Heraldhistory writer Mike Scanlon’s piece on the Greta migrant camp last Saturday brought back memories for Belmont’s Eunice C English.
Eunice arrived in Australia as a migrant in 1972.
“The Greta camp had gone, but we began our new life in Singleton. We were booked into a Mayfield hostel, two adults, one toddler and a baby,” she said.
“It was not till we got off the plane at Sydney that the man who met us ‘ten-pound Poms’ coldly informed us that the Mayfield hostel had closed.”
Shocked and exhausted, they were bundled onto an old bus and “dumped in front of the office at the Coogee hostel”.
“We had no idea how we were to get to Singleton, where my husband had a job offer,” she said.
“Few people in the hostel spoke English.”
They were jetlagged and disoriented.
“We all came down with gastric, especially the poor baby. Fortunately distant relatives, Tony and Mavis Rothapfel, of Kotara, came to our rescue, despite a petrol strike.”
They caught the train to Singleton, finding the people to be “friendly and kind”.
“We never looked back. We were among the last wave of skilled migrants. My heart goes out to all today’s refugees who arrive even more lost and disoriented, having escaped so much trauma,” Eunice said.
“It is how we treat them and help them settle down and fit in that directs how they and their children perceive their new country in the future.”
Almost every Australian family in the past “had to make that same faltering start in a new country”, apart from Indigenous people.
“The more we help our new people, the stronger our country will be. It is the best place in the world.