United in Diversity | Cultural Diversity Week

Our cultural diversity is one of our greatest assets – it sparks innovation, creativity, and vitality. The skills, knowledge, linguistic capabilities, and networks of our diverse workforce strengthen our economy.

The workforce at Timboon and District Healthcare Service (TDHS) reflects some of that same cultural diversity, with staff originating from different parts of the world, including Holland, Kenya and Nepal.

Tina at work in the Hotel Services department of TDHS.

Tina, who works in Hotel Services, is from Ukraine and migrated to Australia with her husband Alex in 2011.

They met working on a farm in Denmark after both graduating with Agronomics degrees– science of farming, including the study of soil, plants, and animals, and ways to improve the production of food on farms – in their homeland. After getting married surrounded by their family in Ukraine, they decided to try their luck in Australia, gaining more experience in a country that is known for its extensive farming knowledge and culture.

Living in Australia has been a dream come true. “It’s such a beautiful country with beautiful people,” Tina said. “And so welcoming.” While Alex was taught English at school in Ukraine, Tina had to teach herself over the years, which she finds is an integral part of integrating into the community. Their 3 kids, all born in Australia, will often correct her as they all talk ‘Australian’. She does however make sure that their Ukrainian heritage doesn’t get forgotten, by bringing them up bilingual.

Tina finds herself very lucky having a big family. “I was so surprised to see so many kids in Australia,” Tina said. “In Ukraine families only have 1 or 2 kids as it is too expensive to have more as it is quite a poor country.”

Families work very hard, but their income is often only enough to feed their family for a month, not knowing what the next month will bring. Most families have a vegetable garden and often the food is shared with other families and neighbours.

“The elderly are expected to be looked after by their children and if they don’t have children, then they can go into a retirement home,” Tina says.

After working on a farm for 10 years and rising with the sounds of the early birds songs, Tina decided she wanted to look for a job outside farming and applied for a casual Hotel Services assistant job at TDHS. The staff and consumers love her smiling face and friendly chats. Her kindness and gratitude radiate along the hallways.

“I still have to get used to the idea that it is ok to walk in an office where administration staff are busy behind the computer and that I’m not disturbing them,” Tina chuckled. “They ask me to stop apologising as I’m just doing my job.”

Tina’s eagerness to learn has seen her complete her Certificate III in Personal Care at TDHS. It meant she could do most of her placements locally without impacting on her working hours and family life. “I love caring for people, especially the elderly,” Tina

said. “We have a wonderful community and it’s good to give back some of the kindness that they’ve shown me.”

While Tina and her family feel at home here in Australia, the heartache of being away from her Ukrainian family never goes away. A global pandemic and land war in their home country has made the distance between them and their loved ones even harder to deal with.

“The war has been very hard, especially knowing that family members are either away fighting or are dealing with restricted electricity and heating supply waiting for their loved ones to return safely from the war. Some are away for quite a while, some fight for a couple of days at a time; either way, the anxious wait for their return is heartbreaking.” a teary Tina said.

However, Tina’s positive attitude always shines through. Her sister came over from Ukraine for 6 weeks over Christmas and Tina loved having her here. The war meant that she had to travel by train from Kyiv to Helsinki, a precarious part of the journey, especially since they later discovered that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used the same way of travel on his way to visiting America. “I followed my sister’s every move and was relieved when I knew she was safe on a flight to Australia. It was so good to finally have her in my arms.”

The small 3-bedroom house didn’t seem big enough as Alex’s sister and her little girl were also living with them, but for Tina it was her dream home with her family surrounding her. “The bedrooms were packed but the living area was still empty, so there was plenty of room,” Tina chuckled.

Even though her sister had to go back to Ukraine, Tina is so thankful for the time they spent together. And modern technology gives her the option to stay in touch with her family overseas.

Tina is grateful to her Australian family, the Timboon community and TDHS, for welcoming her with open arms and making her feel at home. “I haven’t got enough words, as my English isn’t very good, but this community and the healthcare service includes very good people and I’m very happy to be here.”

Cultural Diversity Week is from 11 – 21 March. Cultural awareness is interlinked with healthcare and its understanding is vital to providing consumer-centred care. Separation from family can affect our health, physically and mentally. If you or a loved one would like assistance, please contact Timboon Clinic on 5558 6088 for an appointment with a GP or contact our healthcare service on 5558 6000 to make an appointment with our Social Worker.

  • Tracey Heeps
    Posted at 23:39h, 14 March Reply

    A great story about a big-hearted girl. Tina is such an asset to out health service. Thankyou for adding a little sunshine to TDHS Tina!

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