Embracing new opportunities

Archana Patney has achieved many things since moving to Australia.

Archana Patney has achieved many things since moving to Australia.

Archana Patney has achieved a lot since arriving in Australia a decade ago, with little more than two suitcases.

The Indian born teacher moved to Australia in 2006 to begin a new chapter in her life.

"I came here with very little and knew no one," Mrs Patney said.

"But I also knew I had to do this journey for my children."

With constant learning and a great deal of determination, she has conquered many challenges and achieved many goals since the move.

She now teaches Grade 4 at St Mary's Primary School and is the current president of the Swan Hill Sunrise Rotary Club.

Born in the town of Dehra Dun, among the foothills of the Himalayas in 1966, she's the eldest of three children.

Her sister Jyotika is an event manager who lives in Bangalore and her brother Sunil exports Indian handicrafts.

After attending some of the country's best boarding schools, she went to the University of Delhi, first studying a Bachelor of Science and then a Bachelor of Education.

She married Rajiv Patney, a Colonel in the Indian Army, and constantly moved around every few years for his work.

The couple have two children, 24-year-old Devvrat who is studying a Masters of Finance at Melbourne University and 22-year-old Vrinda who is studying media at RMIT.

Mrs Patney's children lived in India until they completed Year 12 and her husband only moved to Swan Hill last year.

"It has been a big journey to get to this stage," she said.

In 2006 the couple were considering a move and knew Australia was a country with plenty of opportunities.

"My husband had visited Australia and loved it," she said.

"We were already thinking about settling in a new place so I came over here for what was to be a holiday to see what it was like.

"I came with my Victorian teaching registration and was lucky to have a skill to come here with."

She moved from India to Ballarat in April 2006, which turned out to be her first learning curve.

"Because I moved in April, there were no teaching jobs available," she said.

"When you come from a different country you don't know how things work.

"There were times when I missed my family but I knew I couldn't give up. It was my children who taught me to never give up."

She started doing casual relief teaching at various schools around Ballarat.

"Even on days when I didn't have teaching booked, I was always volunteering and offering to work for free," she said.

This determination paid off and within a month, she had landed herself a job working at a cafe.

"I had to think about what else I could do, what other skills I had," she said.

After living in Ballarat for a year she accepted a job at the Glenvale School in Swan Hill, which meant a new town with new opportunities.

She taught at Glenvale for seven years before moving to St Mary's Primary School in 2014.

During her time at Glenvale, Mrs Patney studied a Masters of Education and for the past two years has been doing her accreditation to teach Religious Education.

She said teaching children about Christianity compared to her own Hindu religion had been a learning experience.

"Religion to me is about what it can do for you as a person," she said.

"The children understand that people believe different things and know you are on the same journey of learning as them."

Mrs Patney said the thing that helped her most with the move to Swan Hill was joining the Swan Hill Sunrise Rotary Club in 2010 as a charter member.

After spending five years on the committee, she became the president of the club last year.

"We are like one big family," she said.

"This community has given me so much, it's an honour to be able to give back. 

"Swan Hill is such a wonderful place to be."

For two years she held Indian cooking classes at Murray Ace, as well as Hindi and Punjabi language lessons.

Mrs Patney currently hosts Harmony Hub on Smart FM with Joelle Whiting.

The fortnightly show was created to "build bridges" between different groups within the community .

"People need to know the stories of the various people in our community," she said.

Another local committee Mrs Patney is heavily involved in is the Harmony Day committee.

"It really has gone from strength to strength," she said.

"People say it's one of the best in Victoria. I'm very passionate about celebrating diversity and culture in our community."

Last year she became a member of the Community Advisory Committee at Swan Hill District Health.

"I bring the multicultural aspect to the board," she said.

"There are a lot of exciting things happening with the hospital, including the Hospice and developments with headspace."

Although she has achieved a lot in Australia, Mrs Patney has never forgotten her roots and visits her family in India every year.

"In India you don't have old age homes so everyone lives together," she said.

"My parents are very old and I feel as though it is my duty to visit them each year to give back to them.

"I feel like what I have been able to achieve over here is due to my parents' passion to give me a good education."

When the partition occurred in 1947, her father's family were forced to move from their home to a new country.

"They had to re-establish themselves in a new country, which is similar to what I have done," she said.

She said Swan Hill had become her home because of the great community.

"Although I moved to Swan Hill for work originally, it has been the community that has kept me here," she said.

"I have seen a lot of changes to the community since moving here.

"I always say I have two countries; India which is my birth country and Australia which has been the place where I have found myself."

She said it was important for people to take chances and accept opportunities.

"My dad always says it's important to follow your dreams," she said.

"One day I hope my parents can come over to Australia and see our new life here.

"I'm really lucky to have so many people looking out for me."

To read more profiles on amazing people in our region, grab a copy of The Guardian's Wednesday edition each week.

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