An impossible choice

Uniting AgeWell Care Advisor Manjeet Kaur faced a decision no mother should ever have to make: to sacrifice seeing her son for two years to secure their future in Australia or return to India to be reunited with him.

And during Harmony Week, from March 20 – 26, it’s time celebrate people like Manjeet, and reflect that the theme of the week, ‘Everyone Belongs’ mirrors what we practice here at Uniting AgeWell each and every day.

This inclusiveness is not only championed by Uniting AgeWell, but enshrined in our blueprint and is one of our five values – the others are kindness, respect, integrity and innovation.

Manjeet’s terrible choice started a few years ago when her parents came over from India to visit her and her baby boy. Manjeet was in a happy place - she’d finally found her niche in life in a career that had meaning. Working with older people in the Launceston community in Tasmania.

Her parents decided to take her son back with them for a little holiday. But within a few short weeks of them leaving, COVID-19 caused international flights to be grounded and Australia’s borders were slammed closed.

Manjeet concluded that if she flew to India to be reunited with her son, she may not be able to return to Australia in the near future, and that her application for Permanent Residency may be compromised.

“I needed to think long-term, for what was best not only for my husband and I, but for my son. And growing up in Australia is the best thing I could do for him, so I waited for COVID restrictions to lift,” says Manjeet. “It was hard. And it took a lot longer than expected. It was two years before I could be reunited with my little boy.”

Manjeet now has her son with her and a career that she is passionate about and she says her long journey to where she now is, has been worth it.

And it has been an eventful journey. Manjeet did a Degree in Multi-Media in India and worked as a graphic designer before moving to Australia with her husband in 2017, where she did her Masters in Accounting and started work for an accounting company.

But Manjeet has a huge heart and yearned for a career that had meaning. She had always been drawn to older people, and so she studied a Cert III in Aged Care and Disability and moved to Tasmania to take up a position as a home care worker at Uniting AgeWell in mid-2021. Her talent was quickly realised, and she became a Care Advisor in the Home Care team.

“I love what I do,” says Manjeet. “And I find that I use my accounting background a great deal in helping explain budgets and finances to clients on home care packages.”

However, her journey has not been without obstacles. Manjeet, whose home language is Pinjabi, found studying in English relatively easy, but initially struggled to understand the Aussie accent.

The reverse seldom applies. “Only one in a hundred clients will say they struggle to understand my accent, but that’s okay. We are a multi-cultural society, it is to be expected.”

The devout Sikh says that Uniting AgeWell is an inclusive, caring organisation to work for, and she has nothing but praise for her Program Manager Ann Bingham. “The staff have been so supportive, I have been made to feel like I belong from day one,” she says.

Learn more about Harmony Week