WHEN YOUR ADOPTED CITY BECOMES YOUR SECOND FAMILY
Ojay Moka grew up in Papua and New Guinea’s capital of Port Moresby. As the focal hub of a developing country it’s a vastly different experience from a fast emerging cosmopolitan centre like the Gold Coast, the city he now calls home.
“I’m from a large family with eight siblings where the house was always noisy and full of fun. It was interesting growing up with the different challenges I faced – Port Moresby is definitely not renowned for its safety, but I had a good childhood.”
Ojay’s parents wanted him to have a good education. “I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but as I grew up I began to realise the importance of education. I loved sport when I was growing up, but playing sport has a limited time-frame, so I had to think about doing something else with my life.”
When Ojay embarked on his Australian adventure in search of a suitable university he was initially drawn to Queensland’s capital. “I had a look around Brisbane when I first got here, but it was too crowded and busy for me. So I headed to the Gold Coast and checked out all of the university campuses. When I got to Southern Cross I really liked the small campus, the relaxed atmosphere and its location by the beach. I knew it was the right university for me.”
Even though Australia and PNG are geographical neighbours it was a challenging prospect for Ojay moving to a new country to study. “To come from a large family and then suddenly having to be reliant on yourself was strange for me, but I overcame that with a willingness to get out there and get involved with the university and the community.”
As a former junior rugby representative for PNG throughout the Pacific and in Africa for the Junior World Trophy, sport became Ojay’s conduit to connect with the Gold Coast community, but he kept his mind clearly on the prize.
“Even though I continued to play rugby at university it had to take a backseat to my study, which was my priority. And while footy was a big help in making me feel at home here I really wanted to extend myself from that environment.
The key for me was getting out in the community and getting involved with the university in different capacities. I was an International Ambassador for Southern Cross University and sat on their student board, helping out by meeting both local and international students – it really made me feel comfortable within university life.”
It wasn’t long before the idea of living on the Gold Coast became an appealing option for Ojay. “Once I settled in to the Gold Coast I began to enjoy the lifestyle. I really enjoy my coffee and I love the chilled out café lifestyle. I settled in much quicker than I expected, thanks to some great people around me.
The Gold Coast is a city that embraces diversity, I never felt uncomfortable because of who I was or where I’d come from. It’s got such a welcoming atmosphere and it also has a vibrant multicultural community. There’s so much to do here, I think we’ve got something really special in this city.”
By the time Ojay had made up his mind to call the Gold Coast his home he did so with the full support of his family. “I think deep down they’d like me to return home, but at the same time they’re also happy for me knowing that I have the opportunity here to chase my dream. They want the best for me and I’m very grateful for that.
It’s hard at times, you miss home, you miss your family, you miss the food and the banter with your brothers and sisters. But I do love living here and I’m thankful for their understanding and support.”
And what exactly is that dream? “I love working in international education in different capacities and being involved in the wider community. It feels like one big family.”