Subject’s Name: Emmagness Ruzvidzo
Country of Origin: Zimbabwe
Length of Time in Australia: 6 years (although it feels like 10, in a good way!)
Meet Emmagness Ruzvidzo. Against the backdrop of two continents, her account of a family seeking to flourish in a new land reveals a journey of unexpected turns, poignant reflections, and triumphant accomplishments. From the heart of Zimbabwe’s cherished landscapes to the vibrant multicultural tapestry of Australia, her inspiring story is a tale of exploration, determination, and resilience
A standing joke we had back home was that we would be the last ones to ever consider leaving the country. Zimbabwe is such a beautiful place, full of scenic places and natural landscapes that are simply breathtaking!
I’ve always loved to travel. My husband Tich and I visited Spain more times than we should have but we couldn’t resist the quaintness of Mijas, the party life of Marbella and the incredible scenery in Malaga. Yet, among all our journeys, the notion of relocating to Australia never crossed our minds. It simply wasn’t on our radar, neither as a tourist destination nor a new home.
The birth of our daughter, Kunashe, ignited a profound shift in our perspectives on legacy and life. We started to see our country through different lenses, envisioning a world of opportunities for her that would fan her curiosity, indulge her artistic taste, embrace her sense of wonder and expose her to various subjects and opportunities we didn’t have growing up.
And so, we started flirting with the idea of moving countries.
Curiously, Australia wasn’t an initial contender. Our list featured nations we had visited and fallen for – the US with its familial ties, Spain reigning supreme, and the UK with its endearing chaos. Yet, none of these options felt quite right, quite aligned.
And so, the exploration of alternative prospects led us to Australia. What tipped the scales was one of our dear friends, Constance, moving here on a skilled migration visa. She had a young child at the time – around Ku’s age and we had similar reasons for considering life outside of Zimbabwe.
We began to focus on Australia and what we needed to do in order to move here. That was the beginning of a very long 6 months!
We worked with a migration agent to make sure we ticked all the boxes that needed to be ticked. There was a lot of paperwork involved, time investment and a lot of money as well!
English tests were the absolute worst – I still don’t understand the need for this coming from Zimbabwe, a British colony where people speak English as fluently as any second language. Regardless, we complied, took the test – passed, of course – and, together with hundreds of documents, submitted our application and waited.
I’m grateful that Tich was running his own business and had the flexibility to tackle the demanding application process. I was working in a high pressure job as Head of Marketing and Retail for an energy company. It was a good balance and helped us get everything ready in the time required.
We were told the application process would take up to six months, which gave us plenty of time to explore different cities we could live in once we had moved.
Melbourne’s reputation for having four seasons in one day was NOT appealing, so we quickly removed that from our list. Sydney would have been appealing if we didn’t have a two year old with us! Eventually, we settled on Brisbane. Our friend was settled here and it would make the transition from home as smooth as possible.
I remember clearly the day the call came in from our agent. As soon as I picked up the call, she screamed “you’re in!!” and I was so confused. I had no idea who I was talking to and had just woken up from a nap. Then it hit me. I was too stunned to say anything and for a minute she thought the call had dropped out!
The enormity of what we were about to do hit harder than I thought it would. I’d grown up in a tight knit family with my mum and sister and suddenly I was leaving them. My daughter had grown up around her Gogo and Auntie and those bonds would be severed. However, moving to a new country would give her a chance to flourish in a way we didn’t see happening at home. I was conflicted!
Everything happened so quickly. I bade farewell to the role I loved and enjoyed. We agreed Tich would move here first and we would join him in three months, after I had finished up with work. We reunited a month earlier than planned. Two months apart was more than enough to realise the arrangement didn’t work for us.
I remember landing at Brisbane Airport, looking around me and realising that I was now in the minority.
As a skilled professional, with experience, knowledge and international expertise, I expected to land a senior marketing role straight away. I thought it would even be quicker for Tich, who was an expert at everything to do with infrastructure and networking plus a whole lot more in IT. I thought it would only be a matter of time before we both landed our dream jobs.
How wrong I was.
The thing I found the most perplexing was the requirement to have Australian experience to get a job in Australia. After all, the foundation of marketing is the same in whatever country you’re in, and technology skills are much the same everywhere.
Persistence paid off and within weeks, I landed my first job as a marketing and social media specialist. I worked hard, moved to a different company and was promoted three times before being head hunted by a Fortune 500 company.
I love so many things about Australia, mostly Queensland and particularly Brisbane, our chosen home.
- People here are genuinely lovely. They’ll give up their seats for me on the train, smile and nod during a walk, rush to help someone in distress, and randomly chat while out and about.
- The weather is hands down the best in the country! Maybe because it reminds me so much of back home.
- The houses! Again, so much like back home.
- There are so many beautiful beaches, all within a short driving distance.
- Plus, there’s so much to do – parks, ice rinks, arts and culture.
If you have a young family, I recommend settling in Queensland!
One thing that I still can’t get around is Vegemite. I really tried to like it but I’ve had to accept that’s never going to happen!
While people are genuinely kind, sometimes I’ve come across misconceptions or downright ignorance. Here are some of my favourite examples.
- People asking “How did you come to Australia?”. I didn’t understand the implication of this question and I responded “by plane.” This was followed by “you’re one of the lucky ones, were you given a house” and I thought, hang on, they hand out houses in Australia?It was only later I realised she had assumed I was a refugee. One of my best friends, white, is also a migrant, but has never been asked that question or implicated to be a refugee. This was the moment I realised what “unconscious bias” looks like/
- Being told “You speak good English”. I’ve learnt to respond to this with “so do you”, which shocks people a little bit!I’ve never viewed the ability to speak English as a sign of intelligence. Everyone speaks English plus two other languages in Zimbabwe. I’ve found having an accent here is frowned upon a little bit. In a multicultural society, people are going to have different pronunciations and ways of expressing themselves. The more we embrace this, the better we will be as a society.
- Hearing “We don’t do things that way in Australia” regarding my ambition, my overly optimistic attitude and my straightforward talk.I didn’t listen though. Imagine having everyone collectively acting the same way. What kind of society would that be?
When I reflect on the past few years in Australia, I’m blown away by how much we’ve grown as a family and how much I’ve achieved as an individual. I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made, the communities we are part of, the excellent school my daughter attends, the job my husband absolutely loves and my company, VAKA Consulting which is doing way better than I had anticipated!
I’ve faced many challenges and I share these in podcast episodes: Sisters In Colour; Bold Moves: How did you know; and the publication – MAVENS.
I’ve been head of brand and marketing for a Fortune 500 company, named one of Queensland’s 40 Under 40, and started a marketing consulting company as a strategist working with ASX listed companies. I’m an empowerment coach focusing on skilled migrant professionals and chief strategist of Skilled Migrant Professionals Magazine. My cup is full and I’m grateful that I’m in a country where I’m free to do a thousand things without overextending myself! And when I do, I can drive to a beach near me and enjoy a walk along the waterside.
- Network. Put yourself out there. Opportunities are not going to come knocking on your door unless you get out there, network and meet new people. Who you know plays a huge part in landing a great role.
- Join industry associations. Find like-minded individuals within your chosen profession. If you are of African descent, I encourage you to join African Professionals of Australia.
- LinkedIn is your friend! Build your brand and leverage your expertise as a subject matter expert. Recruiters are watching and it’s the best way to get their attention.
- Invest in a coach. When you’re in a new country with different ways of doing things, a coach can help you navigate the nuances of a new career landscape.
- Grasp the financial dynamics, from salaries to superannuation, to negotiate effectively.
- Engage with community activities that align with your values and embrace volunteering to open up incredible opportunities and give back to this lovely nation of ours.
- Ask for help. Moving to a new country takes courage. Keep being brave and know when to raise your hand to ask for help.