Settling for a whole new life in a regional city is a game changer for most migrants from various parts of the globe.
Dubbo has become a melting pot for migrants, and the Daily Liberal got the chance to spend time with families from five different countries this week.
Dubbo Regional Council has welcomed 6,439 new residents into the region since 2020. The population pendulum has kept rising since 2016 and many are migrants attracted to the newfound lifestyle and variety of work opportunities.
The local migrant support officer for Connecting Community Services (CCC), Khaled Taleb has moved here from Lebanon, and through him, we had a glimpse at their lives in a fast-growing town.
We met them as they gathered with their children at a playgroup run under the NSW Department of Education's Schools as Community Centre (SaCC) program held on Wednesdays at Dubbo South Public School on Fitzroy Street.
Umar Deen from Sri Lanka, Salam Farachi from Lebanon, Azlinah Salt from Singapore, Lillia Ramos from the Philippines, and Hend Al-Azzani from Yemen were among those in attendance.
"I moved to Dubbo from Melbourne under the 491 skilled migrant visa," 34-year-old Mr Deen said.
"Luckily I found a job within three weeks ... Now, I am employed at Real Pet Food as a quality controller."
NSW is among the states and territories in Australia that accepts migrants holding 491 visas so they can live, study and work anywhere in designated migration regions such as Dubbo, staying here for a minimum of five years.
Mr Deen, his wife, and their young daughter have found a home in Dubbo even after initially encountering difficulties finding a rental place.
Rental homes have become scarce around the Dubbo Regional Council area with an estimated 5000 new residents flocking here in the last two years alone.
"We've been here over a year, enjoying work and living here. I work full-time [and do] much overtime sometimes," Mr Deen added.
Mrs Salt has married a local and had been living in Dubbo in the last three years, witnessing the extent of the destruction from the drought and mouse plague in her first year.
"When I moved here, it was hard to see the drought ... but over the years I can see it improving ... it looks much better now. I like my life here," she said.
Though childless at the moment, Mrs Salt attends the playgroup's reading time organised by SaCC coordinator Lorna Brennan.
Migrant families with school-age children have no access to subsidised preschool or playgroups other than existing SaCCs at more than 45 schools in the state.
"Migrant families are not entitled to fee relief on any form of formal early childhood education for their children," Ms Brennan said.
"Long day care costs around $140 per day without fee relief and that [amount] come down around $40 with fee relief.
"SaCC playgroups are the only places these children can access socialisation and learn English among the many other skills that they need to practice prior to attending school.
"Dubbo needs to catch up with service provision for migrants. We have grown so fast over the past five years and infrastructure has to catch up and be modified to suit various needs now presented here."
The parents of migrant children attending the playgroups also get to join in the reading sessions, as well as learn insights into the Australian culture and way of life, Ms Brennan, a migrant from Scotland, said.
For example, next week the playgroup will travel 42 kilometres to Uncle Ralph Naden's Aboriginal Cultural Camp at Balladoran to understand traditional Indigenous practices such as spear throwing, smoking ceremony, yabby fishing and hear The Dreaming Stories.
About 200 local families are part of the SaCC at Dubbo schools and around the state, 45 SaCCs are run by coordinators. Some volunteers assist Ms Brennan some days to extend the service to more families who want to register with SaCC.
A job at Dubbo Hospital opened the pathway for Miss Ramos to experience living outside the big smoke where she spent a few years before moving here.
"I started work as a casual [staff], then became a permanent part-time and now I am a full-time worker. I enjoy my work, especially in the ward with patients. I love talking to people ... Life here is good for me," Miss Ramos said.
Mrs Farachi, a science teacher in Lebanon is Mr Taleb's wife and they have two young children, a two-year-old boy, and a four-year-old girl which keep the family busy.
"It's been amazing in the last four years ...my daughter goes to school next year," she said excitedly as she paused reading a book to the children.
Mrs Farachi has relatives who have lived for a long time in Dubbo so she and Mr Taleb have extended family supporting them as they settled in the town.
She is also finding more friends through her husband's work
"I have found lots of friends ... I like cooking [Lebanese foods] and have some ideas I might do in the future," she said.
Mr Taleb, a media professional in Lebanon found his first job in Dubbo at Fletchers Export International.
Having transferrable skills in the media field has expanded the chances for Mr Taleb to get an "exciting and challenging job connecting migrants to support services."
He said assisting new arrivals find services that offer free driving and swimming lessons is among the support programs CCC is offering.
"I am thrilled with the positive outcomes I see, I get so excited when I see them," Mr Taleb said.
"With my experience as a migrant, I become more familiar with the challenges my peers and clients face, their circumstances, and their needs."
The free programs are offered through the Dubbo RSL Aquatic and Health Club which sponsors the expenses for five persons to learn driving and swimming for ten lessons each.
"This was made possible by the club manager, Carmen Appleby, we were overwhelmed and impressed by the outcomes of this program," Mr Taleb said.
"So many migrants approached us, acknowledged us, and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn swimming."
The Bamara Driver's Licence Access Program is organised by Adeline Duncan, the CCC program manager, for migrants who need help to convert their overseas license into Australian qualification.
Among the new families, however, Mrs Al-Azzani said they are sad to be moving out as her husband, an electrical engineer, has been offered a much better job in Melbourne where his skills are needed.
"We like living in a small country town because it's easy for me to get around. Hopefully, we can stay and not live in a big city. We love Dubbo," Mrs Al-Azzani said.
They have three children aged 16, 14, and seven and while in Dubbo, Mrs Al-Azzani said she completed Certificate 2 in English Language and Certificate 3 in Child Care at the local TAFE.
She regrets leaving her job at Red Gum Child Care Centre but feels confident she will find future opportunities to establish her centre, she said.
"I hope we stay," she said.