want to try and make myself like a father to them, but I want them to understand that I want to be like that brother or that uncle or that person that they have always wished that they had, that could direct them to a better life or a better way.
That’s something that I’ve always loved to do. With two kids, it’s pretty hard to do it nowadays. But I guess you’ve got to sacrifice. And that’s something that I still apply in my family life or in marriage life. But there are these things and if you’re out there struggling and you’re out there not knowing where to go or do anything, my advice would be to pray. Prayer is the first thing to start with in life or I mean in trouble.
Times of trouble, what do you hear people say? “Let us pray.” Even leaders of countries, “Pray for others.” Or “Pray for that nation.” But there is something in that when you do pray and giving your all to God and allowing Him to open that window in your heart. When He opens a window, you can allow things to resonate and then help it grow. So that seed I told you about growing up, that seed right now…I mean, I believe that I’m in kind of a more mature tree now and my roots are firmly in the ground, and I believe I’m planted.
In the Bible it talks about being planted near still waters because you’ve just got that everlasting or that ever flow of water strengthening those roots or making those roots grow even more. So when you’re planted, that you won’t topple over. The storms may come, the hard life or hard times may come, but you’re not going to be that tree that is easily swayed or tipped over. And that’s probably a good portrait to paint when you’re looking at yourself in minds being the tree. Where are you going to plant your seed? Try and plant it in soil that’s good and plant it near still waters or waters that are ever flowing and that can feed you.
Probably to finish off with that is first it’s God, and then second is to surround yourself with people not just like-minded, but people who have that end goal of doing well. And being a part of a successful life. Life is not successful with just what you have materialistically. It’s not what you have, like a Ferrari and that. Man, you can have a Ferrari but live in a shack. It’s not what you see people drive around in or what people live in. I see success and I believe that success is the abundance of your heart. The gold that you find or the riches that you find in your heart.
And those riches is joy, is peace, is all those things that are feeling. And when you find that, that is pretty much all you kind of need. When you find the joy, peace, love, and those things in you, that’s success. And the only way you can obtain a lot of that stuff is focusing more on not just building your life, but changing your life in a direction or in a journey that yeah, you’re making money, yeah, you’ve got a family, yeah you’re providing and all that. But you’re not just trying to want more but want the right things. Changing that perspective, where you look at.
I said I was going to finish off before, but this will be the last of what I’ll share is, is this. A pastor went down, and he spoke to his congregation. So he went to someone who was only making a lower-end wage. And he said to him, “Are you happy with what you do? Are you happy with your life?” And he goes, “No. I wish I could make more.” So that was someone who could be making 50 grand a year, a really small wage. So then the pastor was like, “Well, okay. I’ll go and see this person,” who was making probably a mid-bracket. He was making pretty much probably 80, 90 grand, and he’s a manager or something. And he asked them him the same question. He goes, “Are you happy with your life? Are you happy with what you get?” That person said to the pastor, ” No, pastor. I wish I could make more. I want to make more.”
The pastor was like, “Okay, that’s strange. I thought he’s happy with what he’s doing. He’s making 80, 90 grand.” And so then the pastor thought, “Oh, I’ll go and talk to this bloke. He’s pretty much probably the richest in our congregation. I’ll go and ask him.” And so the pastor rocked up to him and he said, “Hey, just want to talk to you.” And he said to the millionaire, “Are you happy in life?” And the millionaire looked at him and he goes, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Are you happy in life with what you get and things like that?” The millionaire says, “No, not happy. I wish I could make more.”
And the point of that story is this – it doesn’t matter what you make, you’ve got to find that cut-off point where you’re happy with that. Because when you continue to want more, more, more, then you have to ask that question, “Why do I want it? Why do I want that? Why do I want to increase what I make right now?” Nine times out of ten, people will probably say it’s because I want a better life. I want a better life. Or they say that they want to do better, or they want to work less.
But I can tell you right now, when you make more and more and more, you’re not going to work less. You’re going to work more because you want to keep generating that. That’s why you need to also not only have a goal and a dream. And if you do get to those things and have a cut-off point where you say, “Okay, I’m happy with what I make, I’ll stop here.” Yeah? It’s because then you know your…I forgot the word, but you know, you’re just content. That’s the word. So you’re just content with what you’re have you just say, nah, that’s all I need because obviously in that story that I’ve just spoken about is no one’s happy. You know? When they look at money as a value of what determines or what measures who they are in life.
And so that’s what I wanted to share, that money doesn’t determine who you are. Money doesn’t determine or gives you joy. You know, because like that song back in probably our old days, you know, more money more problems. Yeah, that’s one of the popular songs back in the nineties, but it is true. The more money that you have, the more problems you probably might have. But if you can just utilise it well and look at money as just a tool and not as something that you need to die for, then you realise it’s only just suddenly that it just comes and goes. And money does just come and go, it really, really does. And so that’s where I’m going to finish up
Challenges and Support in School
What was it like for you learning in school? And did you have any problems with particular subjects, or did you find that there were subjects you did really well? And what sort of support did you get from your teachers or from even at home?
Yeah, schooling. Obviously, I don’t like to go back to remembering school days because I thought that I was probably an average kid, maybe below average. And that’s what I thought I was. And it’s kind of shocking when you talk to…so obviously to people, when they say, “Man, you’re a really bright kid.” And I go, “Yeah, but I wasn’t bright in school.” You know, with the curriculum or whatever they was teaching in the time.
I just felt like that I wasn’t too smart in that sense. If you were saying what subjects I was good at? I’ll tell you what subjects I was really bad at. The subjects like maths, science, all that kind of stuff. I was terrible. I even had a teacher, probably in high school. I won’t mention names, but yeah, he…It was like this. I had an issue one time. We’re sitting there at the table, and I said, “Sir, can you help me out” with my, you know, with this question or whatever it was.
And he came and he tried to show me that. And he tried to show me that again and again, and it got to a point where he just turned around and said, “Look, mate. I’ve just had it with trying to teach you. You just don’t get it. Look at that guy next to you and just copy what he’s doing.” And so that’s how I passed my grades at the time. In those subjects…yeah, maths wasn’t really a strong point. And obviously growing up in primary school with education was kind of like the same thing. I was probably only good maybe in things that I was passionate about, like English, like that kind of subject. Sport, obviously, you know, I aced in sport or liked to I think I was. Yeah, English was a good subject, probably one of my strong subjects, not grammar wise or writing, but I mean visualising and probably, you know, ideas and things like that, that I brought into my English sessions.
Science I was terrible at as well. I wasn’t like, you know, I wasn’t good on the, they call a periodic table, whatever that thing was called, you know in the days? But yeah, yeah, it was kind of like, it’s kind of cool that you did ask that question because what I learned…so, you know, people say “schools a waste of time”. People that weren’t as smart, but what I learned as I got out of school and I started going through my, you know, working venture, being married as well, my life venture, that these things that you did learn at school, it does pop up. And you’re just…like now I understand everything that, that teacher was trying to teach me in high school for maths. It kicks. It kicked in for me. So I think I was probably a late bloomer where you feed me everything and I’ll bloom later on.
Like, I won’t bloom in your time, but that’s what I happened to be. I just bloomed at a time that when I was ready. And so it wasn’t that I was dumb. It was just, how I viewed and applied things mentally to the way that I understand. And I see that with my daughter. Like while we’re still…it’s the same thing that my wife could tell her one thing, but then I say it to her, and then she kind of understands me, it’s because we probably maybe have the same thinking pattern when it comes to…yeah.
Parent’s Support and Expectations
Do you remember what it was like in school? You know, because for me, my mum and dad worked a lot. So I remember just fending my way through, just trying to, you know, doing my own homework. I had no idea what I was doing half the time, but it wasn’t really because my parents didn’t want to support. They just didn’t really know how.
Do you reckon that they were probably similar struggles to yours? Or did you find that one parent was more supportive than the other?
Yeah, I probably could say they were similar to yours, your parents. But I also see the fact that my mum’s education wasn’t as good as dads, and mum’s was probably…she only got through, I think it was year six. Year six, year seven or something like that. And then she dropped out of school because she had to look after the many cousins. All the, well, sorry, my mum was the youngest of the sisters, yeah? So her sisters had babies and those kids were like a little bit younger than mum, because my mum was the youngest her sisters were already like 20 years older than her. You know? 20, 25 years older. So she was like…
Chatting with her, she said she never did get to a high school education. But she was a hands-on person. I could tell you; she absolutely could do anything hands-on and do it well. And it’s funny because then dad was the opposite. He had a really good education where he finished high school, finished year 12. He was dux in his school, that he’s very proud of. And he was kind of like opposite in what he could do with hands. Like, you know, my mum would blitz him on picking grapes, and all those hard-working jobs
But I could see that difference and support-wise, after school, when you’re coming home for homework and stuff like that, I could say was non-existent. It was like, you fend for yourself. You come home, educate yourself, get your homework done. And I believe that that’s why a lot of, or a few guys in our, or my generation, didn’t finish high school. It was because they didn’t have that support at home. And so then they decided, well, the education is getting even a lot harder now. Like, stepping up into year 11, 12. Now I’m better off just going mum and dad. And I think that’s why a lot of students do walk away from school. Kids in this generation walk away from school because of that support at home.
But say for example, my home or that like my brothers or sisters and their children, we actually learnt from that, and we try and give advice or help them in their high school or, you know, even in their primary school, reading and all that kind of stuff. But it’s kind of like they’re there, they don’t want to listen to ourselves even though we’re trying to give them that kind of support. So I guess it’s different for every family. Sometimes I think the education nowadays, they don’t actually have homework, which is…I think your kids are probably similar, but my kids don’t have homework and I find that really strange because now in our generation, we like to help our kids and they’re not bringing schoolwork home is kind of like something that’s hard for us to comprehend because we had so much homework that we had to bring home, but we didn’t have the support structure at home.
Cultural Practices and Language
Reflecting too on your understanding of your language and your culture, or, you know, how much have you learned? How much of the Tongan speaking language do you practice and how much of your culture informs or shapes the way you think in everyday life?
Do you find yourself trying to balance who you are as a Tongan and who you are in today’s environment? You know, that we live outside of Tonga. How do you deal with those sorts of things and what do you still do to maintain parts of your Tongan heritage?
Well, I’ll say that as a…the mentality now has changed to what it was five years ago, ten years ago. Say, well, let’s go 15 or 10 years ago, sorry. 10 years ago, I was fully, you could say saturated in the culture. Like fully saturated, everything. You know, it was this, this, this, this, this cultural wise and the culture was kind of like pushing us towards something that was…it wasn’t new territory, but an unfamiliar territory in a way of understanding it as a married couple. Like obviously we knew the culture growing up as kid, and when it became…when you’re married, you obviously have different functions in the culture. And so that’s what challenged me in that. Culture still plays a big part of my life, especially, especially the Tongan culture and how we do things. I love certain things of that culture, especially the respect, the respectful side of things.
And obviously you can’t swear in front of your sisters, or you can’t watch TV with your sisters and the same vice versa, sisters and brothers. That’s a great thing about our culture. Also not just holding your sister up as a pedestal but acknowledging that she’s your sister and being able to be a brother that supports her, even when she’s married, to being that person that supports. That’s another key ingredient that I believe is really good for our culture.
But as for learning the culture, I think you probably didn’t know this, but I wasn’t really good at speaking Tongan growing up and things changed when I went out bush or when I went out to the farm work because the companies that I worked for were all Tongan. So I had to learn. So at the age of 21, I’m really bad at speaking Tongan, I learnt and I mean, I learnt and I used to carry a notepad, write down things, read Tongan newspapers and tried to be confident in speaking. Returning the conversation when you’re speaking in Tongan…
And that helped me, like huge. When people talk to me now, they’re all like, “Yeah, you’re not the same Chris that I knew years ago.” When you spoke to me…they laughed at me, literally, laughed at me. Thought I was hopeless at speaking Tongan. But I’m kind of grateful and I’m happy that I did take that time to learn. And I guess it’s with anything else that you do in life, it’s a learning thing. I’m not the greatest at speaking Tongan, but I know that I could speak now and be fluent enough that any Tongan can understand me. I do have my little pauses and breaks but that’s with anything that we do learn. In language or education, own up and just say, that’s as best as you can do it and do it to the best of your ability.
Right? But yeah, with culture wise, the culture side of things. It did affect my marriage in that sense. Growing up as a Tongan kid or the boy or a son, it wasn’t really a big thing. Or it didn’t really affect me cultural wise because I think religion, or the church side of things was more bigger than the culture thing. But then when you get married, it was a whole different thing that I saw on a woman or a Tongan woman’s side of things. And I seen that they have so many duties and I guess they are the ones who do uphold our Tongan traditions more than the males.
The only thing I see nowadays that the Tongan males hold of our tradition is wearing the clothes and drinking kava. They do hold other cultural things, but kava is a massive thing that the males do hold. And I love that about kava because it doesn’t get you wasted like alcohol and it’s legal. And also that you can share with a sober mind. When you’re chatting with someone, it’s kind of like bringing the boys together or bringing a group of people together to be able to share things and learn. Learn life experience with one another. So yeah, that’s the beauty our culture and what we do provide.
Is there one particular person, or maybe like people that you remember that you looked up to that you were like, “Oh yeah, I find them really inspirational.” You know, when you think about your career or going through your journey and you’re like, “I’d love to be that person.” Can you remember that point in time?
Yeah, there was…I could say there was a few, yeah. But I mean, these were people that kind of, I believe that had set the foundation to where I am today, and one is my dad. Yeah. He taught me strategy and that was one thing, like watching him and how he was for us. He told me a lot about not just strategy, spiritual side and being connected to be able to be connected to your spiritual side, but then also understanding it on a…you know, being smart about it and applying that in life, which that helped me. Especially in my career that I’m going through right now. And then at that time, like I said, he was the one that taught me being strategic and even being able to use a bit of wisdom, you know, mentally to apply things in life and to apply it at the right time.
That was one inspiration from him. My second is my father-in-law. My father-in-law was massive, massive, also another massive influence in my life. I always have that point where I go, “Man, I wouldn’t mind being like that,” you know? Only because he built businesses from zero, from nothing, and he applied that with faith. And then on the other side, that inspired me to pursue my goals in the business sense. So Dad was spiritually and my father-in-law was business, the business sense of things.
And yeah, it was…what he achieved on that side is phenomenal in a lot of aspects because when you’re in farming…so if you could imagine being a farmer or farming, working for farms, in the days that I grew up, and obviously even when my mum and dad first moved to Robinvale, we were considered probably the low of the lows.
Also, maybe it’s how they view the Asians now, like the tiny…in the Sunraysia area, we were viewed kind of exactly the same like, “They’re only pickers.” You only make a few dollars here and there. We were viewed in that way and to be able to create a business not in the same industry, as you know, grapes and that, but in the almond industry, my father-in-law was able to build a company that channelled a lot of goodness. And it was not just goodness but be able to channel better wages for Tongans. For our own people, and that’s what a lot…when people started to move over to the almonds because they realised they could make a bit of money than what they were doing, doing grapes. And so that was, that was a great thing that he did.
And even that business that we did go to overseas and Tonga, that was another great story in itself as the companies that he had built, but it all built from zero, from absolutely nothing. And when you see those kind of things, you realise, man, you can build something from nothing. You just have to have faith and believe in yourself and those things that I’ve spoken about today, you know, that’s the things that you find.
And the third guy, sorry, the third and last is my cousins. They were as old as my uncles, but they were my first cousins. And those two taught me a lot about shaping and running a business. And they were very inspirational because they were cousins who…I say cousins and you’re probably thinking the same age as me, but they were like, you know, 30 years older than me.
And in their point of time of life, they owned businesses and my cousin, when I was still a teenager, he was an accountant and he taught me a few things about running a business and they were things that [inaudible] because like I said, when I had that seed planted by my teacher, when I left Year 12, that seed, I didn’t realise that growing up I would just start getting information here and there about creating a business in a business sense, or a business mentality. And it was just from conversations and looking at success stories on family and people in my life. Now I realised that I could apply that to myself. They were my inspiration then.
Support during primary and high school
- Peers and friends as a source of support at school
- Support from parents during schooling (Part 1 & Part 2)
- Support from teachers and schools
- Transition from school to post-school education (Part 1 & Part 2)
Experiences of post-secondary education and training
- Experiences of university
- University journeys: Interruptions and finding one’s direction
- Diverse pathways towards university
- Experiences of TAFE
- Short courses and on-the-job training
- Early aspirations and current occupation
- Talking about future aspirations with family members
- Networks of family and friends
- Be proactive and seize unexpected opportunities
- Creating opportunities: Volunteering
Experiences of Work
- Benefits of being a Pacific Islander at work
- Engaging with Pacific community members through work (Part 1 & Part 2)
- Navigating family and career
- Future aspirations
Reflections and advice to young Pacific People
- ‘Akesa – Community Facilitator
- Ama – Lashing Business Administrator & Marketing Coach
- Annie – International & Community Development Specialist
- Ashirah – University student
- Cass – English Teacher, Writer, Project Manager, & President of the Victorian Kiribati Association
- Chris – Field Officer (HR)
- Christopher – Carpenter & Stonemason
- Crofton – Visual Effects & Animation Specialist
- David – App company CEO
- Elisabeth – Teacher
- Elvina – Building Services Mechanical Engineer
- Fipe – Cacao Products Manufacturing Business Owner
- Grace – Airline Customer Service Agent
- Leki – Physiotherapist
- Luisa – Registered Nurse
- Malelega – Legal Assistant
- Marita – Writer
- Rose – Workplace Consultant
- Sefita – Community Engagement Officer
- Semisi – Lawyer
- Talei – Lawyer & Community Engagement + Government Relations Consultant
- Teisa – Medical Doctor
- Tevita – IT Professional
- Thom – Make-up Artist
- Venna – Lashing Business Owner & Trainer