Ziv arrived in Australia when he was 29 years old, having travelled here alone. He already had eight years’ experience in IT, including project management and support centre design and management experience. His previous projects were for some of Israel’s leading system integrators, handling top secret and highly mission-critical environments such as the ministry of defence, police force and the army, as well as banks, insurance companies and similar organisations. His first stop was Melbourne in the early 2000’s to assist an elderly relative after his wife was admitted to a nursing home. He fell in love with the place, and decided to try and stay if he could.
However, he felt there was a gridlock with employment. He was plagued with questions and anxieties over why he had not received at least one call back after submitting dozens of CVs for various positions. Although his credentials were of a high standard and there were definite gaps in the market for people with his level of expertise. He felt that there was a general mistrust and misconception about foreigners and a reluctance to place them in any position of responsibility.
Frustrated, he met a friend for coffee who basically taught him how to ‘play the game’. He told him it was highly probable his foreign name was the cause of the lack of response. ‘He suggested I “fly under the radar” – and change my name. He told me this was ‘common practice for migrants’.
When asked if this changing his identity to gain working options felt like a clash with his authentic self, Ziv replied ‘Yes. I have never changed my name anywhere, since then. From memory, I think I chose “Zack”, which held some similarity to my real name. Immediately after this switch, I finally started getting called back and invited to interviews, but still couldn’t get past the initial interview… not sure why, since my credentials were more than sufficient (actually, I was overqualified for most jobs), guessing it might have been my accent, which was still evident at the time, but not sure’.
‘One of the sponsors for my initial visa was a CEO of an agency specialising in assisting professional expats to secure a work visa and he was made aware of a position which had been made available by a family member. He noted the guy was Jewish, and thought the fact that I was from Israel might go down well. In retrospect he was right and I’m happy I took it. Because, at that point, I was interviewing for just under six months and never made it past the first interview. The position was smaller than what I had imagined and similar to positions I had worked on very early on in my career’.
“I met my wife on the Gold Coast. She is Japanese. At this stage I was grateful to finally have a job. It had been a very anxious wait. I really did not want to go back to Israel at this stage since, like most Israelis in Australia, I had come to escape the environment there, I had completed my military service and performed my ‘duty’ for my country. Additionally, when I made the initial interview I fell in love with the Gold Coast and decided to relax about career mobility and the standards I had set for myself and focus on lifestyle choices instead, something you are largely deprived of in Israel. I ended up staying with them for the better part of nine years, and considering my experience; the work wasn’t very demanding at all, which left me with plenty of time to enjoy life. This was just great; I loved being out of a high stress environment’.
When asked how Ziv would rate his experience outside the workforce, including on a societal, family level, and if he encountered further racism, he answered:
“So many times I don’t know where to start! I have met some great people here, but also had more than one encounter with both casual and not so casual racism. Having a smoke outside the hospital, listening to someone rant on and on about how in Melbourne, where he comes from, the Jews bought everything and are destroying the city…Then he asks “Where are you from?” and when I say Israel, he pauses for just a second before transferring his rant over to the Chinese.”
Another, this time at the airport – again on a smoke break – next to me was the bus driver for a Japanese tour bus – also taking a break while they loaded on or off the bus. I saw the tour company was Japanese, which I was quite familiar with at that point, so I asked him “Speak the language yet?” He goes “Hell no, it’s all ‘pichi pichi’ monkey talk to me.”
Another one – Australia Day BBQ… spent on the beach with some friends and their friends – next to us was a group of African guys doing their own BBQ – one of our group leans in close to me and whispers “Should have brought some bananas with me.”
Yet another time, in line waiting to go into a nightclub and chatting to my friend, we got verbally abused because “you better speak English if we can hear you, otherwise we don’t know what the fuck you’re saying. You could be talking about us.”
“I think because I don’t look extremely foreign, I often hear more of it as it’s directed towards others.”
“I think, maybe I am generalising here but maybe women suffer the brunt of more explicit racial abuse – maybe because they’re perceived as less of a risk to take on. My mother has received hate mail like you wouldn’t believe! Mom, who likes to sit on her balcony and chat on the phone to her friends while babysitting Ori, my son, was getting anonymous hate letters along the lines of “Your filthy heathen language carries down our beautiful street and pollutes it”, “Your feral child should be taken away from you”, etc.”
“Yes, this is racial equality at its’ finest, scaremongering families in their own home”.
“(My mother) …was shocked but she chooses not to engage with that sort of behaviour. Instead, she facilitates multi-cultural groups on the Gold Coast. Despite being Jewish and Israeli, we are not especially religious and value multiculturalism. I have incorporated my wife’s Japanese family name with mine. Acceptance and education is the key, I think that is what will help Australia grow and become the country it claims to be”.
Ziv relocated to Japan with his family, where he and his wife are the owner- operators of a very successful real estate company ‘Nippon Tradings’ which matches global purchasing opportunities in Japan with buyers around the world. They continue to visit family and friends in Australia every few years.
Having lived in several countries and visited countless more, he still considers Australia to be one of the most blatantly racist countries he has ever visited.
Interview by Alison Wilson. Photo provided by Ziv.