Hüseyin Mustafa, General Manager at Commonwealth Bank
I have been working closely with the Turkish people in Australia for about 45 years.
First of all, I would like to say that as someone who has been living in Australia for 52 years, I am a Cypriot Turk who is very devoted to his Turkish identity. I was born in the Alaminyo village of Cyprus in 1958. In 1968, I had to leave Cyprus and move to Australia with my mother, father, and brother as the country was at war at that time. I witnessed Greek Cypriots opening fire at us and killing my uncle as a small child. Thus, my family decided to take their two sons elsewhere with hopes of a brighter future for both of us. We arrived in Australia after 23-day seafaring.
Banking Experience That Started at The Age Of 16
I will always remember the time when my teachers and friends in Australia met a Turkish person for the first time. I didn’t have what you’d call a very bright childhood; I was beaten up at school by the other kids but I learned English within 5 years and 3 months and stepped into the business world at a bank at the age of 16. After working at the bank for 10 years, I was promoted to be an assistant manager. And around that time, Commonwealth Bank offered me a scholarship. With that, I went back to university and completed my accounting education. In 1998, I completed my master’s degree with two scholarships offered by the bank. I have been working at Commonwealth Bank for 46 years, 17 years of which as the general manager. There are around 10 people among 45 thousand personnel that have been working for long years like me. I continue my job at Commonwealth Bank, and I love what I do there. My wife is also a Cypriot Turk, she and her family came to Australia in the 1950s. I have two daughters and they both work at prestigious law companies. One of my daughters is also married to a Cypriot Turk who is a doctor here.
ATBC Is A Valuable Bridge
I have been working closely with the Turkish people in Australia for about 45 years. I know many businesspeople in the country and try to support them. I was the chairman of the Australian-Turkish Business Council (ATBC) for 12 years and I am currently the honorary president. Over time, we have received many ministers and bureaucrats from Turkey, including our President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
As the most active Turkish trade institution in Australia, ATBC’s aim is to support the Turkish Republic and the Turkish businesspeople. ATBC is like a precious bridge. We also provide information about Australia to Turkish businesspeople all around the world. As you know, investors need to be well-informed about the economy and the potential of a country they consider investing in beforehand.
Australia Is A Multicultural Country
The fact that 25 million people live in Australia is a great advantage of the country. Australia hosts people from approximately 250 different countries and there are around 200 different languages spoken and 140 different religious beliefs practiced in this multicultural country. And we see this diversity as great resources and richness. The first Turkish people coming to the country migrated from Cyprus in 1948 and Turkey in 1968. Around 200 thousand people of Turkish origin live here.
Australia is currently the 6th biggest economy in the world. And Turkish people living in the country face the same challenges as Australians. For example, many Turkish students encountered COVID-19-related issues. Because most of them were working 20 hours a week to meet their expenses. Most of them lost their jobs due to the pandemic. In this regard, esteemed Turkish businesspeople in Australia provided significant assistance to our students who had difficulties in the pandemic period.
Direct Flights to Australia May Create Opportunities
The mutual trade volume between Turkey and Australia is currently around $ 1 million. Australia offers great potential in many areas, especially in tourism. Around 40 thousand Australians visit Turkey each year; however, the numbers have declined 95% due to the pandemic this year. If Turkish Airlines (THY) can organise direct flights to Australia after COVID-19, there may be great opportunities. Because there is no direct flight to Europe from Melbourne or Sydney. All tourists go to Dubai first, stay there for 2-3 days and arrive in Europe through London. With direct flights to Istanbul, travellers can spend a couple of days in Istanbul and go to Europe from there. We have been closely interested in this issue for 15 years.