Nel's story - Dutch

With our combined age of 43 we were the youngest family on board our migrant ship ‘Sibajak’.

We had been living with my husband’s family which was not easy with a one year old daughter so my husband decided that he wanted us to be independent and emigrate. We chose Australia as it offered a better future and we arrived in 1955 under the assisted migration scheme. I wasn’t keen to move so far from my family but in those days you followed your husband.

When we arrived we had to stay at the migrant camp in Bonegilla for the first three weeks which was a real culture shock as both my daughter and I were not well. In the meantime my husband managed to find work in Geelong as a labourer building the new refinery and he moved to the region. It was very hard work for him as he had only worked in an office previously but you do what you have to do as the breadwinner of the family.

Those first weeks were very lonely as my husband wasn’t always able to hitchhike back to Bonegilla to visit us. In those early days he boarded with a Dutch family in Norlane, but they really didn’t have room for him and he shared the bed with a boarder who worked the night shift. He managed to get a cabin at Ocean Grove where friends from the ship had settled and we joined him shortly after in July 1955. Finally we were together again as a family and a second child, a boy was born in early 1956. My husband was lucky to find work as a paymaster at Shell and things improved greatly. In total we stayed at the cabin for about two and a half years and then moved to Norlane. We ended up building our home on the Bellarine in the early 1970s.

It was hard and we managed as best we could, my husband worked weekends as our family grew to four children. Luckily I knew how to sew and had been given a sewing machine as a wedding gift.

Once the kids started school it much easier making friends and I soon found myself sewing things for kinder and school fetes. We joined a Dutch club where we could share our customs, go dancing and for me it alleviated my loneliness. I joined a Ladies Fellowship group at the church and was the treasurer for about 10 years, something that I was scared stiff of doing!

As I get older I also find that the local neighbourhood house is a great place to meet people and learn something new at the same time, I did a ‘The Law and You’ course and really enjoyed it. Talking to people is the key to finding out what is available.

I have no regrets about our move to Australia as we have been very lucky we have been able to work hard to have a house and cars, but I do miss my family and friends that were left behind back home.

Page last updated: Monday, 10 August 2020