Zoya and Jessica

Home is where culture is celebrated.

Zoya Tong arrived in Australia on 27 September 1985, bringing with her the rich traditions and vibrant culture of her homeland, Yili in Xinjiang, China.

Back in China, Zoya and her husband were dedicated teachers, imparting knowledge in Chinese language and music to middle school students.

Their journey to Australia began in 1983 when Zoya’s parents were invited by a great-uncle to move to this new country.

“After they came, they often wrote us letters and spoke to us on the phone, saying that ‘Australia is wonderful, you can come here too,” Zoya recalls.

Home is determination to adapt.

In the early days, Zoya worked at an Adidas factory while attending evening English classes at Dandenong Primary School.

“We worked during the day and learnt English in the evening, in Dandenong Primary School,” she remembers.

Her children attended a migrant school in Noble Park, where they quickly adapted and excelled in learning English.

Despite her initial worries about their future, Zoya was determined for her family to adapt to a new environment. She often encouraged her children, and each one pursued higher education and secured good jobs.

“I worried about their future, when they grew up, whether they could achieve good outcomes, I mean, good family, good job. So I often lectured them, ‘you need to study hard,’” she says.

Zoya is immensely proud of her children, saying, “I’m proud of my kids, and our next generation, like Jessica, who went to university here, found a good job… I feel very proud of you. I’m most proud of you. You’re the pride of our family.”

Her granddaughter Jessica has always felt the positive push of her grandmother. She feels in awe of her grandmother’s experiences and has witnessed first-hand the importance of being supported and listened to when arriving in a new country.


Home is staying connected to cultural roots.

Zoya’s story is not just about overcoming challenges but also about celebrating and preserving her cultural heritage in her new home. She is actively involved in the Xinjiang Association, participating in cultural activities such as dancing, singing, cooking, and excursions.

“We dance. We sing. Sometimes we cook together. Sometimes we go on excursions … I feel very happy,” she says with a smile.

Reflecting on her journey, Zoya is grateful for what she considers to be a harmonious and multicultural society in Australia, one that respects and supports cultural diversity.

“The people here, the country, the government, all in harmony, multicultural… they respect your culture, let you build culture-specific schools. The government also provides funding for you to build a better community,” she notes.

She feels blessed to live in a country that values and funds cultural initiatives, enabling her community to thrive.

For Zoya, home is truly where culture is celebrated, and she continues to find happiness and fulfillment in sharing her traditions with others.

Her story is a testament to the resilience and strength of migrants and refugees finding their place and building a home in a new land while staying connected to their cultural roots.

Home is support.

Donate: Your donations help us provide essential services to migrants and refugees, enabling them to find the place they choose to call home.

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