Brisbane, QLD

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


My parents were excited to be arriving in their new homeland, but the excitement was not to last. As my mother's diary came to an end before we landed in Melbourne, I will endeavour to continue the story through photos and my own memories.
Arriving in Melbourne February 1949
Little Collins St Melbourne
Leaving Melbourne for Sydney.
Entering Port Jackson, Sydney Harbour at 6:00am on 13 February, 1949
 Our destination was Sydney.We were all very excited as we left Melbourne and I suspect my parents were wondering what the future held for them. I felt secure because I had my Mum and Dad to look after me. In those days migrants had to have a sponsor in Australia, who would provide a home for them until they found work and a place to live. My parents were sponsored by my mother's cousin. My parents had never met her and didn't know her at all, except for a few letters to arrange the sponsorship.

We arrived in Sydney Harbour at 6:00 am on 13 th February 1949. Unfortunately I can't remember anything about that day. However, I do remember staying at the cousin's house in Hurstville, a southern suburb of Sydney. There was Mr and Mrs D. He was mousy and she was a dragon. She wouldn't allow us to keep our suitcases in the house, they had to be stored under the house in the dark with the myriad of Australian creepy crawlies. So every time we wanted a change of clothes, Mum had to scrabble under the house to get them for all of us. The dragon lady fed us sparingly, toast and Vegemite for breakfast. I think everyone in the world knows how revolting Vegemite is if you haven't had it since a child. Luckily I learnt to like it. I remember my brother very politely asking for more potatoes at one meal and Mrs D. flew into a rage complaining we were eating them out of house and home. My Mum told me how Mrs D. would follow us around with a dust pan and broom if we walked into the house with shoes on. One of the worst experiences that I remember was my first visit to the toilet. It was in the back yard and consisted of the little house with a seat over a pan. It was full of the weekly human deposits together with millions of maggots and many flies. The smell was disgusting. After retching, my mother convinced me this is where I had to do a pooh. Afterwards, I said to her, "I am never going to the toilet again." I was serious and didn't understand why my Mum smiled at me.
My Dad went looking for work, while my Mum persevered living with a mean , unhelpful , dragon lady for a week. At the end of the week we caught a train to Loftus to visit Mrs D's brother, who might help us find somewhere to live. Loftus was a developing suburb much further south of Sydney. It was still a virgin bushland area, with sandy tracks for roads. We tried to find the address but .......
Lost in the bush and loving it.

.....we got lost in the bush but Mum was happy to be out of the dragon lady's sight. Some locals helped us find our way to: 3 Eighth Ave. Here we were welcomed by Mum's other cousin Walter and his wife Betty. They were very friendly, kind and helpful and they weren't fond of his mean sister.
He explained to us how people who were settling out here bought the land fairly cheaply, put up a tent and lived on the land, while they built a garage to live in. Then they built their house. Walter and Betty were living in a big old army bell shaped tent and were in the process of building their garage.
Betty, Walter and Mum and the typical outside "dunny"
Walter had three blocks of land adjoining. One was for his son and one was for investment and he offered to sell it to my parents for 125 Pounds, if they were interested.
Loftus Station 1949
That evening we caught the funny little rail motor train from Loftus Station back to Sutherland and changed to an electric train back to Hurstville, where we arrived after dark. The house was in darkness and we hadn't been allowed a key. I was sleepy and I don't remember what happened but I have been told the story. My Parents knocked on the door and no one answered but somehow my parents knew the mean cousins were home and had locked us out on purpose. My Dad had to call the police to get the door opened. The cousins gave some cock and bull story to the police so they left, and we had a bed for the night. I can just imagine the pain my parents went through that night. They only had about 250 Pounds in the bank. They couldn't return to England as we were "10 Pound Poms". The name given to assisted migrants, who only paid 10 Pounds for the voyage to Australia. The deal was we had to stay for two years like it or not. So they knew they had to make a go of it here. However my mother was so miserable in this house she said to my Dad, " I would rather sleep under a tree before I stay in this house another day."
So the next day we went back to see kind cousin Walter, and offered to buy the block of land next door but one. My Mum told him about our hassles with his sister and he said we could stay and share his tent until we could buy one of our own. I remember David and I slept on the ground and my parents in chairs . I don't remember being worried or upset. I think my brother and I thought it was like camping and all a bit exciting. I think my parents did a great job of shielding us from the anguish that they must have been experiencing at this time.
Erecting our tent, our temporary home. David and I are standing next to Dad who is bending over. We don't have any shirts on. It was very hot
Betty and Walter were very helpful and in no time they had found a neighbour who had just moved into their garage and they would sell us their tent. All the neighbours in the area were extremely friendly and helpful.They all came to help Mum and Dad construct a wooden floor for the tent.

Our tent home after a storm.
Mum and Dad built a "humpy" attached to the tent where we ate. Mum had to learn to cook on a wood stove you can see outside in a little shed. We had a bath in the laundry tub on bricks outside. We didn't have electricity or water. We carried water in a bucket from a tap situated a block away, about 300 metres. This picture was taken when a bad storm came and almost blew the humpy down. Water surged through the tent and everything was wet.


  1. Great story, Diane. You too should write it on the ABC web site. Can't wait for the next installment!

  2. I read your posts like I read a thriller ! What an awful relative this dragon cousin ! I told you already I have read books of emigrants to Australia and they all had a very hard start !
    Continue please !!!

  3. I am so glad you are continuing the story! How awful for your Mum & Dad after the lovely boat trip - I can't even imagine how your Mum got through that mean cousin- I think it may have been easier for the men, but oh how that muct have hurt your Mum's feelings!

  4. My goodness, Diane! Your parents were amazing---brave and strong. You certainly had an interesting childhood and I am eagerly devouring your posts. Thanks for sharing your oh-so-interesting story with all of us. The Dragon Cousin sounds horrid!

  5. Mum!!!! I can't believe how cruel some people can be! After such a long voyage and to be in a far away and strange land... Talk about a rough start to your new life! And didn't you all make the best of it?! What a charmed childhood we had in comparison, I had no idea...

    I love hearing the details of this part of your life and I've never seen that series of photos!! Look at Collins St! before the trams even? Grandma looks so relaxed and happy on that big rock in the bush. Do you think that was the big rock in their back garden??

    Keep going Mum, we're loving this. And no-way is your entry too long!
    Love, Carol

  6. Terrible times of settling in for your parents, when they should have been joyful. Shame on the cousin to be so mean with her relatives who needed all the support. I know even when there is enough money it is not easy to settle in a new country. It shows the stamina of your dear parents. At least the other cousin was helpful. For children it is never as bad as long as they are sheltered and looked after by the parents. For the kids it is an adventure, which is the right way to be. I really feel sorry for your parents that they had to go through such hard times. I am sure they have come out of it with flying colours.

  7. Diane, What a tale to tell. Amazing journey, and I can only imagine being your mother having to put up with what she did, and for you too...I have enjoyed reading about your journey to Australia and how it was in Australia back in those days. Thanks for sharing.

    Happy Wedding Anniversary for Sunday :) Well done.

  8. What a mean mean lady, I'm glad you all decided to take the adventerous route and struggle along, independance at alsmost any cost turns out to be invaluable.

    I'm looking froward to the next bit.

  9. OMG Diane. What incredible parents you had to withstand such hard times, and be survivors. My grandparents went through rough times during the depression, but our relatives always bounced back -- just like we will through this economic crisis as well. We are from a strong lot.

  10. I would be the first in line to buy this book Diane. I can only try to imagine how your Mum and Dad must have felt, and you and your brother, at the treatment this cousin gave you all. To be treated in such a way after coming so far, how perfectly dreadful. So glad you all got out from under their roof and into your own place. I would have kissed that wooden floor of the tent to have my own roof over my head and to be out of her clutches. So strange that two people from the same family can be so different, your cousin's brother I mean. He sounded a very nice man, thank goodness.

  11. Diane,

    This is wonderful reading.....after the expectations and the exciting sea voyage to meet a "dragon" at the last port. I am looking forward to the future installments.

    lizzie B.

  12. May you have a wonderful Mother's Day Diane, and Tinkerbell and I want to send Mother's Day hugs and kisses your way.

  13. When I am traveling in the American west, I always think about the pioneer women who walked through the desert to get to Oregon and California. How brave and strong they must have been to have endured that. Your Mum was also strong and brave, to live like that to give you and your brother a new life in Australia.

  14. Hi Dianne,
    I have just read about the hard times your parents faced on arrival in Australia.
    It made me feel sad to think they were so far away from their birthplace & to be treated so badly.
    Jill Freeman

  15. From a child's perspective, this probably felt mostly like an exciting adventure, especially living in a tent...rather like one big camping holiday! For your parents, especially your Mother, having come from England where everything was modern and orderly, it must have often felt as though she were living her own worst nightmare.

  16. Wonderful site and great story. The pic of Collins Street is actually Little Collins Street. Collins Street is very wide and has always had trams, cable trams before electric trams. When you go north Dianne, call in at Landsborough church for lunch the first weekend in every month.

  17. It's horrible that your mom's cousin treated you guys that way.

    I'm glad you guys found other nicer cousins.

    I love reading your story.

  18. I wonder why the cousins were so horrible. The dragon lady sound a bit like my grandmother on my father's side. I have passed no comment on my blog about her, but she was horrible to say the least of it to my mother. Another reason why they made their 'getaway'. We were though of course lucky to have our accommodation waiting for us in the form of the caravan. Diane

  19. Wow - what a story Diane. I want to read more but I've got to go to work. I'll read more tonight. Great stuff. PS We lived in Hurstville when I was a baby!!

  20. I came 6 months later with my mother as sponsored refugees and mother still had two years work contract. My sister and brother had to come out first and sponsor us. It was a really tough time, especially for my other seeing her children off to an unknown land with an unknown language, at the end of the world.
    Nice to read your story.