Judith and David Gimblett moved to Australia from Dalton in 1982. Here Judith recalls the lows and many highs of their journey
THE JOURNEY OUT
I WAS 22 and David was 30 when we left Yorkshire for Australia. We left Huddersfield by coach for Heathrow Airport from where we were to fly on to Melbourne, Australia.
All of our family and closest friends came to see us off. One moment I was weeping goodbyes and the next I felt sick with excitement.
David and I were both excited about our imminent new life Down Under. Unfortunately, our arrival in Melbourne on June 25, 1982 was not what we expected.
Prior to leaving the UK, I had made arrangements through Australia House in Manchester to forego the assisted passage to Melbourne, though we were told we would be met at Melbourne Airport and taken to government accommodation where we would be able to stay for up to six months until we got our bearings.
After wandering around the arrivals area for a couple of hours with still no representative in sight, I called the British Embassy Offices with exclamations of, “Help! We’ve been abandoned.”
To which the beautifully cultured tones of the Embassy gentleman responded: “You have not been abandoned madam, stay calm and tell me what has happened.”
I related our dilemma to him and within a half hour a black limo pulled up at the airport doors and took us directly to the offices of the Department of Commonwealth and Ethnic Affairs.
David and I were promptly separated and interviewed for several hours. The officials obviously thought we were trying to get into Australia illegally.
Everyone was very nice and polite but I must admit that at one point I envisioned us sleeping on park benches that first night.
After back-tracking our case and realising we were in fact genuine migrants, we were finally taken to the government accommodation complex in Springvale, called, Enterprise, (Beam me up Scotty).
The Enterprise was a marvellous facility. It reminded me a lot of Butlins, without the Redcoats. We stayed there for five months, we were given lots of support and an allowance to help us get by until we found work.
Enterprise consisted of long rows of chalet type accommodation in lovely grounds. We shared our rooms with a Dutch couple for most of those five months.
They decided to return to Holland, as they were very homesick.
There were many nationalities living at Enterprise including many ‘Boat people’.
I found the refugees to be a quiet people who mostly kept to themselves, likely due to the horrors they had suffered during their inhuman boat trip and the problematic language barrier.
However, as my first form of employment was in the Enterprise kitchens, I soon made friends with three Asian girls of a similar age to me and found them to be lovely, gentle women, and it wasn’t long before I was being taught how to greet various family members correctly in their language.
They, in turn, were learning a few English words, though in a broad Yorkshire accent – very amusing to my ear, though no doubt I sounded just as comical to them when I attempted their language.
One thing I particularly remember about our arrival in Australia is being very surprised and disappointed not to see kangaroos in every garden and koalas up every tree.
I was also terrified of bumping into snakes and spiders, so whenever David and I would walk down from the hostel into the township I would insist on walking in the road rather than on the pavement – I was always afraid a snake would jump out of the gardens and get me, yes folks, not slither, but actually jump, as if waiting especially for me to walk by.
I look back on that and think what at twit I was, I really did expect it to be like the ‘Skippy the bush kangaroo’ show I used to watch when I was a child, it is amazing what stays with you without you knowing it.
SETTING UP HOME
DAVID found employment within three weeks at a company who made fire fighting and swimming pool pumps.
It was a train trip to work for him every day, a trip which seemed unusually long to him at the time, but which he would now consider a quick trip since acclimatising to Australian distances.
We neither of us now think anything of travelling for a couple of hours to a favourite place for lunch or a pretty spot for a picnic or to walk the dogs.
We left Enterprise to rent a house in the Springvale township just in time for our first Christmas away from home.
It was awful. No family, no snow and a most uncomfortable time trying to roast a turkey in forty degree heat, a tradition I still carry on regardless of temperature. Some traditions we just can’t give up.
It was also around this time that I trained to become a driving instructor, a career I thoroughly enjoyed for many years.
I met some lovely people and some real loonies, believe me, an article could be written on those experiences alone.
We found Melbourne a wonderful city brimming with parks and gardens, though back then, in the early Eighties, the whole place seemed to shut down at 10pm, buses stopped running about 6pm and you weren’t allowed to buy meat after noon on Saturdays until Monday morning, due I think to the butchers’ shops being unhappy about the supermarkets taking a lot of their trade.
But that was then and this is now and the shops stay open all hours and meat can be bought at midnight if you want it.
Melbourne cafe society is great. Fantastic restaurants and bars serving foods from all over the world. We love it.
We bought our first car, a humungous six-cylinder Ford Falcon, bench seats and an engine that vroomed.
I loved it – and now we were able to explore more.
It was while living in Springvale that I got back into horse riding. I have been involved with horses in various ways since I was a small child.
I bought a beautiful chestnut thoroughbred and named him Sher Khan after the tiger in the Disney movie Jungle-book, one of my favourite movies.
I kept ‘Khan at a nearby stables until we moved to the country.
After a couple of years living in Springvale we moved a little further into the country and rented a small three acre property in Pakenham.
We then extended our family with dogs, cats and another horse, Cavalier.
David and I joined an adult riding club and spent many hours on horseback.
Through the years, our horses have given us so much pleasure and they remained with us until they passed away.
When Sher Khan had to be put to sleep we got Merlin to keep Cavalier company. Then when Cavalier died we got Strider to keep Merlin company, and then Bannor who was in desperate need of a good home so he came and lived with us too, and boy was Bannor cranky.
He had been so ill treated it took several months before he could be touched without being terrified all the time and trying to bite and kick. But our persistence paid off and he settled down and became a happy horse in the end, though sadly we only had him a few years before he passed away. At least his last years were happy ones.
We completed our family with our son Matthew who was born in July, 1988.
By this time David had a new job with CSR, a giant company in Australia. He worked here for about 26 years, working his way up to a supervisor’s position before leaving in March last year.
Matthew completed year 12 at Korumburra Secondary College and then went on to attain several further computer and IT qualifications. He is now working as a graphic designer.
He hopes to visit Italy and Japan in the not too distant future as he has a great interest in their history.
I look forward to the day when Matthew starts the next generation of our family branch in Australia.
We now live on a 10-acre property about three kilometres from the small village of Nyora, about 100 kilometres east of Melbourne.
Our home is situated on a hilltop and we have a wonderful view of the ocean. Some of you may have heard of the popular tourist attraction, Phillip Island, famous for its Fairy Penguin and seal colonies.
We live a short drive away from there: Google Phillip Island or Gippsland, Victoria and you will see what a beautiful part of Australia we live in.
We recently decided to buy ourselves a small boat and have joined Newhaven Yacht Club and much to our delight we find we enjoy sailing immensely.
GOD BLESS THE AUSSIES
THERE were a lot of phone calls and a great deal of homesickness in the first couple of years.
David and I spent much of our free time with people we had met in the hostel who had now become very dear friends.
There were eight of us who used to hang together. I think we became security blankets for each other, but gradually the emotional pain of moving so far away from family and friends softened and became easier for all of us to bear and so eventually most of us went along different paths as people do, though we still see our Welsh pals Dai and Gaynor fairly regularly.
Mother’s Day, Christmas and get-togethers for family birthdays I am not attending still pull on the heartstrings.
I especially miss my sisters, and sometimes I miss my mum so much it will bring me to tears, so I ring her up and tell her I need to feel her hand on my face.
It always makes me feel better. I call these times my Menopause Moments, which go hand in hand with my Senior Moments, an example of which is losing my cheque book and after turning the house upside down for a week I finally found in the chest freezer!
We now plan to do some travelling. Australia is such a vast continent and there is so much to see. We are thinking of getting ourselves a motorhome or caravan and becoming members of the ‘Grey Army’, the vast movement of retirees who roam Australia, just wandering at will and going where their fancy takes them.
Both David and I are excited about our plan.
We have had a wonderful life here. Australia has been good to us, we worked hard and we got on.
We have made lifelong friends, some we met at the Springvale Enterprise hostel when we first arrived here so many years ago.
We have been fortunate that over the 28 years we have been in Australia, my mum has visited eight times, my auntie Winnie three times, my uncle Roy once and my auntie Kath three times. Both my sisters have visited as well as my cousins Dianne Heppenstall and Julia O’Grady, my sister-in-law Diane and our very dear friends Roger and Margaret Barritt, with further visits planned from my sister and brother in law in 2011.
I do have one regret, and that is that neither my dad or my stepdad came over to Australia for a visit, especially as I know without a doubt that they would have loved it.
Unfortunately, my dad’s wife became very ill not long after we emigrated and he spent many years caring for her. Sadly she passed away not too long ago and dad’s health isn’t up to the long flight, and my stepdad passed away earlier this year.
I do wonder sometimes if our son, Matthew has been disadvantaged by not having his extended family around him, no granddads to talk to, no grandmas to spoil him, but I believe he will have a better future here.
He has accompanied me to England on three occasions, at three years old, at 15 and at 21. I remember a few weeks into his second visit him saying to me, “I’m glad I came, mum, it’s great to be among all my family, but I couldn’t live here. All people appear do is work and go to the pub”.
I myself have returned to England several times, keeping family bonds strong, and I am always looking forward to my next trip.
My mum and my sisters, Jacqueline and Alison still live with their families in Dalton, all within 50 feet of each other, that is how close they are.
Sometimes I think about my big move and am amazed I found it in me to break away, but I did, probably because I love David so much.
Mum used to tell me all I could see was him and I would have followed him anywhere. As it turned out he made a very good life decision for us.
A couple of the many, many thing I love about Australia,
One, any race seems to marry any other race, it’s a melting pot here.
Two, if you go to a pub and see a Rolls-Royce and an old banger parked in the car park, once inside the pub it’s likely you would not be able to pick the owner of which car because Aussies, God bless ‘em, seem to have no concern for rank. They pretty much look the same and they talk the same, I think that’s great.
Three, you can take your family to a sports match, including soccer and you can wear your team colours to walk safely down the street alone and also, all the fans are mixed up, there are no ‘ends’. How about that? Sport is still sport here, not war.
So, if any of you have ever considered a move Down Under, stop procrastinating and get on with it.
It will be the best move you have ever made. Just one piece of advice though – eat your fill of pork pies, gammon and clotted cream as they are hard to find here.
Truth is, I can now buy Jaffa cakes and chocolate digestives at Safeways.