YEP Crew Blog Post – Fatema Shalemie: Married by 20?

Are you 20, single and ready to mingle? Because I am 😉

… Just kidding, I’m ethnic.

So you’ve hit the milestone age of 20 and you still don’t have a romantic partner? That might be because you don’t have time, what with your commitment to uni, work or the gym (ok maybe not the last part). Or it could be because your aunties are bustling about, hiring matchmakers and unknowingly signing you up to websites like (don’t search for it, it doesn’t exist… I’ve tried).

That’s right, you’re ready to get married. If you’re reading this going, “WHAAAAA?” it’s likely because you don’t share the struggle (lucky you). Let me give you the low down. Not all parents or families from a CaLD background encourage their youngins to marry, but some do. It can start when a child hits puberty and although it’s illegal in Australia, it does still occur. You have to be at least 18, or have a court approval to marry if you are at least 16. Sometimes families arrange a marriage overseas but it has to be a valid marriage in that country and recognised as valid under our law if say, that marriage took place over here (according to the Australian government).

There are multiple reasons you might marry young, some being:

  • You’re in love (if that’s you, good for you);
  • Your parents think you’re in love and they want to make it “legitimate” before you go around canoodling, or because they think you already are;
  • Your parents are afraid you’ll fall in love and start canoodling;
  • That one member in your community whose name you don’t even know caught you walking with little Jimmy or Janice on the sidewalk and your parents don’t want to be shamed in front of them;
  • Your parents think you’re getting old, you’re increasing your chances of infertility by the day and if you’re female, your ovaries are shrivelling into sultanas;
  • Your parents want grandkids because you failed them by becoming a “professional rapper”;
  • Your cousin wants to come into the country (yes, that is a thing);
  • It’s your chance to have that lavish wedding you’ve dreamed of since you were 12 and the final step to making it come true is hunting for that significant other;
  • You just finished school and you realise your ATAR isn’t going to take you anywhere but down the aisle (of a supermarket as a checkout chick, or dude);
  • Or just because you were told your life would be incomplete if you didn’t get married and you’re worried about dying alone and ugly so you leap at the first chance you get and hope he/she look like George Clooney or Miranda Kerr.

I once thought that the only important thing that could come out of my life was getting married. I was in high school and I didn’t see any opportunity beyond that aside from further education. I’m not trying to convince you not to get married or to hold it off, but just to consider all the opportunities you may have in life and remember, there’s no rush. And if you’re already convinced by what I’m saying but your parents don’t agree, here are some tips to help you kick them off the marriage bandwagon:

  • Make a plan.
  • Get serious! – And I don’t mean in a relationship. If you’re studying or working, prove to your parents that you’re invested in your future by showing them your hard work and achievements.
  • Do your research! – If they believe this is your prime time of popping babies like you pop pills (we won’t talk about that today), educate them. Ask your doctor to convince your parents that you won’t be infertile by 25. Let’s face it, they’ll believe a professional any day over you.
  • Communicate effectively – Maybe you’ve tried that, but the way you communicate a message impacts the response you receive. Have an “adult conversation” by being rational and using logic, not being too emotional.
  • Empathise! – Show that you value their opinion and understand their motives. Ethnic parents love respect.
  • Create a positive space – You don’t have to sit them down so seriously like you’re going to confession. Use it as bonding time while doing something they enjoy, to show them their approval is important to you. I find talking in the car helps, but beware you can’t escape.

I’m lucky that I don’t face that pressure because there are many other things I’m concerned about… like how to get Orlando Bloom to notice me. But I do know what it’s like to be in that situation and I acknowledge that this advice may not work because let’s face it, ethnics are stubborn. You’re not the first person to deal with this and you shouldn’t have to do it alone. There are other multicultural people in the same situation that can give you advice and you can seek professional help.



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Vanessa Vlajkovic

Hi! My name is Nessa and I’m 20 years old. I’m studying Journalism at Edith Cowan University, with a Public Relations minor. I am an avid reader, writer, traveller and cheerleader. I’m also a passionate advocate for the deafblind community, and for other types of disability. I’ve been on the committee of the Youth Disability Advocacy Network (YDAN) at YACWA for a few months, and through them have developed a desire to become a YEP volunteer, as I want to expand my horizons.

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