Undefeated: 90 migrant women share their stories

3 July 2023

Be moved, uplifted and inspired by stories from migrant women who have – against the odds – overcome the challenges of living in a foreign land to make Melbourne their home.

We supported a changemaking volunteer-run organisation called Professional Migrant Women to create a book of stories from local migrant women called Undefeated.

Lina Orozco Múnera contributed two stories to the book and illustrated its cover.

“I arrived in Melbourne from Colombia five years ago. I was by myself and I didn’t know anyone. It was a big shock. One of my stories in Undefeated is about my first day in Melbourne,” Lina said.

“Back home I had a degree and an ascending career, but when I came to Melbourne I had to start from scratch. I was in my late 20s, working as a waitress for the first time and pouring all my savings into my masters degree.

“For two years I just studied and worked. I didn’t have a community. I felt very lonely and battled with my mental health. I asked myself: why did I come here and what am I doing with my life?”

After her masters, Lina worked for a social enterprise dedicated to preventing violence against women. This inspired her to volunteer to help women – especially migrants, because she knew the struggles they face.

Lina was invited to observe Professional Migrant Women’s flagship mentoring program and discovered a kindred community of women.

“We were from all over the world, but our struggles and insecurities were the same: loneliness, missing family, not having a network, feeling like we’re not good enough and fearing that our English wouldn’t be understood,” Lina said.

“It was so nice to be among women who’d been in my shoes. There was real empathy, positivity and understanding – we lifted each other up. I met some of my closest friends in that room.”

Professional Migrant Women is run by a small but mighty group of volunteers. They create a safe space where migrant women can create personal and professional connections to enrich their lives and careers.

At every networking event and workshop, volunteers, guest speakers and participants share remarkable stories. Undefeated aims to share these stories more widely to help people understand the migrant experience.

When the team put the call out for stories, diverse migrant women from Melbourne and across Australia responded in droves. The book came together through writing and editing workshops supported by the City of Melbourne.

“We knew that the stories should be told in the women’s own voices, and our volunteer editor understood this goal, preserving the essence of the book,” Lina said.

“You can hear the women’s voices as you turn the pages.”

A large group of women of many nationalities, several holding the Undefeated book.
Authors and allies celebrate the launch of the book

Undefeated is a collection of short 500-word stories. The order reflects the migrant’s journey – from arrival, through loneliness and hardships, to feeling more settled, with uplifting stories of joy and success.

“The stories are not all sad – they also celebrate the bright side of being a migrant and how we’ve all somehow found a home here in Australia,” Lina said.

“That journey from struggles to support and blossoming through new adventures is beautiful to me. I tried to convey this in the cover illustration.”

A book called Undefeated.

The 90 authors have taken ownership of Undefeated, creating spaces to share the work at libraries and community spaces across the country. A podcast has also been created to delve deeper into the stories.

“One of the authors, Christine, wanted to share her story so her grandchildren could understand more about her journey from Malaysia 20 years ago, and know where they came from,” Lina said.

“Christine was retired from her career, but now everyone is asking her about the book and she’s going on book tours. It’s become a new profession for her, and she’s really seeing the impact of her story.”

Looking ahead, Professional Migrant Women will relaunch its flagship mentoring program alongside a job-readiness program and a few surprise projects. Lina is supporting the group as Brand and Communications Lead.

“I went to my first International Women’s Day event in 2021 and for the first time saw brilliant migrant women in leadership positions. This year, I was a panelist – I couldn’t believe it,” Lina said.

“Our motto at Professional Migrant Women is: if she can see it, she can be it – and this is true. If I hadn’t seen those brilliant women, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

For more information, visit Professional Migrant Women.

Lina speaking in a panel of women.
Lina speaking at the International Women’s Day event

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