Tiff Tan

Tiff Tan


My visa expires on May 14. I need to extend it. I already paid a migration agent $5500; now they ask for more, like another $2500. It’s not right. I have been here 10 years. I was supposed to get the permanent residency already. But you need to get a six on the English test, I got 5.5. Because of this crisis I’m scared of going to the city for another test — the government made a rule, we have to do social distancing, so I have to cancel.

I’m getting used to Melbourne by now. Home? I don’t know. It’s a home – you get used to it. My career is here. I have a new job in Sorrento; he is a good boss. But the restaurant where I work, they just do delivery and take-away now, because of the coronavirus. They don’t need so many chefs. After the crisis is over, I’m sure he will hire back the staff. But the boss sent me a message, “I think you need to get your English score up because if we advertise a chef job, I know we will get thousands of applicants”. I don’t blame the restaurant, they helped me as much as they could. He appreciated the staff, treated them like a family member.


If the lockdown goes one month, two months, I still can survive, I still have food to eat. But after three months, I have to find a job. I hope the government will change its mind about the JobKeeper for people on visas. The government needs to be fair and equal and support every person here.

First day I came to Australia, I had nowhere to go. I had one backpack. I left everything, my car, quit my job. Start my life again. I studied hospitality for two years. After that I continued in business management, another two years. I paid all the school fees by myself. I studied, I worked hard. I’m proud of myself.


Last year, I spoke out about Hochi Mama. They sent a lawyer letter to me. I just reported to the union. I have social media because you have to speak up and fight back. As migrant workers, we are worried too much about how the visa conditions will affect your life here. If you say your story, who is going to believe you? That’s why we are silent.


After study, I applied for a 457 visa, for working. The company that sponsors my visa is Colonial Brewing, Portsea Hotel. I was working hard for them, for two years. I was very close to getting my permanent residency. But they made me redundant. They tell me, after six months, when the renovations are finished, you can come back. But by law I cannot work somewhere else because under the visa sponsorship you cannot go to another company. If you get caught – don’t even think about getting permanent residency. They will send you home straight away. I was thinking about visa law.

So now I missed the chance. Now I’m desperate. I feel like I want to talk to the Australian government. I want to let them know this is not fun, this is bullshit. It cannot be like this.

When Portsea Hotel made me redundant, I was very depressed and anxious. My time, it’s really wasting. I don’t know what to do. You know, you feel like suicide, but you can’t suicide, don’t think this way. 


I needed to find another sponsorship nomination. The migration agent found me another hotel on the Mornington Peninsula. But they put me on a 482 visa, no residency. I worked six months’ probation and then they say they want to sponsor me, 186 visa, for permanent resident. And that’s why I stayed back. They say they will do the right thing and I believe that on trust. I wait, wait. They give me a letter. To promise me again. They said, if you want us to do your permanent residency visa, you have to leave your passport with the boss as a security bond. They just use me.

I heard from one of the waiters that the boss doesn’t want to do the visa for me. They don’t respect me. They don’t appreciate my work. So I gave my resignation letter to the owners, husband and wife. The next day, they gave me a separation letter to try to ban me from coming back to the hotel. They try to frighten me.

The boss, he does the dodgy thing. We work extra hours; he doesn’t pay us extra money. I was working 60, sometimes 80 hours a week. I still stay with them for a long time, like nearly two years, because of my visa condition. Other people come in, they last two weeks, not even one month. When they find out the boss is not a good person, they are quick, straight away leave the job.

Once, I was just charging my phone on the wall. I wasn’t using my phone. The boss that day was in a bad mood, he used my knife, he cut the charger. He tried to show that he has power. He’s a bit racist, I think. Why don’t you throw your temper to other people? There’s three people in the kitchen, why do you always try to make fun of me? He was threatening me. Do you want your residency or not? 

All these problems in Australia, I never let my family know. They don’t know. Because my parents are old, I don’t want them to worry about me.


Things were getting better after that. I got a new job, the restaurant in Sorrento. The boss, we are honest with each other. I started transitioning, too. You can hear my voice change. My mum heard my voice when I called home, she said, “What’s wrong with you? You sick?” I say, “The weather’s so hot, that’s why I’m dry.” Because I don’t need to explain that, I think now that I’m 40 years old I have the right to do what I have to do. That’s why I go to see the psychologist, to do the assessment. This report, I will give this report to my parents.

Before I started transitioning, I went shopping in the city, I went to the women’s toilets, people looked at me and said, “You should go to the men’s toilet.” It happened all the time. People think that I am a male.

I do the transition in Australia because it’s more safe compared to transition in my own country, Malaysia. Doctor will assist you, check your body. You see a psychologist every month. You have to be very clear with yourself, end of the day what you want to be. Female or male?


In secondary school, I fell in love with this one girl. It was my first love. She was in my class, she sat in front of me. We were in the same school group of girls, we always went out for activities together, studied and did everything together. No one knew that I was in love with her. She didn’t know. To be honest, I still have the love inside my heart. This year I told her, after I turned 40.

Lifeline 13 11 14