Lillian's story: moving from South Africa to the Gold Coast, Australia
Lillian and her family arrived in Australia from South Africa on New Year’s Eve of 2018. It had been a long and argues road to get to that point. Here’s their story.
Why did you decide to move from South Africa to Australia?
We’re from a small place called Umdloti, in Durban in South Africa. South Africa is very much a developing country and life can be complicated and safety is a major concern. We didn’t feel it was the best place to raise our children. We wanted them to feel safe, and to have opportunities in life… education, employment etc.
My husband’s sister and younger brother were living in Australia, in Tugun on the Gold Coast. We visited them once and fell in love with the area. So really that was a major influencing factor for us, to look and see if we could move here too.
My husband, Marc, qualified for an essential skills visa as a roofer, so we decided to apply. It was a seriously complex and long process. It took us six to eight months to get all our paperwork together. Then after an anxious wait, we got an invitation to apply for a relocation to Queensland, which we were super happy about.
Once the visa came through, we came down for another holiday for a week to ratify our visa and to explore a bit more. Moving to the Gold Coast was a no-brainer for us. We had Marc’s family in Tugun, and he’s a mad surfer so we were keen on being close to the beach, obviously employment opportunities and schools were also important. We explored up and down the coast. I loved the area around Nerang, but ultimately, we decided on the Southern Gold Coast area to be close to the city and beaches.
How did you end up living in Elanora?
Before leaving South Africa, I researched the heck out of the schools. We were concerned about the impact of the relocation on our children, they were 8 and 6 years old at the time, so finding a good, supportive school for our children was very important to us. Elanora State School stood out to us from the get go, their web presence is professional, and when I spoke with them over the phone, they were incredibly friendly, supportive and understanding. When we visited the school during our holiday here, I was certain this was the school for us so we enrolled the kids there.
It was really hard trying to find a rental, especially since we had no tenancy history in Australia. So, when we first relocated, we were lucky enough to be able to move into Marc’s brother and sister’s unit in Mermaid Waters. The school drop-offs and pick-ups were a bit of a nightmare travelling between Mermaid Waters and Elanora, quite a bit of traffic at that time of day, that’s why as soon as we got the chance we moved to Elanora.
Elanora is a beautiful suburb, it’s so accessible, close to the beach, city and the bush and the people are amazing.
Was it hard to find work on the Gold Coast?
I’m a qualified Pilates instructor. When we first moved here, I took a bit of time off, but then when we moved to Elanora, and our home had a spare space, perfect for a little studio, I was able to transform it and opened my own Pilates studio, BASI Pilates. I offer personalised small group and private yoga and Pilates classes. I love what I do, and through my studio I’ve been able to meet so many wonderful people. That’s been an absolute life changer for me.
Marc registered for an ABN and set up his own business called Berserker Gutters. He specialises in residential supply, installation and repairs of gutters, leaf guards and rain-water harvesting equipment. His job takes him up and down the Gold Coast, and as far as Brisbane.
What was hardest about moving countries?
Definitely leaving our family and friends behind. Also, the familiarity of people and place. When you’ve lived in one place your entire life everything just comes naturally, you have your favourite places and know where everything is. Then you pack up life and move to a new country and everything is different.
Going places, finding services and shops, even simple things like picking a toothpaste was a chore because everything is so different. It was a very lonely feeling in the beginning, I can tell you there were lots of tears at the start.
But we stuck together as a family and we went exploring a lot. We’d jump in the car and just drove all over, discovered all the beautiful beaches, the hinterland and national parks. We’d talk to people wherever we went. People are very friendly here. Sure, you'll get a couple of grumpies, but mostly everyone is really friendly and loves giving advice, especially the older generation.
Slowly we started to feel more settled. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for my friends to magically appear, and maybe a few elephants and rhinos. But otherwise, this feels like home now. We’re happy with the decision we made.
What do you love about life on the Gold Coast?
One of the things we were completely shocked with when we first arrived was the fact that there were no burglar bars on the windows, and that our house didn’t have a wall around it! That was really unnerving to start with, we thought ‘how on earth are we going to sleep at night?’.
It took us a few months to start feeling okay about this, and to feel safe. It’s a completely different lifestyle to South Africa, where your safety is a concern all day, every day, even in your own home. We love it here so much now, it’s a very safe area. We feel lucky that we were able to have this opportunity.
Any advice for anyone thinking of moving to the Gold Coast?
Yes, go and explore! That was what helped us get familiar and feel at home. Another great way to get a feel for a place is by going to a local café or restaurant, sit back and observe the people and chat to everyone. You really get to feel the vibe of a community that way.
Lillian's top 3 favourite places or things to do:
1. My kids and I adore the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and we try to go as often as possible. The kids even have a personalized paver outside the hospital to remember their birthday donations.
3. We have try to explore all the GC waterfalls with our family, and the best one we have enjoyed so far is Twin Falls in Springbrook National Park. We visited it our first morning here in Australia, and we try go every New Year’s Day and whenever we need to breathe the beautiful sweet fresh air.