Taylor Tran, and Lorena Duranthon from Professional Migrant Women’s Group share their own stories of migration, as they reflect upon the Undefeated project – a collection of over 100 stories by women. This episode reflects upon the challenges of being a newly arrived person in Australia, and also celebrates the many achievements of migrant women.
Listen to the Undefeated podcast here.
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Lorena: [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to another episode of Stories of Community Resilience. My name is Rebecca Maakasa. I’m the Podcasts Coordinator at 3ZZZ, and today I’m speaking with two amazing women, Lorena and Taylor, who are going to tell us about Professional Migrant Women and also a special project that they’ve been working on – Undefeated, which is a book, a collection of 118 stories told by 90 migrant women. And the book is all about overcoming challenges and barriers and sharing their own personal stories. What’s really interesting about this book, as Lorena and Taylor will come to tell us, is the process they went about creating it. This book was all about empowering the women themselves through workshops to build capacity and skill sets, so they were able to tell their own stories rather than having their stories told on their behalf. And in a similar way, this is what Stories of Community Resilience Podcast is all about. It’s all about empowering culturally and linguistically diverse people to gain skills, podcast experience, to share their own stories and contribute to the broader media landscape that we have in Australia. So I’m really pleased to introduce today Lorena and Taylor. First of all, Lorena, would you like to tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be involved in the project?
Lorena: [00:01:36] Hi Rebecca. Thank you so much for having me. So my background is a bit complicated, so I’m half Peruvian, half French, born in France, but raised by a Peruvian mom and travel all around the world while I was growing up. So how did I get involved with this project? I was volunteering for a professional migrant women since 2019, if I recall properly, and this project came along last year, and that’s how I got involved. I’ve been volunteering with professional migrant women and helping them with most of the events that they put together. So kind of the event manager for Professional Migrant Women.
Rebecca: [00:02:25] I understand you have a really good ability of events and really passionate about bringing people together, and that certainly is realized through this project as well. Thank you for joining us today, Lorena. And I’m also really pleased to introduce Taylor, the lovely Taylor who’s also a part of professional migrant women, which we’re going to learn all about today and has a lot of experience working with many different women from all different migrant backgrounds, which led to creating this book. So welcome. Taylor. Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Taylor: [00:03:01] Yes, sure. So thank you, Rebecca, for having me today. And it’s such an honour to be here today with Lorena. So my name is Taylor Tran and I came to Melbourne four years ago from Vietnam. So remembering when I was I, when I was at the moment to be involved with the professional modern woman was that I was in my job supporting migrant women and refugees, settling in Australia through learning English. And I need to improve my writing skills at that time to move a step forward with my employment. So I came on LinkedIn and professional. My women posed up something about writing workshops. So I, I signed up for that, thinking that would be a great opportunity to improve my writing skills and to meet with other women. So that’s how I get involved. I got involved with professional migrant women back in 2022.
Rebecca: [00:04:10] It’s sometimes all you need. Sometimes you just need to see that one post or that one connection to get involved in something much bigger. And this is exactly what Professional Migrant Women has grown to be. One such community organization resource for women out there. I’m just so intrigued by how this all came about. So there’s obviously so much packed into this book and just capturing these stories and putting them all in one place is such an incredible feat in itself. I’m wondering if you could tell me a bit about the experience of creating this book and actually gathering these women to share their stories, whether it was through the workshops or even just making those connections. It’s it’s such a feat. So are you able to tell us a bit more about that process?
Lorena: [00:05:08] I know it was a hard process. Um, Fabiola Campbell was the one that put it together and trying to get a lot of women to write. This book was made through social media, mostly trying to find women that wanted to tell their story, that felt comfortable telling their story because it’s not always easy to share. And being a woman, it’s a bit harder to we hide a lot of things. So through social media, through different platforms, we try to bring these women together. And it was through, like Taylor told us, through LinkedIn posts or Instagram posts that we try to bring all those women.
Rebecca: [00:05:55] I wanted to ask as well, because you touched on that point of it’s not easy to talk about certain things and on Stories of Community Resilience, a lot of people do share really deeply personal experiences and those of their respective communities. Was there any certain ways that you helped people become more comfortable to eventually share their stories?
Taylor: [00:06:21] Yeah. So I think it’s really important to create a safe place, a place where in this case, migrant women feel safe and feel connected so they will be able to open up their stories. And it was fascinating for me at that time hearing all the people and knowing that there are people out there that came through here with a similar journey as I did. And I was not alone on the on the journey. And I felt connected with them. And I feel safe. And I felt that my story, I can open up with my stories.
Rebecca: [00:07:04] Yeah, that’s so important to do. And it’s obviously developed over some time. What in terms of the workshops for the riders, what did they involve? Like what sort of topics did they address, What skills did they build?
Taylor: [00:07:22] The process is has two workshops. The first one is the writing and the next one is the editing workshops. So the workshops were run by volunteers as well. So the person who the people who ran the workshop, they all they were all volunteers and they showed the woman the steps, the skills and also allowing spaces for them to practice. So it’s a whole day workshop on the Saturday. It was really like I mentioned, a safe and connecting environment because we brought food and lunch to share and we had many interactive activities like bringing your belonging things to share and also so that’s the first workshops. And the second one was the editing workshop, which we have chance to edit the other person’s story. So not only us who the writer, but we also play a part and had experience to be an editor as well.
Rebecca: [00:08:32] How did it feel when you completed or worked through those sessions?
Lorena: [00:08:41] Uh, for me, it helped me a lot. Um, English being my third language, I think I can speak it all right. But when it comes to writing and finding the right words, sometimes our vocabulary is very limited. When you write it. Maybe. Sometimes it doesn’t sound too much when we talk, but when we write, sometimes we don’t know how. So I feel like it gave us a bit more confidence seeing other women being in the same boat as us, um, and having the tools from all those volunteers. And there was two of the volunteers that were born in Australia, native to the language. So it was very helpful to have that and making you feel that you could write in any kind of way, the way that makes you comfortable. And then just tweaking in the editing. Part of it was, yeah, that was the good part. They didn’t expect you to be a huge writer. You could write it your own way. And then they were kind of taking over and editing.
Rebecca: [00:09:50] So I think that’s something really beautiful about any storytelling medium, whether it’s audio, film, writing, podcast, whatever it is that everyone has a different voice and that will inform the style of the story as well. And I always say that the voice is actually a very powerful instrument itself. So when you have an opportunity to hear different ways of storytelling, whether that’s informed by someone’s cultural background, the way they actually shape and craft a story is different, whether it’s their accent, their tone of voice that brings so much into the story as well.
Lorena: [00:10:33] and touching on that, the book is written in so many different types of writing. So you have poems, you have long form, you have shorter form, you have people that have got really creative in the way of telling the story. And that’s the beauty of that book. It’s not every story is different, obviously, because we’re all different and we’ve all gone through. But they all. At the end share all those experiences that we all go through together as migrants. So that’s the beauty of that book.
Rebecca: [00:11:12] And when you look at the book, zooming in to the contents and the way it’s written, what were some of the common themes that that came out throughout the book in terms of maybe the challenges and then the ways they were overcome or even just sharing how those challenges were for the different women.
Taylor: [00:11:36] Yes, Rebecca, you were right. So the most common theme that we we we we read through the book was that the obstacles, the challenges as a migrant, especially as a woman. So that’s add another layer of of challenges and and as a woman, as a migrant and as a professional Marine woman. Another layer. So the common theme was that the challenges that they had and also with their resilience, how they overcame those challenges. And also I think there’s a lot of positivity that have been conveyed through the stories and that act as an encouragement to the to the readers as well.
Lorena: [00:12:34] Um, I. I want to add to what Taylor is saying. I do agree that we see different, um, and the book is, is built that way. How we arrive, the hard, the hard part of arriving then the hard part of finding a job. Then the, the point where we get depressed and, and then we overcome that and we become resilient. And then we we are reborn. And the book, they’ve put the stories in a really nice way where there’s that little curve that we see in all the migration journeys. So the stories have been put together that way. So we have stories about everything, about how it’s hard to leave home and how we come to that decision of leaving home. And then we, um, the hard part of being in a new country and getting used to all the new things, and then the hard part of finding a job and it’s all we all go through the same thing. And that’s how this book has been able to be this huge project.
Rebecca: [00:13:47] Imagine there’s so much to unpack. Did any particular stories or anecdotes from the women stand out to you? Like, is there any particular that always come to mind when you think of the book or even of your own stories yourself? What was the main thing you wanted to convey when you were creating your own stories?
Lorena: [00:14:07] I think for me, I’m going to talk on my personal story. I think the hardest part was to be recognized in Australia as a professional or even as a. Human beings sometimes, but that goes deeper. And if you want to know a bit more about my story, read my story. Um, but yes, it’s about being recognised in Australia as um, with qualifications. So you come with a professional background, you’ve studied overseas and have studied in France and I’ve studied in Peru and I have qualifications in both countries. I have experience in Peru as a professional. And you come here and it’s a blank slate and all that is put. Assigned and you become again the cleaner, the waiter, the this, the that. So you have to rebuild yourself from scratch. Unfortunately for me specifically, I never did studies here, so that didn’t open me any door and I had to open my own door. Actually, I created my own door. And I actually going to think about the story that is called The Door, about a good friend of mine and she is in the book there and she talks about opening doors and how we struggle to actually we open the door and it’s not the right one. And we go through so many doors in our migration journey until we kind of find our right one. And have we ever gone to find our one? I don’t know. I think I’m not there yet. Yeah.
Taylor: [00:15:48] Yeah. And also for my case is that I had to some at some point change myself to fit into those doors. So for my case was about my personal identity, who I am, how I sound like like my, my, my, uh, like should I change my accent? Like, do I have a westernised accent enough to to land a job and my name like, is it easy to spell enough to land a job here? So at that point, I changed my name from my Vietnamese name to a more Westernised name, which I’m still using now because it’s just easier and it’s shorter. So but when I joined the Professional Migrant Women on this book, like this book, I realized that there’s a really good tagline that they they tell us that your accent is your superpower. So don’t change it. I decided so I don’t have to change it. So this is just how I said this is my Vietnamese American. Like sometimes Australian after four years here accent. So you just have to deal with it.
Lorena: [00:17:12] And I agree with that. I feel like we still hear women, men, migrants in general that say, oh, I want to sound more English. I even have sometimes seen ads on Instagram saying this app to help you get rid of your accent. But that’s the beauty of us and the beauty of go to South America. We all have different accents throughout the different we all speak Spanish, but we all have accents and they are always trying to find the neutral accent in Spanish. But no, that’s the beauty of. We’re all individuals and we all have even even in English, somebody will have a lisp and somebody will pronounce the S’s a different way. And and that’s the beauty of all of us. We’re all unique. Why are we trying to all become a whole? That’s what I don’t understand. And maybe this message can go out in the world and be like, Stop trying to. You’re beautiful. How you sound. You don’t have to sound perfect. Nobody can speak perfectly any language, let alone their own sometimes. So stop trying to change. And I love that my accent is my superpower because. And that’s what it is.
Rebecca: [00:18:32] Very well said. And this project is all about celebrating women as well. So we’re acknowledging the struggles and documenting them. And the book is giving a platform for that because I guess in history, um, at the best of times, women are often largely excluded from that narrative. And in Australia we have a very static, um, overview of migration, I think I would say. And so to see the personal stories coming through is wonderful. I wondered on that positive message of celebrating. What else would you like to celebrate? Um, what do you see as a success or a celebration coming through this project or your experiences? What do you celebrate about being migrant women?
Lorena: [00:19:25] For me is belonging to something. Because when I got here, I didn’t know where I would. I was standing like, yes, I’m this French, Peruvian, and I’m here in Australia and everybody is like, Oh, you’re so lucky to be in Australia. But I never felt lucky to be here, to be honest. I always felt like it was a struggle. And this book and meeting not only the book for me, it started when I joined professional migrant women, but then the book just reinforced this is knowing that there are other women like me that has have been I’m not alone. I’m not alone in this fight. And anybody that thinks that they’re alone and they’re going through depression, they’re going through rejection, they’re going through hard moments, you’re not alone. So feeling that you’re not alone doesn’t put you in a little box anymore and doesn’t make me as depressed. Obviously, I have my ups and downs, but now I know I’m not alone. So I think that’s what this book is trying to open the book and hopefully getting out there and putting it out there and being like, okay, this is what’s happening in the migration journeys of a lot of women.
Taylor: [00:20:45] Yeah, yeah. And in our effort in and spreading the books out there and spreading the spirit of celebration, of embracing your identity, we are doing a podcast featuring the undefeated authors. So the podcast each episode interview one different author inviting them to read a story, and also to unfold the story as well. Because in the book, the stories are just limited to like 500 words, and there’s a lot to tell and unfold behind that. So the podcast is already live, and it’s the episodes released every two weeks, and it’s called Undefeated Podcast.
Lorena: [00:21:35] Episode three is coming out tomorrow or not on Wednesday the 19th. On the 19th. Every Wednesday we get we have a new episode. Not every Wednesday, every second, Wednesday, Wednesday. What am I saying?
Rebecca: [00:21:49] And where can listeners find this podcast?
Lorena: [00:21:53] On any platform that they use to listen to podcasts or Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, also podcasts, Apple. Apple, Everywhere, everywhere. We’ve tried to put it in all the platforms.
Rebecca: [00:22:09] We’ll make sure to include it in the show notes as well, and links to the Professional Migrant Women’s group and the LinkedIn pages and all the rest of it, because I think it’s a great community to be aware of. And thank you both so much we are so gracious for your time today and speaking with us and just knowing that this community is out there for women to access in Australia. Is there any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with today? Any particular messages of community resilience you’d like to share?
Taylor: [00:22:47] Yes. So in the podcast we asked our author one questions when they come to the podcast is that what are some of the advice you will give to the migrant women coming to Australia? And was said to you like 99%? They are talking about building the network. So I’ve been here like from the beginning of our interview till now, like we’ve been saying a lot about, we’re not alone. A lot of women out there, a lot of married women out there like you through the journey. So reach out to your community, to your tribe, connect, and then you will find that you can have a lot of to build on your capacity, your skills, and grow yourself and feel belonging to the community. Thank you.
Lorena: [00:23:41] I want to add to that because you’ve said it beautifully, but it is that it is building your network. Sometimes we are afraid to reach out because we think we can solve things by ourselves. And sometimes it’s not about asking for anything, money or food or anything. It’s just sometimes we want somebody to hear us and just to unload. And that’s what we need most, especially as women if we’re talking to the woman community. But I think there’s men out there that also will need that. So just find your tribe and try to connect with do volunteer work, do find, I don’t know, a dance class, find a gym next to you and make friends. Because being alone when you come as a migrant is the worst thing you can do. It’s very hard and that’s what we hear in the podcast. Find your tribe, find new community and this is the advice and to all that are listening to just not be alone in this journey.
Rebecca: [00:24:58] Lorena and Taylor, I really thank you for your time today and for giving us a bit of an insight into all of these stories. Like we said at the beginning, there’s 118 stories told from 90 migrant women, which is such a special collection of stories to live in this book. The book is called Undefeated, and we will put it in the show notes today where to find this and where to read through it and also where to listen to the adaptation of the podcast, which will only further uncover these stories even more. Lorena and Taylor, thank you very much for your time today on the Stories of Community Resilience Podcast.
Taylor: [00:25:35] Thank you.