I met Rachael through some mutual friends and we had crossed paths a number of times at different social functions. It was only more recently that I heard Rachael’s inspirational story and knew that it was a story that needed to be shared. We all have our story to tell, what I love about Rachael’s story is that she chose to change her life, Rachael (and Steve) believed that this was possible and did everything that was needed to make it happen, even though there must have been many times when it would have been easier to give up. When times got tough Rachael kept thinking about the big picture and why they were working so hard.
Rachael was born in the UK, is married to Steve and has two great girls, Izzy 12 and Kiera 10. Both staunch Leicester City Football Club supporter (Steve and Rachael married at the Leicester home ground), like her favourite football team, Rachael has dramatically exceeded all expectations of where life would take her.
Steve and I married early in life and I loved my job being manager at the local pub. After we had Issy, I realised that as the manager, that was as far as I could go. I wanted to set a good example for my girls, I wanted to show them that with hard work, you can achieve anything.
So after deciding to change your life, how did you know what to do next?
Well at first I didn’t know, I knew I liked working with people and we looked at countries where we felt we could have the life we wanted for our girls. Australia was our number one destination and they needed nurses, which would allow me to work with people and show my girls what it meant to have a career. So we had a look at how I could become a nurse, which meant I had to get into university. I hadn’t finished school, so I had to go back and do a year’s full-time study, before I could apply for the 3 year nursing course. I finished the full-time study year in May, which was one week before our second daughter Kiara was born. I then started university four months later, in September and had to catch 2 buses with the girls in a pram.
What was your biggest challenge?
There were a number of challenges, but one of the biggest ones was money. We had bought a house two years earlier and had now gone from two full-time wages to one, and now needed full time child care.
I got a small bursary in my nursing course, which was £500 per month, childcare was £1,200 a month and while Steve’s wage kept the household going it couldn’t stretch to cover childcare. We initially thought that childcare would be subsidised, so that was a huge hit financially. I did 30 hours a week at the hospital and one day a week at university and picked up whatever pub shifts I could.
How did you overcome this?
We sold our house and even though we had only had it for two years, it enabled us to buy a second much needed car and helped pay for childcare for the first couple of years. In the last year of nursing we had to borrow money and maxed out our credit cards to keep going, the third year was really tough financially. The demands of the course were more intense, so yes it got pretty tough. Looking back I don’t know how we did it.
So how did you get though the tough times?
We looked at the bigger picture and had to remind ourselves why we were doing this. I had to complete my degree and have three year’s work experience before we could be sponsored to work in Australia, but if you got sponsored you were guaranteed a job. As soon as I qualified in the UK I got work straight away. When I had completed two years of work as a nurse, I started applying for registration in Australia and as soon as this came through (after three years) I started applying for jobs through an agency.
Two weeks after a phone interview, I got the call could we be in Melbourne in 6 weeks, so we sorted our stuff and sold what we could in a car boot sale. We landed on the Thursday with a total of four suitcases and a job to start on Monday. We had a couple of days accommodation booked and no car, no house, no schools and no idea where we would live. We walked from Prahran and ended up in Port Melbourne, within a week we had a furnished apartment, the girls started school and we settled into a routine.
Who was your biggest support?
Steve, he was with me all the way and was the only one that believed in me and what we were trying to do. Steve was really the only one, most people thought we would never make it to Australia or that I would get into university and become a nurse. I thought I would prove them all wrong and we did.
So what’s next?
We are so happy that we are permanent residents and excited that we are now eligible to apply for citizenship. We can’t wait for this and are already planning a celebration of everything we have achieved with our fantastic local community and friends. We have also recently down sized our rental house, so we can start saving for a house. We want to stay in Port Melbourne and didn’t initially realise how expensive it is, but we love our friends, everyone has been so welcoming and our girls are really settled, so we are here to stay. So we will save to buy an investment property, probably an apartment that we can afford, where we can live after the girls leave home.
What advice would you give to other women facing major life choices?
I would tell them be confident, don’t listen to the people who don’t believe in you. You need to believe in yourself and find people who support you. I had Steve, but very few others believed in that we would get to where we are today.
What advice would you give your younger self?
That’s really tough. A lot of people said we were to young to marry and I didn’t listen to them, maybe we were and maybe I should have stayed in school. If I had have done that though, I would have missed out on the life experience I have had along the way and I would not be were we are today. So I guess it worked out for me and for my family, but I would tell others to stay in school and finish your study and travel a bit more. It did get tough trying to do everything when we already had the girls, but it was worth it in the end.