Tina Victoria Afshar

We moved to Australia when I was a toddler. Despite hearing the stories, once, twice, thirty times, there’s so much I don’t remember.

I don’t remember how difficult the decision to migrate was or if my parents debated over which country would grant us a visa. “Jamal, we can’t speak the language, we don’t know anyone, and is the air even that much cleaner?”

I don’t remember my mother lying awake at night, wondering what our future had to offer. “If we stay in Iran, will my children experience oppression or will they build resilience? I know my experience and all I want is for them to be stronger.”

I don’t remember my father pacing the lounge room, considering his next steps over and over. “Will my children have a stable upbringing if we’re suddenly foreigners? With foreign names, foreign food and a foreign calendar? Will we still feel connected if we don’t understand the meaning of words or their vernacular?”

I don’t remember the day we said goodbye to all our family or how the mood was excruciatingly somber. In the mid ‘90s, there wasn’t social media or free international calls for 90 minutes, not much that will shorten the distance of 6600 miles and a whole lot of water.

I don’t remember our family going to the airport or crossing a symbolic border. Sometimes we show photographs and mum’s favourite story is when I looked up at the plane and said, “Thank you, Mister Pilot, for bringing us to my father.” Like many protective parents, he decided to come to Australia earlier. He found us a home, built a small network, made sure things were settled for when we arrived in the summer.

Someone who does remember all of this is my brother. When we boarded the plane, he was almost a teenager. He left behind a life where he understood the playground rules, where he could graduate with his cousins and where he never felt like a stranger.

He remembers my parents describing our new home, why we were moving and how it might be different. “We don’t know what’s to come either but, son, it will be our next big adventure.” He remembers breathing in the Melbourne air and remembers how the trees appeared so much greener. Occasionally, someone would remind him of home, “Mum, there was a boy in my class eating tahdig with rice, do you think he could be a Middle Easterner?”

He remembers how the first five years were difficult while we found a routine and adjusted to our new chapter. For a long time it was just the four of us spending the night in, making up games and filling the house with laughter. Sometimes we’d hear from family in Iran with news of a wedding, a birthday, a newborn or general banter. Even though it’s not the same, it still felt like a spiritual reunion whenever we opened a letter.

My brother remembers the highs and lows of meeting someone new, explaining where we’re from and sensing a strange, vague pressure. “Say your last name again,” or “How can you be Persian when there’s no such place as Persia?” Ask him right now and he’ll reply, “Mate, just look it up on Wikipedia.”

As I’ve grown older I can see that there is much we can both remember. 

We remember that our parents are very intelligent people because, damn, the air really is cleaner. We remember that they sacrificed so much, not for themselves, but for their son and daughter. We remember that they showed us how to get through anything, particularly uncertainty, with patience and hard work and a room full of laughter.

And all four of us remember how beautiful it felt, when after 24 years in Australia, we looked at my brother’s newborn son, and smiled at all that lay before our little Oliver.


Tina Victoria Afshar

Tina Victoria Afshar is a designer living and working in Melbourne.
Since graduating from a Bachelor of Design at Monash University in 2014 Tina has worked in professional roles at The Design Kids, The Company You Keep and Love + Money Agency. In 2018 she joined the team at sibling agency Studio Round and Common State.
Tina’s passion and enthusiasm for the design community saw her spend five years as councilwoman and secretary at AGDA Victoria; working collaboratively to help broaden the design reach and to provide opportunities for creative professionals. 
Elsewhere, she has moderated panel discussions and spoken at industry events for the likes of AGDA, BJ Ball and This is Not University; contributed illustrations to the 2017 Semi Permanent book and Stolen Publication; sat as a Juror for the 2017 AGDA Student Awards; and dabbled in the ever-growing podcast world as a guest co-host on Australian Design Radio and a guest on Never Not Creative.
Tina believes that art and design have the power to positively impact the wider community and is always on the search for new ways to realise this through collaboration and community projects. In 2018, she co-produced the Simple Gestures exhibition alongside fellow creatives Rhys Gorgol and Megan Voss, for the Alfred Hospital’s Melanoma Clinic. In 2019, she became a co-contributor to Broads Down Under, a public directory of women and non-binary people working in the Australian creative industry.
Tina’s current hobbies include kissing her nephew’s cheeks, and feeding her fantasy fiction obsession (mostly Game of Thrones or Harry Potter… sorry, Lord of the Rings).

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