Emergency department nurse Michael Ayayi is one of many refugees who’s been working on the frontline helping people with COVID-19. He’s always wanted to help people and give back to the Australian community that took him and his family in. It’s been a long road to get to his current situation, but now he’s living happily in Surrey Hills, Melbourne with his girlfriend and dog.
“Mum came here as a refugee because there was a civil war going on in Liberia. She was here for five or six years before we managed to get here, but we had not actually seen her for nine years because we were separated during the civil war.
“My dad, sister, brother and myself were in Ivory Coast at the time and came here in 2011. Mum came to escape the civil war and Dad wanted us to be a family again and to have a better education and future.
“Today, I am a registered emergency department nurse. I’ve always been motivated to help people and I really wanted to give back to the Australian community and Australia in general.
There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding Africans in Australia; people often think we are trouble makers or violent but that is not the case for all of us.
“Often in my community I feel like once we come to Australia, the mentality is to go directly to full time work without any higher education qualifications. This means that often the jobs are not high paying or there is little to no long term career progression.
“There is also an unspoken fear that we do not want to pursue our dreams because we are scared of failure. While Australia is a multicultural country, we still feel like if we go and study and then go for a job interview – they will not choose someone like us.
“The Ghanaian Youth Association of Victoria is a small community-driven group that puts on soccer events, celebrations and so on. I am only a quarter Ghanaian but it is one of the only African communities I have joined since I came to Australia. The leaders of the community encourage the younger ones to pursue their dreams.
“Of course my parents, siblings and girlfriend also give me hope and always encourage me to keep working hard. I was lucky enough that my parents wanted me to study before working full time and I am grateful for the opportunities they have given me. By doing nursing I feel I am able to give back to the community for giving me and my family an opportunity for a better life here.
“When Covid-19 started we were really busy, but it’s started settling down now. At first I was pretty excited. This is what I had trained for, this was what all the studying was for – I could utilise all my knowledge from university.
“I was also a bit nervous though.We didn’t really know what we would be facing, what we would be getting into. For nurses and doctors it’s all about treating people who are sick and injured and sending them home well. But with this, we knew from what was happening overseas that the nurses and doctors were getting sick too, so I was slightly scared. But the other side of it was that I knew this was a great opportunity to use my skills and learn even more.
“My life was basically going to work and go home because of the lockdown. I didn’t really see anyone outside of my work and family. But I live in a great community and everyone was so kind. When I got home from work there would be boxes of chocolates on my doorstep! Everyone was so supportive! I would also get lovely text messages from my soccer club and friends.
“Everyone has been so wonderful through what’s obviously been a difficult time.”