Today, in a conversation, the question arose, why did we come to Australia? When was the seed planted in my mind?
Ostensibly we came to Australia to have a better future for us and the children. We could have chosen Canada or the United States instead and could have tried our luck there. But why Australia? It is the furthest away from Germany and the chances of ever coming back seemed remote at the time.
I have no idea when, in my childhood, I became aware of the continent called Australia. But it struck me, that the whole continent was one country, that is, one nation where the people are having all this landmass to themselves. . It was almost as big as Europe which contained so many countries. Throughout history, Europe suffered numerous wars among its nations.
Probably Australia entered my consciousness when I heard that our two pet budgerigars’ homeland was Australia. Then Christmas 1948 or 49 my mother gave me a book for a present. The story of the book was set in Australia at the birthplace of European settlement, Botany Bay. The events of the story happened in about 1946 when a group of boys living at Ramsgate Beach tried to steal an old cargo ship that was anchored in the middle of Botany Bay with only an old Polish migrant living on it. He was supposed to keep it in good nick in case the owner wanted to use it again. It was always under steam.
The boys were roughly my age and I liked their freedom with which they pursued their adventure.
I don’t know the title of the book anymore, nor do I know who the author was. I’m in contact with the library of the Municipality of Rockdale, but so far nobody knows anything about the book.
Around the same time, two Australien films were shown in German cinemas. They were “The Overlanders” and “Bush Chrismas“. Both films were very popular in Germany and both were starring Chips Rafferty in the main roles. He was an iconic Australian actor. The big, wide country promised a freedom undreamed of for me living in a big city.
A few years later I decided to inquire about migrating to Australia. In Berlin, there was no embassy and all inquiries and applications were handled by a Military Comission at the Olympic stadium. When I arrived there with a friend, we found the Commission was closed due to a public holiday. It must have been their Labour Holiday in October. It was a Monday and I learned, that Australians like to have their public holidays on a Monday. This gives them a long weekend every time. It was just another reason to migrate to this dream country.
A couple of months later I tried again and got as far as applying for an assisted passage. I could not have paid for the full passage at the time. I needed the permission of the government employment agency, and they knocked me back as I had a trade that was highly in demand after the war. I was a bricklayer and they wanted me to rebuild Berlin.
What that knockback did, was for me to change careers. Bricklaying was not for me. A few career changes later and living in Düsseldorf with a wife and a toddler, I saw by then an ad in the local paper. We thought it was directly speaking to us since it said “Australia needs You!”. There was no need to convince Uta. We both wanted to go, especially since we still had no apartment of our own and a second child was on its way. We applied and after going through all the procedures we were accepted and the Germans were happy for us to leave: It meant one family less on the waiting list for an apartment.
Today, when we drive along Grand Parade, on the Western side of Botany Bay, I look across Lady Robinsons Beach and think of the book and the story I read as a twelve-year-old and wonder whether my mother planted the seed of migrating to Australia in my mind.