Ship name / Flight number: Northern Star
Arrival date: 24/09/1965
My love affair with Australia began at an early age; possibly as young as four when I saw a large advertisement in the post office window opposite where I lived (Weaverham, Nr Northwich, Cheshire) offering fares to Australia for 10 pounds. I told my Mum who said don’t be daft.
Sometime later, 1952 or 53 my uncle (mum’s brother) and his family left for Sydney on a contract for I.C.I. It was at this time my family’s interest in Australia grew and I remember dad being persuaded to apply for migration to Australia under the 10 pound scheme. Mum’s brother, who was still in Australia at that time, believed we could make a go of it on the land as my father had an agricultural background.
The papers were duly filled out and put in the envelope and left on the mantlepiece. For whatever reason they were never posted and eventually my uncle returned at the end of his contract. Slide shows of his time in Australia were my favourite part of visits to his home.
Fast forward to early 1964. I was 17 and working in my first job since leaving school. I was with the Inland Revenue at Warwick Road, Stretford, Manchester. Out of the blue a work colleague said to me one morning something along the lines of: ever fancy going to Australia? By the end of the day I had been in contact with the Big Brother Movement as I found out I could not travel on the assisted passage scheme as I was under 19 years of age.
My application and interviews were successful, and I set sail on the 20th July, 1965 on board TSS Northern Star with 13 other boys and a chaperone. We landed in Sydney 24th August, 1965 and went to the farm. On 6 September, 1965 I was sent to Shannon Park, Undera, Victoria in the care of Mr Brendan and Mrs Joyce Butler on their 300 acre dairy farm.
I was well looked after and enjoyed the work although it was a bit isolated and not having a vehicle I was confined to the farm for 6 days a week. Each Saturday morning I was taken into Shepparton for a few hours before returning to the farm. Later in the afternoon I used to walk down into Undera, it was a bit of a hike, and have few beers in local pub. That was my entertainment each week.
Early in January 1966 I met Fred Jones at the Shepparton Show. I knew Fred from the Memorial Farm as he was still there from the previous intake when my group arrived.
Together we hatched a plan to go to the Snowy Mountain Scheme at Tumut, NSW. He was broke but I had about 80 pounds which bought a vehicle to get to Tumut. It also became our accommodation for a few days until we got taken on by the contractors at the Blowering Dam. That was February 1966.
That move started my odyssey of travelling around Australia and working in every state (including the Northern Territory), except Queensland. Apart from the Snowy Mountain Scheme I worked at Savage River Iron Ore Mine, Tasmania, for BHP Whyalla constructing a steel mill, at Rum Jungle Mining, NT and in the north west of WA, mining and crushing rock for the yet to be constructed Mt. Newman Railway.
Early March 1968, I decided to go back to the UK for a short visit as I had a new sister that I had not yet met and it seem like a good opportunity to make the journey as I was cashed up after working up north.
It was my intention to return to Australia as soon as possible after the visit – but I was not counting on a chance meeting with my future wife! Whilst visiting a sick aunt in hospital I was introduced to her nurse, who I asked out and eventually married.
I had not got a career at that stage and so joined the Cheshire Police Constabulary in 1969 prior to getting married in 1970.
Four years later the same work colleague who first mentioned the idea of migrating to Australia in 1964 turned up in the UK unannounced, and called to see me and my wife. After a reunion in the local pub that Sunday night the decision was made to return to Australia. My wife took a little more convincing…
So, on 31st December 1972 I set foot back on Australian soil at Perth International Airport and knew instantly I was home. We moved to Harvey, WA in June 1978 and have been here ever since.
I’ve had several career moves in my life but the one that has brought me the most satisfaction was joining the Shire of Harvey in November 1985 eventually retiring in April 2008.
Some years later I was approached to stand for election for local government in 2011 – which I did and was successful. I was elected Deputy Shire President in 2013 and re-elected to the Council in 2015. I have recently re-nominated for election in the 2019 LG Elections.
Now at the age of 72 I can reflect on my journey and the key decisions I made, some in haste, and can honestly say that I would not change a thing.
Australia has been a wonderful country in which to be accepted, too raise our two children, carve out a career and give something back to my adopted community.
My wife of 49 years and I are very contented in retirement and proud parents of two first generation Aussies and grandparents of five second generation Aussies.
A life full of surprises
Nicolette Barbas South Western Times / Thursday, 12 September 2019 2:44PM