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Angelika Treichler

Retired school teacher and active volunteer from Manly, this is Angelika's story.

The chance meeting of an Australian tourist travelling in my home country Germany changed the course of my life. I was 26 and newly married, he was so funny and genuine. The decision for my husband and I to move to Australia was clear.

Growing up after the Second World War in Germany, I’ve always been aware of the dark lessons of history. My parents opposed the Nazis and taught me to think critically about the dangers of fear mongering and exclusion.

My life in Germany was privileged but we were young, adventurous and looking for a new life far away.

My husband and I arrived in Sydney in the 60’s and we stayed in what was then the Villawood hostel. We didn’t know a soul in Australia but we were made to feel instantly at home. Australia was a beautiful, vast, foreign place to us and we loved it instantly.

The Australian people are warm and relaxed and have such a great senses of humour. At first we didn’t understand ‘Australian’ English but we soon got to know it working in a factory in Bankstown. Working there was great for us, it made us feel part of this new country we called home.

In the early 70’s we had the chance to return to Germany without paying back our free passage, but we didn’t want to leave. Australia was a country of fairness, multiculturalism and equality and we believed in these principles strongly.

Multiculturalism to me is not just tolerating others but appreciating diversity, and helping newcomers cultivate their own culture. Multiculturalism is a colourful tapestry of different religions, cultures, food, art and music - it’s a tapestry we should wrap ourselves in and when we do we are truly richer.

I’ve done many things in my life. I was an art and foreign language teacher and I’m a very active volunteer in my community. I love the sense of civic community in Australia and feeling part of something bigger than yourself.

My love for the Australian wilderness brought me to protecting the precious fairy penguins in Manly. For 11 years I monitored these magical little creatures who are endangered and need our protection. When I started I was alone and now half of Manly is helping out!

As an artist I think art is a beautiful way to bring cultures together. I volunteer with refugees in Sydney and help them come to terms with their past through art. I was welcomed so warmly when I arrived here and I want others fleeing war and oppression to feel the same sense of inclusion.

I’m 74 and looking back I know I’ve had a very lucky life. All my experiences have taught me that good things can happen and there is power in celebrating our common humanity.