The Migration Foxtrot (AJ) – Part 2 –

Slow, Slow, Quick Quick, Slow – Part 2

Click here for Part 1

The decision to move to Australia was not taken lightly, but we knew it was the right choice for us.

Our application journey was like the Foxtrot, which was made popular by Harry Fox, a migrant to the Americas. Just like the “Foxtrot, the application process began smooth and progressive with long, continuous flowing movements across the dance floor” and at certain points, both the partners find a corner and female sways passionately to show the audience how beautiful she is. That female, was us, filling forms and collecting evidence of how suitable and academic we were, then spent months mumbling profanities under our breaths about how slow the professional bodies were with our submissions. But as Andrew Bogut, an Australian professional basketball player for the Sydney Kings said, “In Australian culture, people are just more laid back, people aren’t as serious, they just take their time with things. It’s just like, whatever, if I don’t get it done I don’t get it done.”

This process is not for the faint-hearted, and you must be ready to exercise extreme patience and have blind faith because you will find yourself uttering the phrase, It’s been three months and we haven’t heard anything, why is it taking so long?

Slow… Slow

After my sister’s wedding, we returned to the UK and tried to get over the jet lag – which takes about 3 to 4 days – with our new found vigour for a new and exciting future. This time lagged; pun intended. We were keen to begin, however, our bodies were still on Australia time.

Quick, Quick 

After getting over the jet lag, my wife dived into the research. She was relentless. Steely determination. Within a day or 2, she had updated her CV; found current employment contracts and job descriptions; we had found all our academic transcripts and compiled an email to George.

Dear George,

Thank you for meeting with us…

We look forward to hearing from you soon…

Slow… Slow

Twelve days later, a response from George. He advised us to apply for the Expression of Interest (EOI) under my wife’s credentials instead. PHEW! Honestly, this was a big relief, because I’m so nonchalant about everything. I had already pictured my wife becoming increasingly frustrated with me (quietly grimacing) for the paper I was supposed to sign or the form I should have filled in three days ago, but I just finished it now!

Quick, Quick 

First thing in the morning after waking up, we checked the email. Excited! Today might be the day they say yes! Look into each other’s eyes. We have a brief but serious discussion about the email and respond immediately! This was to become a familiar morning routine!

Dear George,

…. we want to go ahead and lodge the EOI.

Kindest Regards,

Ruth and Ahmed

Slow… Slow

Woke up! Checked the email. Excited!

Dear Ruth and Ahmed,

… we have to address all the uncertainties I raised in the last email before lodging the EOI!

Oh for ‘French Connection UK’ sake! Needless to say, we had some colourful choice language to help us with the frustration of the delays. What was taking so long with this application process? A discussion ensued between Ruth and I and we realise it’s only been a month since we started the application, so we need to ‘wind our necks in’ as my wife so eloquently puts it. Besides, this wasn’t even the EOI, it was only an assessment to determine whether she had the skills necessary to lodge the EOI – essentially, we were just on the bottom prong of a very, very, VERY long ladder or is it a high ladder?

The dance continued. This was Australia spinning us around, as we take two steps backwards, but we smiled and keep our posture upright, ensuring we do not break form and kept our eyes on the audience, which essentially was the community, the work-life balance and the opportunities Australia had to offer.

Quick, Quick 

We tilt our head to the side, twirl, take two steps forward and respond with grace and poise. We were keen to move this forward as soon as possible so our responses were usually very quick and solution focused because we were determined to make living in Australia a reality.

Dear George,

Please find the agreement and details of payment attached…

We had worked out the finances and were ready to complete the skills assessment.

Slow… Slow

Woke up! Checked the email. Excited! If you consider the Foxtrot again, this was like gliding across the centre of the dance floor and reaching the corner where the judges are, swaying left and right with the look of ‘this moment is so wonderful’. However, the email that arrived that day was different. This email felt like we had miss stepped in our routine. It felt like the loss of a loved one.  Our enthusiasm, our futures and our new found goals stopped in their tracks. How do we continue?

Hello Ruth & Ahmed,

I reviewed your eligibility for a skills assessment as a Social Worker.

I realised that Ruth’s ineligible.

My throat began to swell up like a toad. Emotions heightened. My heartbeat increased and a feeling of sadness cloaked the room. I looked at my wife’s face, defeated and felt broken-hearted, yet like the ladies who take part in this hypnotic dance, she kept a large smile and continued posturing. Ever since I met Ruth in 1996, there had only been a handful of things she ‘really’ wanted in life and Australia was one of them. We continued reading.

I can offer the following alternatives;

  • refund

or

  • redirect funds and carry out a skills assessment as a Welfare Centre Manager

You know the feeling of powerlessness you get when you jump in the deep end of the swimming pool for the first time and your foot fail to touch the bottom? That feeling of being underwater and after struggling to catch your breath for 10 seconds but, felt it like 3 minutes and you think you’re about to pass out, then miraculously one sole touch the bottom and you push up finally, gasping for air? That’s how the room felt. We read that email over and over. Stunned by the revelations of the email, our response was slower than usual, so George resent the email, prefaced with the fact that Yahoo had been playing up. Ever the problem solver, my wife had already combed the internet (Immigration websites) and the response was well informed. She highlighted to George that she doesn’t qualify as a Centre Manager, but the Welfare Worker option was the most suited, so we should follow that line of inquiry. It didn’t matter if we had to go rural for 2 years, so longs as we were in Australia, closer to the community, closer to my parents. We continue our glide across the process letting Australia lead us.

From October 2015 to December 2015, we were back and forth with George, which was mentally exhausting as it was all so new to us and located old colleagues. Found old payslips. Rummaged for old job descriptions. Looked for any proof of work experience. It was such a laborious process, yet my wife seemed to approach it all with fearlessness, like a toddler learning to walk – constant falls, scraped knees and bumped heads, however, they stand up, dust themselves off and persevere. So, we stood up, dusted ourselves off and proceeded forward. It was at this point I realise the importance of the Blue Box. When I was younger, my mum and dad used to keep a blue filling box, which contained ‘our lives’, my mum used to say. Enclosed in this box were all our important documents; medical cards, NI numbers, bank statements, housing documents, insurance documents and more. These were the data storage boxes (i.e iCloud) for African parents before everything became digital. We rummaged through the box hoping to find any of these documents due to the fact I have continued to place important papers in there like my parents, however, the thing that would prove most challenging was trying to obtaining proof of employment for my wife, Ruth, from the Local Authority.

Ruth contacted the HR department and at the same time I reached out to someone I was still in contact with. Unfortunately, due to this council being particularly transient and they apparently just installed a new system, Ruth was not found on their records. Needless to say, a whole bunch of profanity ensued, aimed at the whole organisation, which we both had worked for in the past so we felt we had a right to criticize the way it was run. Luckily, not all was lost. There was another way to prove Ruth’s employment status, which meant contacting previous colleagues we had both worked with and getting sworn statements from them acknowledging the role she occupied. At this point, we both poured over why it was good to work hard, make friends and leave a lasting impression on people because even after leaving the role 8 years ago, Ruth’s then manager and colleagues remembered her and were happy to fulfil any request.

While all this was going on, Ruth also had to study for and pass an English proficiency test, which was an eye-opening experience. An English person, born and bred in England, educated to a Masters level, having to take an English proficiency test to show they can read, speak and reason in English. Oh, the irony!

So here we were, 11 months later, with all the evidence needed – Identity, English Proficiency (IELTS), Qualifications and evidence of any name change, Industry experience – all certified by a Justice of the Peace, which we found out was a district judge, magistrate or police and Ruth knew someone, we were all set to go.

Quick, Quick 

The dance was coming to a close. Australia had spun us, twirled us and we were now in our own areas facing the audience to curtsy, while Australia urges them to look at his beautiful partner’s smile as he’s internally laughing at how dizzy we are from all the spinning. We were ready. We took all the paperwork to be countersigned and stamped by a Justice of the Peace and a great sense of achievement fell upon us. After posting the papers, special delivery, we felt like ‘grown-up’ as my wife affectionately says when we have achieved things we used to think were reserved for others, who were not from our background. This was just the practise session. Now for the real challenge.

Slow… Slow

After posting the documents, we informed George and the wait began. We waited for George to get the documents. He waited for the payment which had been sent but did not arrive. We waited for the ACWA to confirm receipt of the documents. He waited for the email of approval or rejection. After a month or so, Ruth said she had a good feeling about my birthday, which was approaching but she always had a good feeling but we decided to contact George anyway. The day after my 36th birthday, on the 8th September, the stars and planets aligned. We received notification from George;

Dear Ruth,

Your intuition is impeccable. I received the attached results by registered mail this morning.

Congratulations, the Skills Assessment is approved.

There is, however, a sting in the tail with the assessment of your work experience.

The wording of this section is odd & feels like it might be a typo… I’ll try calling them tomorrow.

Needless to say, we were relieved when George emailed back on the 9th September and informed us it had, in fact, been a typo and the ACWA will issue new copies of the assessment, with the correct information.

Success!

The next stage of the process was the Expression of Interest (EOI). This back and forth was the precursor of what was to come.

If you’ve reached down here, thank you for coming on our journey with us.

CANBERRA HERE WE COME!

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