Migrants Vital Link in Australia…..Times of India …….BY RASHMI TALWARFirst Published IN columns of NRI SERIES –Punjabi Pride in “Times Of India” ON August 29, 2011 page 4
It has taken nearly 6 months for this article on Poonam Dua to see the light of day even as I had given up.My Big congratulations to Poonam to have continued to show her grit inspite of all the challenges she had faced and continues to face. Her smiling persona and her fighter spirit had won me over. I wish that she makes huge strides in concretizing the brilliant ideas that keep flashing to her. To all the NRIs whom I interacted with for this series, I apologize for not writing their pieces. Reason was the sluggishness of the TOI to publish the series in right earnest and continuity.
Migrants Vital Link in Australia…………BY RASHMI TALWAR
Grit, tenacity and a head for business catapulted Poona Dua from a struggling denitst Down Under to a business innovator. untdeterred by her failed marriage she managed to carve a niche for herself in a a foreign land.
Last year’s nomination for ‘Telstra Business Women’s Awards 2010’ –a former Government owned Telecom company in the categories –‘Commonwealth Bank ‘Business Owner Award’ and ‘Nokia Business Innovation Award’ for her role as Director of ‘ Doctor’s Pulse’ an internet service that enjoys Global monopoly and International recognition in providing assistance to overseas dentists in their preliminary stages prior and during their arrival in Australia .
Merely a week after her marriage to a Director of a Global IT Company in Melbourne, Australia, the BDS graduate (dentistry) was ousted from her in-laws house in Patiala. Confident that her husband did have the same mindset on dowry she set out to join him in Australia , but only to be disappointed .
She soon realized that she had made a mistake by handing over the money she as carrying, to her husband on her arrival to the country .
Struggling with life in a foreign land, not knowing its laws and compulsions she had deposited the dollars that she had traveled with to her husband. And then came the test, when she was besieged by the prospect of being completely at the mercy of her spouse. A few trips to India helped in collecting course material cracking the various exams and fulfilling formalities in Australia with support from her family. This entire gamut of exploring gave her an idea to make a business portal on helping those like her, especially Indians.
A gift of a computer by a former boss of her husband for their marriage brought a ray of hope and when her benefactor came to know about her condition, he even funded her webspace, when she was in Australia, which set her dreams rolling.
Talking to TOI from Melbourne Dua said, ‘Starting from humble amount of $ 20 that I had earned from giving a Reiki camp (a Reiki Master) in a community house. And seeing the troubles that overseas dentists undergo and facing them myself , when I arrived in Australia, ‘Doctor’s Pulse’ originated as an idea of providing a Global platform to overseas dentists to help prepare them for the exams in the comfort of their homes. Licensure exams are held by Australian Dental Council in order to allow overseas dentists practice dentistry in Australia.” Enthusiastically she adds –‘We plan to add more guidance patterns in professions like Medical, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy and Nursing etc.’
Explaining her sentiments that gave her the confidence Dr Dua says –‘Until the time ‘Doctor’s Pulse’ was started many overseas entrants were sitting exams just to understand their pattern besides facing the frustrations of making a living in a foreign country, maintaining their student visas, paying university fee and paying hefty ADC exam fees and then failing the exam and going into depression or leaving dentistry altogether and working as cleaners, customer care etc.
Dentistry is an acquired skill, which takes best years of our lives, and then seeing it go waste is devastating.
After 2 years of thorough research and professional development ‘Doctor’s Pulse’ was formally created in August 2006. Hence, reducing the frustrations and ensuring dentists follow their own line of work instead of wasting their skill.
“Designing the website came from the web designing course I had undertaken in India. We then contacted our Punjabi/Indian friends and started to spread awareness about this guidance programme. When the First Student Registered, from the Registration money, he paid me I was able to register my Business Name, ABN number and open a Bank account in Business name for him to transfer the fee.”
“Today ‘Doctor’s Pulse’ positions itself as providing assistance to overseas dentists in their preliminary as well as clinical stages, in Australia and in India and hope to add more countries soon.”
In the process of assisting and guiding Dr Dua was able to help many Indians and especially Punjabis in Australia.
Giving the credit of this Project she says, “This Project couldn’t have been possible without continuous help from Mark Livings (in USA, former boss of her husband) who supported this project financially & emotionally, Dr Michael whose unending guidance, kindness and patience was a motivational factor and my family who provided financial help and supported me through all my difficult times.”.
I did a Certificate IV in Business Management and under DEEWR (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations) and we started expanding.
I was successful in achieving 1-year scholarship provided by DEEWR under NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme program). Wherein I was introduced to CDAA (Career development Association of Australia) of which I became a professional member.
During the presentations I gave in CDAA expo’s Held by ‘Herald Sun’. The Executives of CDAA were impressed, Since we were targeting a very niche area and guiding Punjabi’s/Indians, helping them settle in Australia besides targeting specific problems faced by our fellow countrymen. Most importantly the website became the missing link between the Australian society and Punjabi’s/Indians.”
During this time it came to our notice that most migrants were not availing the services because they thought they were meant only for health professionals.
In our attempt to help ‘general’ migrants ‘Knotty Affairs’ a new website was created in 2009, which besides other things helps migrants assimilate in Australia.
“This organization particularly went very active during attacks on Indians and amongst various people several dignitaries’ like the Honorable Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister George Lekakis, DEEWR, State Governments, Chris Evans Senator for Immigration, were contacted by the us and we were continuously updated on policy matter for the ethnic population facing attacks .”
The following made “Knotty Affairs” a success which included pointers on ‘Beginning Life in Australia, Do’s & Don’ts’ ‘What to do soon after arrival ‘, ‘How to Apply for a Tax File Number’ , ‘Register with Medicare’ , ‘ Open a bank account’, ‘ Register with Centrelink’ , ‘Contact the Health Undertaking Service’, ‘Register for English classes’, ‘children’s enrollment in school’, ‘ how to Apply for a driver’s license’ , ‘Where to go for help’
Apart from that – for Settlement services for recently arrived migrants- the website provided vitals on ‘Migrant Resource Centers and Migrant Service Agencies’ as well as ‘Adult Migrant English Program’, ‘ Ethnic and community organizations’ besides information on Legal aid, Violence, Consumer rights , Emergency relief and also on ‘Finding relatives and their telephone numbers and Crisis counseling including Marriage and other relationships , Torture and trauma counseling, Financial services and how could a migrant approach Concessions for low-income earners.
It gives a brief peak into the Australian customs and laws that guides about Responsibilities and values, ‘Equality and anti-discrimination’, ‘Criminal offences’ Polite behavior’, ‘Clothing’ and Common Australian expressions.
Amongst other things Dr Dua volunteers with AMES (AMES is the largest provider of English language and Settlement services in Victoria, in addition to being a major supplier of specialist employment and training services in Melbourne.) and became a professional Mentor with AMES where she guides people from health industry helping them get jobs etc besides guidance to refugees in helping them with English language.
Besides helping migrants, she runs community courses in Burwood a neighborhood house with free Reiki healing.
Having being involved with HELPAGE INDIA from my teenage years and also being awarded Helpage India Certificate for ‘SPECIAL EFFORT’ by it, had sensitized me towards problems of others.
My confidence was boosted by not only helping others but getting recognition for creativity.
Dr Dua recalls how in her youthful years in 2002 in India, she won a Poetry Competition and was selected amongst 18 people all over the world to attend ‘The World Poetry Convention’ Held in USA” . Apart from writing Poetry, she has won state level prizes in the classical Singing, Dance and Acting, in India.
However, through the whole gamut of her trials and tribulations, Dua has not lost her characteristic Punjabi humor and has named her pet dog as ‘Nathu Lal Ji’