Shepparton is one of the most culturally diverse communities in regional Victoria.
The Goulburn Valley region’s cultural and linguistic diversity includes people from around 88 countries, who speak 63 different languages. This includes Italian and Greek communities established as a result of post-World War 2 migration.
In more recent years, there have been a remarkable number of new arrivals in the region from Africa, Asia and Arabic speaking countries such as Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait.Greater Shepparton is also home to Victoria’s biggest regional indigenous population, with more than 6000 Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders making up a large number of the community.
GV Health are committed to ensuring that their health services are accessible, respectful and responsive to the needs of the communities who contribute so much to enriching life in the Goulburn Valley through their cultural diversity.
Many journeys, one destination
Gurbaksh Kanda is Haematology Section Manager in the Pathology unit. Mr Kanda studied at Charles Sturt University in Waggs Wagga, where he completed his Bachelor of Medical Sciences in 2009.
A fourth generation Indian, Mr Kanda moved home to Malaysia and worked there for several years at the end of his studies.
“I got my permanent Australian residency while I was back home,” said Mr Kanda, who applied for a job as a Medical Scientist in Shepparton in 2012.
Mr Kanda, who has a young family, came back to Australia, arriving alone in November 2012.
“My kids were born in July 2012, so my wife and I weren’t keen to do the move all at once,” he said. “They all came out in March 2013, once I’d settled in.”
At that stage, Mr Kanda thought Shepparton might be a short term prospect.
“We believed we would be here briefly, but we quickly started to appreciate the benefits of the accessibility of living in a regional community,” he said. “That changed the whole dynamic.”
Mr Kanda said he and his family had a good idea of what country life would be like, thanks to his experience of studying in Wagga Wagga. What surprised him was the size of the Sikh community in the area.
“I was speaking to a friend who’d settled in Sydney when I got the job offer,” he said. “He told me there’s a big Sikh temple in Shepparton - that’s a big part of why we made the move.”
Mr Kanda and his family were also pleased to discover how hospitable the Shepparton community are.
“We’ve been welcomed and we’ve adjusted really well,” he said. “My wife works at GV Health as well. She’s got really good friends, and the kids enjoy it here – I don’t think we’ll be moving any time soon.”
Lynne Fitzpatrick, who hails from the Philippines, has worked in Hospital Services as an orderly for five years. She moved to the area 12 years ago. She said GV Health was a great place to work and helped a lot with her integration into the community.
“It’s very different from the Philippines,” she said. “There’s a huge Filipino community here, though, which is great.”
Camarun Albanoi is a Team Leader in the Adult Community Mental Health unit at Grutzner House.
An Albanian by birth, Mr Albanoi, who is devoted to community service, came to Australia in 1984.
“I was a park ranger, looking after Aboriginal paintings in Kakadu, for four years,” he said. “Later I worked for the town of Jabiru, where I coached junior and senior soccer. I founded the Jabiru Soccer Club.”
After living in regional Australia for much of the 1980s, Mr Albanoi moved to Melbourne, where he worked as an emergency housing officer and continued his commitment to coaching soccer. He also contributed to a range of human rights oriented committees.
“In 1992, I met my wife Sue, who is from Shepparton. In 1993 we got married here,” he said. “We lived in Melbourne for a couple of years, and have been here in Shepparton since 1995.”
Mr Albanoi, whose sister-in-law sponsored his permanent residency, migrated not long after. He said he feels privileged to be able to live and participate in the region.
“The credit goes to the whole community, which is very inclusive, friendly and charitable,” he said. “This is my journey - I’ve found that, since day one, Shepparton has been a multicultural city, the most successful melting pot in Australia.”
Sonographer Fayyaz Akhtar originally hails from Pakistan. He studied medicine and sonography in the United States, where he lived for 18 years.
“I moved to Perth eight years ago,” said Mr Akhtar. “I had a couple of friends here in Shepparton – they encouraged me to come over. That was in 2011.”
The diverse, easy going workplace culture at GV Health is a stand out for him.
“I have travelled around Australia, and I think that Shepparton is definitely one of the most friendly and multicultural towns in Australia,” said Mr Akhtar, who is a practicing Muslim.
“GV Health does a very good job of including professionals from different backgrounds,” he said. “The hospital has so many people from a range of cultural experiences, which is very important for the community. It’s excellent.”
Mental Health Registered Nurse Sima Sibanda arrived in Melbourne from Zimbabwe in February 2009.
“I came to live with my sister, who also works in mental health,” said Ms Sibanda, who quickly set out gathering a list of all of the mental health facilities in Victoria. “I emailed them all to see if they were hiring, and GV Health was the first to respond.”
Ms Sibanda discovered that her timing was excellent, and eventually secured a position in the Wanyarra Acute Inpatient Unit, where she currently works.
Prior to her arrival, Ms Sibanda had never lived or worked in a country town. She said she was glad to discover that country people were very welcoming.
“At the time, I didn’t realise Shepparton was as big as it is,” said Ms Sibanda. “It’s definitely a place that has everything.”
GV Health has played a supportive role in Ms Sibanda’s journey from the beginning, helping her navigate the visa application process.
“There was a lot of help from management and HR, it was great,” she said. “We’ve been here for a decade – we’ll be staying.”
Aboriginal Liaison Officer (ALO) Andrew McKnight was born in Ipswich, Queensland.
“My tribe is Barkindji,” he said. “My family group comes from just north of Mildura up along the Darling River.”
Mr McKnight’s father, who was a part of the Stolen Generation, was born in that region but relocated to an orphanage in Sydney when he was just a couple of months old.
“He still had parents,” said Mr McKnight. “Apparently, after 60,000 years on this land we didn’t know how to look after our own people.”
His family moved back to the Goulburn Valley region at age three, and Mr McKnight is reflective about his path.
“I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for that experience,” he said.
Mr McKnight said he has left the region several times, but always returns.
“I can’t help it - I hate it when I move away,” he said.
Mr McKnight finds his feeling of belonging and cultural connection to the land and people in the region challenging to explain.
A veteran GV Health employee, Mr McKnight will be celebrating 18 years as an ALO in March. He said his philosophy has always been to treat people as people.
“We’re all the same underneath,” he said. “I don’t see people as Greek or Italian or Aboriginal - to me we’re just all people. I’ve never judged people by their skin colour, or where they’re from – it’s just the way I was brought up.”