A great southern migration

25 September 2015

Written by: Hugh Martin

Jack Tougen moved from Paama Island in Vanuatu to Bendigo in May 2009.

Since arriving in Australia, he’s learned to become a pilot, studied a Certificate IV in Master Training, and completed a Diploma of Information Technology.

He’s currently studying a Bachelor of Information Technology at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus.

Having worked in Vanuatu at resorts, and flying seaplanes, Tougen wanted to create a better life for himself.

“I came over to study, it happened by luck,” he tells upstart.

“The standard of living is very high here, though you need a lot more money here to survive.”

For the last two years, Tougen has lived off his scholarship from Vanuatu. Before this, he was sponsored by an Australian family.

Now, he works casually at a herb and flower supplier to make ends meet while he studies.

He says Australia’s culture and lifestyle is completely different to Vanuatu’s.

“Living in a village at home, we farmed the land for our own food, whereas the farming here is commercial farming. The lifestyle here is very different, it is more high pressure here, and people are always on the go,” he says.

“There [are] more things to do here than back home. We live a very quiet life in the villages on my home island.”

He says he’s happy to now call Bendigo home.

“The city of Bendigo is very nice, the people are very nice. Bendigo has everything I need, and if it doesn’t, Melbourne is very close.”

Tougen’s sponsor family helped him learn English, and provided him with a place to live when he first moved to Australia. He says he’s extremely grateful for their help.

Tougen’s uncle and grandfather helped him make the decision to move to Australia.

“My uncle told me to go and experience Australia. My family is happy and supportive of what I am doing in Australia.”

He says the things he misses most from Vanuatu are the warm climate and his family.

“I would love to show my Australian friends my home village, and would love to show my friends how life is like in the village.”

Tougen proudly speaks of Vanuatu’s ranking as the happiest place on earth, despite being one of the world’s poorest nations.

He has a group of Nivan friends living in Australia that he sees regularly.

“There are a few mates from home, in Melbourne, but there is no one from home here in Bendigo. We get together, talk about home, we encourage each other. We do this over a meal and a few beers.”

Tougan has a passion for space and flying, and hopes his career will lead in that direction.

“I really love outer-space, I would really love to work in a space agency. If that cannot happen I would love to work in aviation,” he says.

“I encourage people to go and explore the world, and see what the world can offer you. There is plenty for people to see and do.”


Feature image courtesy of Jack Tougen.

Sean Fanning is a Masters of Journalism Innovation student at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter here: @sfanning_benigo.