I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I’m happy here. There are just so many memories with me about Kwinana. We could be here all day if I were to tell you them all. Father Christmas and the lolly run (the Kwinana tradition, since 1954, of cars driving round the local area with Santa on them, throwing out bags of lollies to children) on Christmas morning for example; my dad did it, now I do it, and our kids help out on the day too. Chris is now the coordinator of it. It’s just this wonderful feeling, putting back into the community what it gave to us.
My dad was a prison officer and he was working in Scotland in Stirling and he got a transfer down to Strangeways in Manchester just before I was born. And my mother used to say ‘don’t’ worry love, you were made in Scotland.’ We arrived in Australia in 1956, I was six years old. We came over by ship, ‘cos my father said ‘this is no place to bring up children, in England.’ And dad said there would be more opportunity for our children in Australia. I don’t think mum had much say in it ‘cos I don’t think she really wanted to come.
Well, mum always used to say it was primitive. When we first moved into the house here in Medina, she went into the kitchen and she said to my father ‘what the hell have you brought me to?’ She said ‘where’s the stove?’ There was a wood stove in the corner. There was no hot water, ‘we’ve got nothing here, absolutely nothing.’
There was a community at the end of the day that everybody was in the same boat. Nobody had anything, because a lot of people didn’t have jobs, they’d only just arrived here. They were trying to get themselves settled. There was Irish, Poles, Hungarians, Germans, Dutch, Scotch, English – have I missed anybody? – Italians, Yugoslavs; the majority of people spoke English, there was a few that didn’t speak English but that doesn’t matter, they fitted in to the community of people. They all got on. 90% of them used to go to church on Sundays.
What got a lot of people was the isolation. You know, like it’s a big thing to leave your whole family behind. Once you got here you were stuck. Unless you could save up enough money to get a ship out of Australia, there was no way you were gonna leave. A lot of people used to say ‘oh, you know, I’ll go back’, and they’d save a fortune, and they flew back to England and they were in England for about six or eight weeks - they came back, going ‘I don’t like it there’. Not many actually went back and stayed back. I think there were some - a lot of European people did that too.
I think they were holding on to their families. I don’t think it was a cultural thing, I think it was a family thing. Everyone used to share culture. They used to have dances out here at the Ding Dong, old Corker’s place. People from all different – the Poles would get involved and they’d dance and do this, and the Scotch would do something and the…you were Europeans and that was it. (There wasn’t a lot of Asians here at all because of the White Australia Policy.)
When the penny final dropped was when we had to do National Service. And they said ‘you have to’, and I said ‘but I’m not Australian.’ Oh it doesn’t matter. If you’ve been here for more than six months then you have to register. So – OK – and they take you in; you actually have to swear allegiance to Australia, and your Queen and country. So I thought ‘that makes me an Australian’.
Well, I always thought of myself as an Australian anyway because I’m here, I know nothing about England, nothing at all. And, I mean, I’d be one of the first people to stand up and fight for Australia.