‘Neighbours to newcomers’ portraits from Tamworth

Stories and photographs of families who have found peace and pride after resettling in Tamworth, New South Wales, a regional centre that has been transformed since 2006 where reference is depicted national ire for its rejection of refugees

In a country town we need to all work together, know each other, mentions Tamworth resident and refugee counsel Eddie Whitham.

We need to find a common ground. Its not going to work if we have isolated people. We want to induce our town study. The hope is that this will become a natural thing that there will be no us and them.


On the traditional properties of the the Kamilaroi people, Tamworth in New South Wales is now dwelling to people of more than 80 different nationalities and has an estimated population close to 43,000.

Yet as recently as 2006, when it was proposed that the area resettle five Sudanese families fleeing from campaign, starvation and persecution, there was such anxiety from the community that a quarter of those who took part in nearby residents survey conveyed their censure and the plan was voted down by the council of ministers, attracting national criticism.

Whitham, the founder of Multicultural Tamworth an organisation with the ethos of being good neighbours to beginners mentions a lot has changed with the assistance of open and honest argument. The field is now welcoming and celebrating diversity.

Here are the narratives and portraits of those who have joined the community.

Shalini Pratap and family


A third-generation Fijian Indian, Shalini Pratap came to Australia in 1999 with her husband, an air-conditioning and refrigeration technician, who was issued a skilled worker visa.

Our first move was to Alice Springs, she mentions. It was a great move, a beautiful associate with Australia. A chance to experience real Australia.

The family decided to move to Tamworth in 2003 to be closer to household. At the time there were no other Fijian Indians in the region.

My husband started his business in Tamworth and it has been very successful. This is a reflection of the community, how greeting they have been to us. Tamworth is very much dwelling, a great community.



When asked about retaining a connection to her culture, she responds: We owe our ancestors to retain some of our culture and teach our daughter about her family history. We have a great sense of pride in being Aussie and Fijian Indian.

Shalinis daughter, Vineesha Veer, 15, is excelling at school and dreamings of studying medicine. Australia has given me everything, she mentions.

Vineesha often wears traditional dress and joins her father in regular Bollywood film darkness. I love to wear clothes from India, she mentions. Fashion is one of the most powerful is linked to my culture.

Nicole Li and family


Chinese pair Nicole Li and Charlie He arrived in 2014 as skilled migrants and have already been applied to become permanent residents. Li, an engineering surveyor, and He, who has a background in IT, are settling into their brand-new dwelling with their nine-year-old son, James.


Li says the decision to migrate was tough on her parents, owing to Chinas one-child policy.

Wed never been[ to Australia] before so coming here has been a total escapade for us, Li says. Seeing from Beijing, we adore the quiet and less-stressful lifestyle. We feel very free.

David Thon and Deborah Manyang


David Thon and Deborah Manyang came to Australia from the Kakuma refugee camp that is home to thousands, many known as the lost sons of Sudan.

Thon was resettled through the United Nation in 2007, along with his cousin. I was so happy to be coming to Australia and emphatically felt some consolation knowing my cousin was with me, he says.

Manyang arrived in 2010 and, as their own families, they moved to Tamworth in 2015. Its safe here, she mentions. We cant hear firearms or meet soldiers. Were happy. Its a brand-new future for our children, they are adapting well and the locals have been very helpful.

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