From fruit farming to Fairfield, Albert’s success story
By any measure of success Albert Abdal has a lot to be proud of. He owns his own painting business, a home in Fairfield and he enjoys a full and rich life with his wife and three beautiful children.
It is a long way from his former existence as a fruit farmer in pre-war Syria and then as a refugee in Australia, where he “started from zero”.
Reflecting on the decade since he fled his homeland, Albert prefers to think about what he has gained rather than what he has lost. He puts his successful settlement down to this positive attitude, hard work, determination and the help of the Australian Government and Navitas Skilled Futures.
“I was born in a village and was always a farmer,” Albert says. “We used to grow many kinds of fruits, on 20,000 square metres of beautiful land – the best was apples and grapes. But now what is left of the farm is nothing. My home is like a desert.”
While he misses Syria “very much” Albert says he is grateful for his new life in Australia: “I would like to thank Australian Government for everything because they saved my family, everything here is good and the teaching free.”
When he arrived in Australia with his mother, siblings, wife and two eldest children in 2015, Albert enrolled in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP). He knew that learning English was the gateway to future opportunities.
Described by his teacher as “a very driven student”, Albert completed nine months of lessons, obtaining his Certificate 1 and 2, then moving on to further study to complete his Certificate 3 and 4 in Customer Service. It wasn’t long before his children (now aged 6, 9 and 10) were helping him improve his English, and he now returns the favour, tutoring them in Assyrian to ensure they stay connected to their culture.
In the Syrian winters when the farm didn’t need tending, Albert had his own business polishing tiles, and fortunately, he also helped a friend and learned how to paint.
“When I came to Australia I don’t find that job (polishing),” Albert says. “I asked many builders and they said Australia has wood, we don’t know ceramic, so you cannot find that job.”
But Albert recognised that painting was a job from which he could make a good living.
“In one month [after my studies] I bought a ute and tools and started the job of painting, mostly [residential] houses,” Albert says. “I love it.”
Albert is now an Australian Citizen, gaining his citizenship last year – something he is very proud of.
He says he loves Australia and the life he has been able to build for himself, and he is still able to maintain ties to his past through his own Assyrian poetry. Albert often recites his poems at local Assyrian events, publishes them on social media and plans to reproduce his favourites in a book later this year.
“I love to write in Assyrian language,” Albert says. “I started writing poems at 15 years old. Now I do it for history, and humanity.”