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finding the right place to live

In this article Joannie shares the emotional and practical journey of finding the right place to live, when the choice is not completely straightforward. Thank you Joannie for this genuine and heartfelt account.


Finding the right place to live can be quite a dilemma.

It’s particularly difficult when the decision needs to be made with your partner, but you have several options and  you have to ensure that both parties in the relationship come to an agreement.

Ella and I met in 2016 in Melbourne, Australia, and we have now been together for over two years.

finding the right place to live

Our relationship became rapidly serious and we decided to live together after a few months. 

Ella’s post graduate visa expired in October 2018 and she had to leave the country.

Therefore, prior to this date, Ella and I had to talk about what future we might have together and where we would prefer to live.

We found the process of finding the right place to live incredibly challenging.

I am from France and Ella is from Indonesia, so we are an international LGBT couple.

On a Friday night in October, my good friend Tess and I met at in a café. After noticing how lost and confused I was, Tess helped me to look at all the potential options, looking at where Ella and I could settle down: Australia, France, Indonesia or England.

This situation has led to periods of high amount of stress.

Together we made a list of pros and cons for each country and we both searched the web for information about visas, which are such a big part of moving abroad, so that Ella and I could make an informed decision.

As I had spent around 8 years in England before coming to Australia, I was determined to go back there and live near my friends and family.

Unfortunately we realised very quickly that Ella and I would be affected by Brexit a lot more than we had initially thought.

We came to the conclusion that Plan A – England – was not possible.

Ella does not feel comfortable to move with me to France right now.

finding the right place to live

She has little knowledge of the French language and her background as a cultural and sexual minority in France, would be major barriers for her to adapt and feel included in my home country.

Plan B – France – was out of the equation.

We would not consider settling down in Indonesia as homosexuality there is punishable by law and would lead us to living a difficult life.

Plan C – Indonesia – was quickly dismissed.

As a result, Ella and I both agreed that Plan D – Australia – would be the logical choice.

Ella studied and worked here for 4 years and I became a permanent resident three years ago, which means that I can sponsor her as my De Facto partner.

Agreeing to live in Australia felt like the right compromise.

Australia, aside from being far from our friends and family, offers us the best option.

Stability, job security, freedom to display our love for one another whenever we want and acceptance of our different cultural backgrounds were important factors for us

finding the right place to live What also comforts me is the fact that in Melbourne I live near my dearest friend, whom I have known for the past 20 years, and her new-born daughter and many friends I have made along the way.

I am also very lucky to be working in a school with a principal that appreciates me, constantly letting me know how valuable I am.

Finally, I have settled down in my beautiful apartment and neighbourhood and I do feel blessed, privileged and grateful

Nevertheless, a big part of me feels very guilty for not returning to Europe.

I feel like I am betraying my mother, having told her many times over the years that I would be coming back.

Choosing between the person with whom I want to build a life and family with, and my mother who has been quite ill for some time now, has been hard.

This situation has led to periods of high amount of stress.

I experience feelings of helplessness being unable to help my mother through a difficult situation, as I am only able to communicate by phone and social media rather than being able to visit her in person at the hospital and comfort her.

My heart hurts every time I think how much I miss my family and my friends and about all the time I am spending away from them, away from their children growing up without me, missing out on experiencing the beauty of seeing them blossom. 

Ella and I have now applied for the Partner Visa and we are in the process of uploading our evidence.

In the meantime, Ella has found work in Jakarta and we will be living separately between 12 to 17 months while we wait to receive the decision from the Department of Home Affairs.

But despite the fact that I still feel lost and emotionally hurt from time to time, finding the right place to live will have been worth it. 


Joannie Debes
Melbourne, Australia
March 2019
Photos©Joannie Debes


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