Dual citizenship’s not always a liability!

Not many people can say that they have a family in two different continents but CatholicCare’s Virginia Tsang is very used to having a Mum and Dad in Australia and a 媽媽 and 爸爸 in Hong Kong. She shares her story.

I was born in Hong Kong and my journey to CatholicCare began when I was just 13 years old. My parents suggested that I experience living in another country for 12 months on a school exchange program.

After a lengthy application process, I took my first step on Australian soil at the age of 15, when I was placed with a beautiful host family of five in the mid north coast town of Wauchope.

Moving from bustling Hong Kong with a population of over 7 million, to a small country town of around 7000, some culture shock is only to be expected.

Skyscrapers and congestion were replaced with open fields and animals I had only ever seen in movies.

I had never seen cows before, never seen farms and suddenly I was surrounded by both.

I was enrolled at the town’s only high school, Wauchope High, and went straight into Year 11, feeling overwhelmed and underprepared.

When I first arrived in Australia, I had very basic English and my grades weren’t good as a result. Every afternoon, I would go home and watch “Neighbours” and “Home and Away” to improve my English!

After 12 months adjusting to life in Australia, I realised that one year just wasn’t enough. With the support of my parents and my host family, I continued my schooling and graduated from Year 12.  

From a very young age I had my heart set on social work. I was attracted to a role I thought would be rewarding, helping people and changing lives.

I enrolled in a Community Service Welfare course at Port Macquarie TAFE before leaving Wauchope for Newcastle to study a Bachelor of Social Science at the University of Newcastle.

Fresh out of university, my very first job was at CatholicCare Social Services − and I’ve been there ever since! I began in the Youth Service Links to Independence Homelessness Program.

Hungry to further my skills, I moved on to the position of Out of Home Care Caseworker, where I remained for four years before gaining the position of Accreditation Project Officer. I also had the opportunity to build on my knowledge while being seconded to Young Adult Services and Disability Services.

I’m currently working as Acting Program Development Manager for Out of Home Care.

CatholicCare has so many different departments that have given me the freedom to work out what I’m good at and what I really want to do.

Having two families and living with ‘non-biological parents’ gave me a deeper understanding of children in foster care.

Having two sets of parents requires a special set of skills to navigate day-to-day situations, especially when experiencing divided loyalty.

Both my sets of parents have two distinctly different approaches to parenting!

Perhaps the best example of this is their reactions after I was involved in a car accident.

My parents in Hong Kong were worried about the car, insurance and who was at fault, whereas my Aussie family offered more emotional support. My Australian Mum made me a cup of tea and brought me flowers.

While juggling two family dynamics can sometimes be a challenge, I consider myself lucky – I have double the love!

I’ve always maintained a close relationship with my family members in Hong Kong and they plan a holiday in Australia or Hong Kong every 18 months.

In 2016, I became a dual citizen of Hong Kong and Australia, reflecting my life shared between the two countries.

Although I have settled into the Australian way of life and have ‘Summer Bay’ to thank for my English, I still struggle with Australian slang. My friends are always teaching me crazy new phrases.

Hopefully I’m becoming a fair dinkum Aussie!

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Virginia Tsang Image
Virginia Tsang

Virginia Tsang is Acting Program Development Manager for Out of Home Care, CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning

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