In a tumultuous love story that would rival anything Hollywood could dream up, Thomas Anstoetz followed his heart from Germany to Australia.

Although his wife Nidhi is also German, she had been living in Australia for more than 10 years and was on holidays in Germany when they met.

She had raised a family and made a life back here in the Northern Rivers, so although she was separated, falling in love with a German man wasn’t part of her plan.

And she hadn’t fallen for an ordinary man.

Thomas has special needs as a result of Cerebral Palsy, and spends a lot of time in a wheelchair.

For him, moving around can prove challenging at the best of times, so moving countries was a decision he couldn’t make easily.

“My father said to me ‘You’ve got everything you need here – a health system that will look after you and a secure job. What are you going to do over there?’” he said.

But not wanting to take his wife’s children away from their home and their father in Australia, Thomas decided to make the move.

Leaving his managerial role in systems administration – a job he’d had for 17 years – and his beloved wheelchair rugby team behind, he came to Australia to start again.

With good English and solid qualifications in IT, Thomas is fairly assured of work.

But there are still some obstacles.

Beyond simple language barriers are a whole lot of less visible cultural differences that make the job application process harder.

So Thomas is getting help with the basics – writing job applications, preparing for interviews, and putting together a work portfolio – at ACE Lismore Community College through the Skilled Migrants Mentoring Program.

According to mentor and teacher Kirsten Elliott: “These migrants have so much to offer us at a time when there is a significant skills shortage across the board. If we can help them find work, then we are also helping ourselves.

“My hope is that local businesses will understand this, because we do rely on them to help us with the program. Work experience, and eventual work placements by local employers, are crucial.”

Certainly Thomas has plenty to offer.

In addition to great qualifications and years of work experience, he is eager to participate and contribute to his new community.

He is already involved in the Council’s Access Committee (which looks at issues of access for people with disabilities) and is considering starting up a local wheelchair rugby team.

He remains extremely positive about the challenge he has set himself.