Content warning: This episode makes references to suicide and mental health.
It took Juliana eight long years to gain residency after moving here from Brazil. She and her mum Nadmea discuss New Zealand’s immigration system, second chances, and Tinder-ing in your 50s.
Nadmea and her daughter Juliana came to Aotearoa from Brazil. Juliana and her siblings came first in their adulthood, and Nadmea followed in 2014 once she heard how much they enjoyed living here and after she had finalised her divorce from her husband of 30 years.
As a 19-year-old in Brazil, Juliana fell ill suddenly and lost the use of her legs. She found the process of learning how to be independent again challenging, and Nadmea found letting her daughter grow on her own difficult in its own way, saying, “My family has a big trouble. They have too much mother. I always knew that.”
Nadmea and Juliana discuss the real growth and learning that came from Juliana learning to live independently in a wheelchair, and that this was made possible after she spent a month in a rehabilitation centre, and got to know other young people in wheelchairs.
Unfortunately, Juliana’s challenges did not stop there, and she had a difficult time gaining residency in Aotearoa, "largely because our immigration laws deem people with disabilities to be 'too expensive' for our economy," she says.
Describing the toll this took on her, Juliana says, “I think the immigration process was the hardest thing I ever fought. It was harder than becoming paraplegic.”
In July, 2020, Juliana was finally granted permanent residency. This milestone was important in reflecting her relentless commitment to bringing attention to New Zealand’s discriminatory laws pertaining to immigrants with disabilities.
Juliana’s siblings and her mother Nadmea, especially, went through a lot of these challenges with her. Their views on immigration have been informed and affected by Juliana’s experiences, and as Nadmea puts it, someone’s outward appearance is often not a reliable assessment of the strength of their contributions to a society.
“There are lots of people with a visible disability, but you cannot see immediately the internal disabilities when someone is deeply racist, or sexist,” argues Nadmea.
This episode includes discussion on dating, love, divorce, living with disability, and recovering from sickness.
Series Classification: G (General Audiences)
Conversations with My Immigrant Parents is a podcast and video series hosted, produced, and directed by Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu.
Saraid de Silva is a Sri Lankan/Pākehā actor and writer. Her work deals with contemporary feminism and the realities of being a first-generation South Asian New Zealander.
Born in China, Julie Zhu is a filmmaker, photographer, and storyteller focused on championing the stories and voices of marginalised identities.