Most immigrants in the world immigrate to a new country only once, but for many Samoans who immigrated to New Zealand from Samoa, the rarity of immigrating a second time, to Australia, is becoming increasingly common.
As house prices in Auckland continue to skyrocket, now being amongst the highest in the world, it’s no wonder Polynesian families are leaving New Zealand in droves – lured by the attractiveness of Australia’s job and education opportunities and cheaper housing being a key drawcard.
According to Statistics New Zealand’s last review in 2015, an estimated 611,400 New Zealand-born people were living in Australia and 653,800 New Zealand citizens were in Australia. A significant chunk of those numbers are Polynesian families.
And there’s good news for many who arrived in Australia post-2001. Last year Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull relaxed the rules for New Zealanders in Australia to gain residency and citizenship announcing that the ‘Pathway to Citizenship’ will come into effect this year. This pathway applies to Kiwis who arrived in Australia between 2001 and 2016 and who earned more than 57,000 for five consecutive years.
Despite New Zealand media efforts to detract people from moving to Australia by publishing ‘horror stories’ of Kiwis in Australia, these Polynesian families say that their experiences differ from mainstream media agendas and that the move across the tasman was the “best decision they ever made.” They share their stories with SUGA.
Aialeo Family have no regrets
Vani Aialeo, 37 (Leulumoega and Nofoali’i) and her family immigrated to New Zealand from Samoa in 1985 and settled in Whanganui, later moving to Auckland.
Many years later, she married her husband Jason and they now have three beautiful children. Vani never thought once about moving to Australia until her husband Jason spoke fondly of Australia after travelling there for a funeral in early 2012. She says Jason had returned from Australia with stories of friends and family who had ‘made it’ there. Vani, who says she was earning a ‘fairly good salary’ in Auckland wasn’t keen on the idea of her children growing up with ‘Aussie accents’ but after some time passed, they realised they had no choice – especially with hiking rental prices in Auckland.
“I was tired of working from pay check to pay check,” she says. “We had no savings, our rent in Auckland was due to increase in a few months and we were just sick of paying other people’s mortgages.”
She says after countless discussions and prayers with Jason, they packed up and moved to Melbourne with their young children that same year. The couple were pleasantly surprised at snapping up jobs quite quickly and were fortunate enough to have rented out their relatives other house which was offered to them – a house they still live in today
“I believe that our life has improved a lot since making the move. We’re independent and we do more things as a family then before. There are so many opportunities in Australia, people just have to look and be willing to work hard. Housing here is definitely a lot cheaper and the cost of living here is good too. We can stretch our dollar here whereas in NZ we couldn’t.
“We’re saving towards our first home and have enjoyed multiple trips overseas [to NZ and Samoa]. The kids are happy and I know that moving here was definitely God’s plan for us. We have great family support, an awesome church family and both our families have been able to travel here to Melbourne to visit us.”
Young family’s future looking bright
Melbourne-based Queenie Kelsall, 23 (Saleloga,Vailima) immigrated to New Zealand as a five-year-old with her family and settled in South Auckland. After falling pregnant as a teenager, Queenie and her partner James Iese were determined to make things work despite the ‘young parent’ stigma. The couple decided to make the move permanently to Melbourne after James enjoyed a rugby stint there in 2011. Melbourne’s affordable rent and job opportunities were a selling point and in 2013 they moved over for the sake of their now three young children.
“Since moving to Australia, God has blessed us in so many ways,” says Queenie. “To be honest, if we were still living in NZ, we wouldn’t have our own place. We’d still be living with family.”
They now enjoy living in a brand new four bedroom home with two bathrooms and two toilets and an open plan living space which Queenie says is ‘perfect for our little family’ and a stark contrast to her surroundings growing up in Manurewa where her single mum did her best to put food on the table for Queenie and her siblings.
“Rent is so cheap here as well as electricity, food, clothing and everything We have more than enough to pay our bills, buy what we need, save and still have money left over for other things.”
When they first moved to Melbourne, Queenie was working in a call centre for an insurance company and although the money was good, she says the full time hours and transport time eventually took a toll on her as she was missing out on time with her young children.
“I hated it. When I’d get home most times, my kids would be getting ready for bed.”
This motivated Queenie to become self-employed and she now runs her own family day care from home. “Working with children is even better in my own home. I wouldn’t be able to do that in New Zealand. I get to spend time with my children and take them and the other kids to school and pick them up and not have to worry about before and after school care fees and I am able to earn money in doing so.”
She has given birth to her third child and says that their circumstances meant that they could afford to have a third child.
Recently, Queenies mum and siblings made the permanent move over to Melbourne and she says her family is truly complete. “Not only did I want to provide for my kids, I wanted to provide for my mum too and make sure she is happy. She loves her new job too and has settled in well and life is bliss.”
Queenie says she has copped her fair share of criticism for being a young mother and surprisingly, for making the move to Australia.
“You know some people bag those who move over to Australia for the money but the truth is you have to do what’s best for your situation. I love NZ but I cannot see myself moving back.”
Single mum ‘doing well’ defies stereotypes
Sydney based Solo Mum Cara Ngau Chun, 23 was born in Samoa (villages Ululoloa and Vailoa, Upolu) and immigrated to New Zealand with her family in 2002, settling in Onehunga, Auckland. She moved to Australia only two years ago and is happy knowing she made the right decision for her and her three-year-old son.
Having held down three jobs in Auckland and receiving no child support, Cara said at times she struggled just to buy a cheap bag of nappies for her son.
“I heard about the job opportunities and the amazing pay rates in Australia,” she says. “Back in Auckland I worked part time and the other two were casual and alternated weekends. The pay rates ranged from $14-15 per hour which as a single parent who has to pay for daycare was not enough and I had no help from my sons father for daycare fees, nappies or anything like that.”
Cara says that when the casual work got slow, her employers would always opt for the more experienced people to do more shifts. Her aunty in Australia encouraged her to come over with stories of greener pastures and for Cara, it didn’t take much convincing. She was sold on the idea.
“Once my aunt told me of her and her family’s life here in Sydney, it really struck a chord with me. I wanted what they had and I knew I couldn’t get it in New Zealand unless I went back to university. But I didn’t want to make my student loan any bigger than it was from my first attempt at it. It was hard to find full time work in any field really as I had no qualifications or enough experience for anyone to take that chance with me. I knew my son deserved better and I wanted better for myself.”
She says the move over was an easy one as it was ‘just her and son’. She used all her savings from her three jobs on passports, airfares and money to tie them over until she found a job. She is grateful to her employers and job agency in Sydney for taking her on board considering she had no experience. Today, she is still with the same company.
After staying with family for one year, Cara and her son finally moved into their own place. The rest she says is history.
“My life has improved immensely since moving here! I’m paid so much better, I actually have more to save and have no problem paying bills. There’s that feeling of contentment and satisfaction to know you settled everything yourself. I bought my first car, brand new and I was able to find an apartment and with the help of my aunt, I also found most of my furniture for a ridiculously good price.”
And it appears her son is a lot healthier too. “His health has improved greatly. He was always sick in New Zealand because of the weather especially the cold but since being in Australia, the weather has been nice and warm and I havn’t been to the doctors as much…I will never move back.”
Eldest daughter of six makes the first move.
Serafina Niu (Saleimoa, Levi, Afega), 26 is an independent SUGA. Whilst many Poly families would move to a new country as a family, the eldest daughter of six children made the first move to Melbourne three years ago on her own. A timid and curious Serafina, 23 at the time, wasn’t sure what she had gotten herself into taking such a big leap, but she knew there was no turning back. Grateful that her mother’s best friend from NZ who had moved to Melbourne years earlier, offered Serafina a home to stay in and from there, she began the big task of trying to set up a future for her family still living in New Zealand.
“Although I love NZ, being my home country, I made the big decision to move to Australia to better the lives of my family and myself.” she says.
“It was hard for me to see my parents and family work extremely hard everyday trying to provide a decent stable life for us. My parents would always go to work even if they were sick. They had a work ethic like no other and they wanted nothing but the best for us.”
Her parents immigrated to NZ in 1988 like many Samoan parents, to provide a brighter future for their children. But after many years in New Zealand that brightness had slowly dimmed.
Serafina believes opportunities in New Zealand are limited and feels this hinders the ability for any individual and families to get anywhere in life especially for low-paid workers, those wanting to purchase their first home and those generally wanting to save.
Growing up in a large family, she witnessed her parents struggle countless times to provide for their six children fueling her motivation to help them. She started working at the age of 15 earning a minimum wage just to help them.
“My parents worked crazy hours and many jobs so we could just get by. Every dollar they earned went towards rent, food, school fees, uniforms, petrol, bills. It was impossible to save.”
She says that although her parents came to New Zealand with very little, they did not let those barriers get in their way of their dreams for their kids. Serafina went on to study at University graduating with a Bachelor of Business Degree in 2014 and younger sister Susana, 25, graduated with a Bachelor of Health Science degree the year after. Brother Richard, 22 is a qualified personal trainer and the three younger children are still at school.
Armed with her degree, Serafina had set herself up quickly in Melbourne with a good job and savings. After some time, she found a place for her large family in New Zealand to move into and in November of 2015, the family said their goodbyes to loved ones at Auckland airport.
Her young family settled into Melbourne well with dad Simogi securing a job within weeks of arriving while mum Jacinta is able to relax a little and be a stay-at-home mum.
Serafina is proud of what her and her family have accomplished in such a short time.
“Since moving to Australia, we have been blessed with more opportunities that we could never have had in New Zealand. We are more financially stable and can now look forward to investing into future savings and ventures. My younger siblings love their school also which I’m relieved about,” she laughs.
“My parents are much happier and it warms my heart to see them more at ease and able to enjoy life without the stress. I do encourage them to spoil themselves because they really do deserve it.”
Private School for three sons a dream come true for the Metusela family
Silia Metusela, 34 lives with her husband Sele and six children in their new home of Brisbane. Silia immigrated to New Zealand in 1989 with her parents leaving their dear villages of Faleasi’u and Leauva’a.
Her family have only been living in Brisbane for just over a year and their only regret is that they hadn’t made the decision to move to Australia earlier.
“Since moving to OZ, things have been really good for my family,” says Silia. “It’s a huge improvement from Auckland. I can honestly say I wouldn’t go back to Auckland, probably only for family gatherings.
“In Auckland we lived in a Housing NZ home and rent was income related and we were only on one income. Here in Brisbane we are in a private rental and our rent is more than what we paid for rent in Auckland but we are not struggling like we did in Auckland. Our house is bigger than what we lived in back in Auckland.”
With hubby now working a permanent full time job in Brisbane, it was enough for Silia to be able to quit her job. Their talented athlete schoolboy sons also had demanding rugby training schedules and so their mother was able to give them transport to and from.
Silia says a huge blessing for her family is seeing her two older boys attend elite private schools in Brisbane on full scholarships.
“My older boys are both on scholarships at private schools here in Brisbane and my third son is starting there this year. Never in a million years did I think I would have my kids in private schools, especially as fees and uniforms are super expensive. My eldest son was in year 11 when we left Auckland and he never got selected or offered any scholarships. Five months in Brisbane and he got offered scholarships from various schools and that opened doors for all my boys.”
Her eldest has already travelled to Sydney and Perth for representative rugby in the space of only one year and she says the experience is definitely valuable to him. She has told him to grasp the opportunities with both hands.
When asked how she feels when reading stories in the media about Polynesian families in New Zealand sleeping in cars and coping with the high cost of living, Silia says she is heartbroken for them.
“I feel for those families. Those families left the islands for a better future for their children, but it’s really hard in Auckland. Living costs are expensive and pay rates are not good. I know people there living in a three bedroom rental paying 500 dollars a week! That’s more than what we pay for our four bedroom, two bathrooms, double garage, large backyard, aircon and dishwasher. It’s insane.”