Sam Lai is a Drug and Alcohol Counsellor working in the Police Drug Diversion Initiative and Integrated Youth Substance Misuse Specialist Service at Centacare. As we celebrate Harmony Day, Sam reflects on what it means to live and work in a thriving city surrounded by culture but away from home.


Sam Lai’s family travels on three different passports.

His daughter, Amelia, 4, was born in Australia, and Sam holds a British National passport while his wife, Ruby, is of Filipino background.

Together, they reflect the multicultural face of South Australia, and its wealth of colours, cultures celebrations and cuisines from around the globe.

“If you walk down the Mall, multiculturalism is everywhere,’’ says Sam. 

“It’s a very beautiful thing. People do things differently but we all live here together and share our experiences and traditions.

“If you ask people the right questions, you find there is a lot of depth and history to their culture and celebrations, and it’s fascinating.’’

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Sam moved to Australia in 2005 to study social work.

Accepted at universities in Melbourne and Adelaide, he chose the “quieter’’ option after a life spent in the hustle and bustle of the vibrant yet densely populated Hong Kong.

“it’s a very different environment here.”

“There is no sky in Hong Kong. By that I mean that if you look down the street, you can catch glimpses of it, but only between the buildings. There are a lot of people and it’s very busy and noisy.”

“Here, you have the blue sky and space, but then you don’t have your family, so that can be challenging. But you can’t have everything!’’

Travel expenses and lack of family support are some of the difficulties migrants face, Sam says, but they are offset by a long list of advantages of living in a foreign city.

“The lifestyle and space here is really good. We can embrace all the things we like about Australia. Within that, there are so many different cultures and practices like Chinese New Year, the Greek festival and Italian celebrations, plus more.

“So we can pick and choose and establish our own family tradition, and it’s very enjoyable in that sense.

“I think as migrants it’s much easier to relate to people. We have friends who have similar struggles but we have a common, mutual understanding, so it’s also advantageous in many ways.’’

Sam looks forward to visits from his dad who remains in Hong Kong. His two sisters are split between Hong Kong and Cambodia.

“We catch up here or I’ll go back from time to time,’’ he says.

Sam hopes Harmony Day encourages others to recognise the value culture brings to his adopted country.

“Be inclusive and open about other cultures, the colours, the flavours and food and everything we all bring to Australia.’’