When actions speak louder than words

There are many magical moments that define the depth of genuine multi-culturalism at Uniting AgeWell.

And one of those was when Chinese-born Registered Nurse Xiao Lin donned a sari and participated in a Bollywood dance performance to celebrate Diwali, with residents at Uniting AgeWell Kalkee Community Nangatta.

Xiao, who goes by the name of Anne An, identifies as agnostic but was delighted to perform a Hindu dance at an organisation that is proudly part of the Uniting Church and puts all religions and spiritualities on an equal footing.

“It was a wonderful moment that felt absolutely right,” says Anne.

The theme of Harmony Week, from March 20 – 26, is ‘Everyone Belongs’ and it presents an opportunity for us to celebrate what we practice each and every day. 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. A snapshot of our staff shows that 42 per cent were born overseas representing 363 countries and speaking 38 different languages.

“I’ve been at Kalkee Nangatta for over six years now, and I can honestly say that Uniting AgeWell is like a second family to me,” says Anne. “I have no intention of working anywhere else!”

And after a journey across the world, Anne is thrilled to have found her “happy place” at last.

Anne, who comes from the Yi culture which is a minority subset in China’s 56 ethnic groups, grew up in a country town in south west China.

After leaving school she studied nursing, and worked at smaller hospitals before moving to Australia in 2010 to study nursing at Deakin University in Geelong. “I have always been adventurous,” Anne says. “I was keen to learn the Western culture and work in other countries, and I had heard wonderful things about Australia.”

She found some things very different.

“What struck me about Geelong was the wide open spaces, the beautiful scenery and the lack of crowds! I was expecting high rise buildings as I had been used to the huge population in China. I also love the freedom here where people are encouraged to have their own opinions and to speak their minds.”

And Anne found some things very difficult.

“Learning to speak English was challenging, and on top of that I was studying and trying to get my head around all the medical terminology in English. It wasn’t easy,” says Anne.

She also did a number of jobs to support herself – waiting tables at restaurants and collecting trolleys at supermarkets. “This gave me a greater understanding of people going through hard times and it made me appreciate any kindness that I encountered along the way. It also certainly pushed me outside my comfort zone.”

The one thing that did make her life easier, was her name. “I chose Anne An because it was simple to remember and easy to say. It was a good decision!”

Later Anne did job placements in aged care facilities and quite simply, fell in love with older people. “My grandfather is still alive, and so many of the residents remind me of him,” says Anne. “Working in aged care means you can provide holistic, continuous care and get to know the residents and spend time with them.”

Anne felt at home from the get-go at Kalkee Nangatta. “We are like a family here. The staff are all wonderful and I have a special bond with the residents. If I can make someone happy and improve their day, then I am happy. And while some residents may not remember my name, they remember my face.”

She sometimes brings her dog, Benji to work. He’s a toy poodle and residents love to pat him.

Anne loves travelling and hopes to visit her family in China again soon. “But no matter where I travel, Geelong is my home now,” she says.

Learn more about Harmony Week