They met in Central Queensland during a business trip in 2018, fell in love, and are now engaged to be married. They have discovered that there are more similarities between their cultural backgrounds than differences.
"We chatted a bit and exchanged Facebook accounts. It was love at first sight for me," says 26-year-old Vanessa Fakhri about the beginnings of her relationship with her now-fiancée Cameron Smith, 31.
Vanessa, who is Lebanese-Australian, waited three months before telling her family about their relationship, which had taken a serious course by then.
Her family’s initial reaction was what she expected.
“Cameron had asked me to be his girlfriend. At first, my family was cautious because I’m the oldest and they did say, ‘Are you sure, what about a Lebanese boy?’
“I explained to them that Cameron treats me well and as soon as they met him in person, they saw how much he loved me, respects me, and how happy he’s made me.”
When the family met Cameron, who is Aboriginal, the cultural barriers quickly disappeared as they began to grow closer to the man their daughter chose.
She explains that as her family began to love him, they both found how closely aligned their cultural values actually are.
“Now they love him. We have a lot of shared values. They’re happy with Cameron and they see how well he treats me. I love him just as much.
“One thing I’ve always known is that Aboriginal people respect their elders. When I met Cameron, he’d always speak about his grandfather, how much his grandfather had an influence on him, on how he grew up.”
Despite the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple spent Easter with Vanessa’s family, which contributed greatly to strengthening the bond between them.
Through their union, the two families began to discover their shared values, which helped establish a strong foundation for a successful marriage.
On the other hand, Cameron is embracing the Lebanese culture and grew fond of its food and occasionally joins the family at church.
“My family, when they met Vanessa, loved her straight away. They were very happy, she has a bubbly, outgoing and fun personality and definitely not shy,” he said.
He also admires how traditions are passed down in Vanessa’s community as he believes the younger generation nowadays is losing touch with their origins, contrary to his experience growing up.
“The foundations are the same. I was lucky as a kid. Ultimately it comes down to respect and the morals you live by,” he added.
“It’s definitely beautiful how there’s still so much tradition. A lot of young kids these days I guess start to lose touch with where they’re from or their past. In a close community, this is not the case. When I met Vanessa, it’s still pretty much intact.”
The couple plans to have children in the future, and Cameron believes they will be fortunate to have access to two cultures with ancient origins.
“In the end, it was about respecting yourself and others. I will make sure to pass these habits on to our children.
“It’s important because the kids of this generation still know where they’re from. And still, carry a lot of those lessons and values and will pass them on to their children which is nice.”