The Australian lifestyle beckons those overseas to its hope-filled shores, echoing calls of freedom, openness and economic prosperity. It offers itself as a land of opportunity and for decades has opened its arms to the brave migrants who have packed up their lives to come study, work and settle here. Though for many of these often highly skilled entrants, their stories are not as rose coloured as this image suggests.
Cristina Abela and Dr. Trini Abascal have fought tirelessly for the esteemed positions they now hold and as a mark of true character, now extend their hands to fellow Latin American migrants as co-founders of the not-for-profit organisation, Latin Stories Australia.
Beginning in 2015 as more of “a blog… just telling stories”, Latin Stories Australia soon became a focal point amongst talented Latin American migrants who were looking to connect and build networks as well as share their stories of migration and success on the platform. Cristina had taken the concept to Trini, motivated by a desire to “feel less isolated” and to connect with “people that understood where [she] came from”. The platform would post one story a month as a way of “showcasing the Latin American community” within Australia but has since exploded into the expansive and far-reaching NFP platform that exists today.
Whilst the organisation continues to “help the Latin American community to feel better included in Australian society”, Cristina and Trini agree their purpose has “changed completely” in recent years. Latin Stories Australia now offers free workshops for Latin American women, offering education on topics like gender stereotypes and inequality, family violence, cultural diversity and resilience – delivering 15 of these between July 2019 and March 2020.
Despite their individual success and the continued growth of their shared venture, the journey has not always been one of triumph. Dr. Abascal, with 2 Master’s degrees and a PhD, still struggled to find a stable job and after 8 years in Australia has only just landed her first full-time position. Whilst battling “a lack of networks” and the inherent cultural differences after moving to Melbourne in 2012, Trini admits these experiences and lessons have “transformed [her] identity” and still battles with the notion that she will “always be a migrant”.
Cristina faced similar cultural conflicts after moving to Melbourne to complete her Master of Science. The intense pressure of studies and what she calls the “migration experience” lead to a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue as a result of the consistent stress. She says, “we feel strongly about helping others because we have our story too” and therein lies the inspiration at the heart of Latin Stories Australia.
Both women concur it was the “way of life” and the “opportunity” that brought them to Australia. Trini notes, “you can be whatever you want here” and the $170,000 funding that Latin Stories Australia has proudly attracted to deliver projects to the community is proof of the opportunities available to those willing to strive for it. The organisation continues to grow, utilising their Inspiring Immigration Series to inform their work the following year. These personal insights help them “identify and discover trends in the needs of the community”, allowing Latin Stories to better focus its efforts on these needs and create the positive change they desire.
Somos21 is incredibly proud to associate with Latin Stories Australia and with the inspirational women at its helm. They, alongside the incredible men and women who feature on the platform, are a testament to the breadth of skill and character the Latin American continent has to share with Australia and to the opportunities that await them here. Cristina says, “we are proof that it can happen here” and thanks to the collective effort that continues to grow Latin Stories Australia, there is certainly only more proof to come.
Check out all the incredible work Cristina, Trini and their amazing team do in the links below
Cristina Abela & Dr. Trini Abascal
Written by Jackson Millwood, Social Impact/Melbourne Chapter Representative