Elinore Rema, a second-generation Bangladeshi migrant, is the first person of the Indigenous Garo peoples of Bangladesh to complete a law degree in Australia. She is all set to become the first lawyer from her community in Australia.
Elinore Rema and her family migrated from Bangladesh in 1993. Australia, she believes, is her home but Bangladesh will always be her motherland.
She belongs to the 150,000-strong Indigenous Garo community of Bangladesh, of which some 20-plus people live in Australia. From this tiny community, she is the first person to complete a law degree, and is now looking forward to becoming a lawyer in Australia.
- Elinore Rema migrated to Australia in 1993 at the age of five
- She’s the first of the Bangladeshi Indigenous Garo peoples in Australia to complete a law degree
- Some 20 members of the Bangladeshi Garo community live in Australia
Ms Rema arrived in Australia with her parents when she was five-years-old.
“Like other migrants, my parents struggled to raise my sister and me. They made sure to provide us with a roof over our heads and most importantly, a solid education.
“I had a very ideal childhood, with lots of friends, family gatherings and outdoor fun. But education was the essential principle in my upbringing and the discipline that I acquired from my parents, led my love for learning and the long journey of my education,” she told SBS Bangla.
Ms Rema completed her honours degree in philosophy from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), after a graduate diploma in migration law from Australian National University. Her pursuit of higher learning continues as she is and currently studying for a post-graduate degree in law from UNSW.
The upcoming lawyer believes that all citizens, regardless of their social or economic standing, should have equal access to justice.
Ms Rema isn’t the first trailblazer in her family.
“My maternal grandfather was the first in the Garo community to receive a college degree at Birishiri in Mymensingh district of northern Bangladesh. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree and subsequently taught at a local school as a headmaster,” she said.
“My father was the first in his family to pursue higher education at the tertiary level. He completed an honours degree in agriculture in Bangladesh and studied in England and Australia on government scholarships.
“He is from Dhobaura Upazila in Mymensingh, where my paternal grandfather was a prominent figure of our community,” she added.
The Indigenous Garo people are spread over vast areas of Bangladesh and small pockets in India. Government websites in both countries show that they live mainly around the Garo Hills in the Indian state of Meghalaya and in the greater Mymensingh district of Bangladesh.
In India, apart from Meghalaya, the Garo people live in Kamrup, Goalpara and Karbi Anglong districts of the northeastern state of Assam. In Bangladesh, besides Mymensingh, they live in Tangail, Sylhet, Sherpur, Netrokona, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, Dhaka and Gazipur districts.
The Garo community primarily follows Christianity. Their main festival is Wangala, which usually comes in the month of October or November in the year.
“I learned about Wangala from my father. It’s an annual Garo thanksgiving festival, during which people thank god as it’s harvest time. People eat and rejoice together,” Ms Rema said.
Although she hasn’t been to Bangladesh in a long time, she fondly recalls her visits to see her cousins and grandparents there.
“I enjoyed going around Dhaka, eating street food and shopping in the local malls,” she recalls.
Ms Rema also remembers the scenic beauty of the Birishiri landscape, the villages in Dhobaura and the taste of fresh fish and produce that she enjoyed there with her people.
Click on the audio player above to listen to Elinore Rema's conversation in English.
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