Where he comes from:
Roberto comes from San Salvador, the capital of the beautiful El Salvador. Located in the centre of the continent, El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. It is filled with wonderful people, lovely places, nature, food, culture and great weather, making it a tremendous country to live or visit. Roberto remembers Christmas as the best time of the year, filled with family, sharing and reflecting. It is celebrated on Christmas Eve, but its special spirit starts when the cold breeze arrives and with it a special atmosphere.
How he got to Australia:
When Roberto was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, El Salvador was plagued by social, political and economic problems, which led to the Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992). Like many young people, he joined to fight against those terrible conditions and his life was never the same again. Roberto was heavily involved in the social movement and unions that were working to change the injustice. He finds it painful to remember the events of the war and how many relatives, friends and colleagues lost their lives in their fight to build a better El Salvador.
Many sad and dangerous things happened in Roberto’s life during the war: he was imprisoned, his family home was targeted and destroyed by a bomb, and he found himself in the midst of the biggest military offence on the capital city. Roberto met his wife Tomasa in 1989 and after the birth of their first child, it became apparent that due to Roberto’s prominent role in the opposition movement, it was too dangerous to raise their family in El Salvador. Although a peace agreement was signed and the Salvadoran Civil War officially ended in 1992, Roberto’s life remained in danger and some of his colleagues from the opposition movement were killed. Roberto and Tomasa lodged an application for refugee status at the Australian consulate and upon review of their unmistakable evidence of life threats were granted humanitarian visas to live in Australia.
The beginning was hard. It was as if Roberto woke up in a new world where he did not know the language, had no friends or recognisable skills, and no vision for the future. Yet he had the enormous responsibility of three young children. He could not picture what his new life was to look like and so he took each day step by step. He attended English classes and then got a community nursing home care qualification, followed by an IT certificate. Unfortunately, no matter how hard he tried, he could not even get an interview for an IT job. At that time, he was also working with the community it became clear that his real talent was in that area.
The best thing about Australia is the multi-culturalism: people from many parts of the world, cultures and religions living in relative peace.
Recognising his natural ability to work with people, Roberto went on to study Community Development at Dandenong TAFE.
One of Roberto’s lecturers was impressed with this performance and offered him his current job at Good Shepherd Social Mission & Justice. It took seven years of hard work to get to achieve this success.
Roberto and Tomasa have four children: two girls and two boys. Their ages are 5, 15, 18 and 20. The oldest son is at university studying mechanical engineering, the middle two attend high school and the youngest goes to primary school.
Roberto’s family likes to spend time together and enjoys sharing a meal every night. Holidays of camping and bushwalking in places like Warrnambool, Philip Island and Byron Bay are also a favourite pastime. Roberto’s personal interests include social justice and helping people in need. Building on his own experience of resettling in Australia, he works with refugees and asylum seekers and supports them in building a new life. He also advocates for the responsible usage of products and is a big promoter of Fair Trade.
What he likes about Australia the most:
Roberto says that the best thing about Australia is the multi-culturalism: people from many parts of the world, cultures and religions living in relative peace (although he is worried about increases in attacks and violence). This country greatly benefits from the sharing of values brought to it by people from different parts of the globe.
What he misses about El Salvador the most:
Hopes and dreams:
Roberto is still not sure what his future looks like. The picture he struggled to build when he arrived in Australia does not seem much clearer. When he was in El Salvador he had a strong vision of what he was fighting for - this is not the case in Australia. Even though he is involved in many social justice projects, he has one foot in Australia and one in El Salvador and does not feel complete. As any parent, he hopes that his children are healthy and happy, have good jobs and loving families, but the vision for his own future has been hazy ever since he left El Salvador.
Australia is such a rich country – why is there still so much structural inequity? Why don’t people do more? How is it that Nestle can still get away with buying cocoa produced by enslaved children in Africa? Why are asylum seekers not looked after and what about the Indigenous people? It’s not fair. So much material wealth should equal better morals and social justice. He asks his fellow Australians: “Can we work together for a better Australia?”