At first having to combat Ballarat’s wild weather and face the culture shock of a new country, Meeta Narsi has now made Australia her home, and is assisting others to do the same.
Ms Narsi moved to Australia from South Africa with her family in 1998, having lived through the segregation of the country’s apartheid era.
While language was no barrier, she said it “took time to make a circle of good friends”, but volunteering at her son’s school gave her a sense of community and connection.
“When we first arrived here, the weather was a big shock, when we moved it was miserable and it was wet,” Ms Narsi said.
“It was a tough time, trying to find our place and our feet and learn the ways of Australia.
“I used to volunteer at the school my son was attending, so I made some friends there, and then slowly, slowly, we developed networks.”
Ms Narsi worked as a multicultural ambassador for the City of Ballarat between 2012 and 2014.
She said while the city’s cultural integration could always be improved, there had been a radical shift in Ballarat since the 1990s.
“Ballarat is more diverse now, and people are accepting of other cultures and more willing to accept each other,” Ms Narsi said.
“There is always work to do in every area, but it’s just about taking that first step and say we want to make a change, and be willing to go out there and share your culture and experience.”
Ms Narsi proudly promotes the Ballarat Indian Association, where she is president. Closer to home, she’s made sure to keep her traditions alive by celebrating cultural events with her child.
“They’ve got to learn the culture of Australia as well as keeping informed about our culture, that’s how they’ll develop within the two cultures,” she said.
“And that’s the only way they’re going to take it forward as well, because you need to keep them in touch with your culture.”
Ms Narsi is now an advisor for the multicultural program, where she mentors new ambassadors.
Applications are now open for the ambassador program for 2018-2021.Ambassadors must have lived in Ballarat for at least six months and be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or hold a visa.
For more information, contact the City of Ballarat’s cultural partnerships office.