Subject’s Name: Sandra Taylor
Country of Origin: England
Length of Time in Australia: 52 years
Sandra Taylor’s migrant journey is one that encapsulates the dreams, challenges, and triumphs many skilled migrants can relate to. Born in England, Sandra and her family embarked on a transformative journey that ultimately shaped her into the successful professional she is today.
My migrant journey is perhaps a different story to recent migrants, but familiar to many.
I was born in the north of England and emigrated to Australia with my family when I was five. My parents took advantage of Australia’s assisted passage scheme that encouraged Commonwealth citizens to migrate and populate. They were hoping for a better life and more opportunities for their three children than they had themselves, as unskilled workers in the industrial north. And so, we became “Ten Pound Poms”.
I have vivid memories of the journey that took us from a dark and cold December to the bright, relentless heat of a Queensland summer. One of the strongest recollections was feeling the breeze on my skin – and it was warm instead of chilly! I’d never experienced that before.
Unlike many migrants at the time, we avoided migrant rehousing camps like the infamous Wacol, south of Brisbane. Instead, we followed family members who had resettled to Australia the year before in the small rural township of Murgon in regional Queensland.
Initially, Dad found work at the Murgon meatworks – a popular choice for unskilled migrants and labourers in the area. After a couple of years, my parents bought a snack bar in the nearby town of Wondai. Being “in business” was a dream come true for my dad, but placed a lot of pressure on our family. My older sister and I were required to work in the shop alongside our parents after school and on weekends.
Growing up in the country was idyllic in many ways. My siblings and friends had many adventures about town and in the surrounding bushland. We were largely unsupervised, but rarely got into much strife.
The Australian sun wasn’t kind to my fair complexion. For some time, I was the only freckle-faced redhead in our entire school. I was acutely aware of being different – and was teased and bullied for how I looked. I was painfully shy and self-conscious and would blush at the slightest provocation. It would take many years before I came to accept my looks and realise what a gift I had.
Due to our location, it was difficult to plan a career with any prospects. There were no tertiary education facilities within 300 km so I didn’t see the point of continuing with higher education at that time. I left school at age 16 and worked part-time as a hotel housemaid, before getting a full-time job as an accounts clerk at the local bakery. Working in the shop taught me a lot about money, customer service and hospitality which served me well when I started looking for a job.
When I was 17 my parents decided to move away from the country to seek better employment opportunities for themselves and their family. I moved with them and have lived and worked in Brisbane ever since.
Settling into a new city was difficult – I had no connections or friends, although my extended family were close by. I’d been active in amateur theatre in Wondai, so quickly joined a new theatre group, where I found a social and artistic outlet – and eventually met my future husband, Andrew.
After a short stint working in a pet shop, I was fortunate to get a secretarial job at the Returned & Services League in Brisbane. During the next 11 years, I progressed to the role of executive secretary and assistant editor of RSL News. Although I gained practical knowledge of business practices, office management and human resource management, I realised my lack of formal education would prevent me from advancing to more senior roles. I enrolled in night school to gain my senior high school certificate and also joined the Australian Army Reserve to give me an insight into the lives of the veterans I served.
Once I attained my senior qualifications, I applied to university to study management and human resources. I was successfully admitted to QUT and left full-time work to study. I thoroughly enjoyed my three years of study and made some wonderful friends who I still keep in touch with twenty years on.
After graduation, I worked in marketing at McDonald’s Australia Limited regional office, then at my old university, QUT, in the organisational development team. From 2008 until 2022 I worked at TUH Health Fund in various roles, from HR to marketing, before joining Global Payments as the content manager.
The move to Australia has been good for me and my family. I’ve learned that there’s not just one pathway to success. Determination, continuous learning and willingness to embrace new challenges are qualities I’ve grown to cultivate. I rarely blush these days – I’m more comfortable with who I am and care less about what others think of me.
I have been happily married to Andrew for 33 years and we live with our dog Lizzy in a leafy, family friendly suburb just north of Brisbane. When I’m not working, I enjoy renovating/decorating our home, working in my garden, reading, walking, and dabbling in arts and crafts. I also like cooking and entertaining family and friends and living the best life.
We’ve been lucky to have travelled extensively in the UK and Europe, plus New Zealand and the Pacific islands. I’ve also enjoyed short trips to the Cook Islands and the USA. I’m looking forward to further travel, both in Australia and overseas in retirement.
In the meantime, through connections and friendships I made at my last two workplaces, I became aware of Skilled Migrant Professionals Magazine. As chief editor, I’m excited to join a fabulous bunch of talented women in breathing new life into this exciting and much-needed resource for skilled migrant professionals in Australia. I hope to draw on my own experiences to help others navigate this strange and wonderful place we all call home.