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Bonzer Words!: Thirty Years Later

Mary Munro decided to go to Australia almost on a whim, vowing to return after two years, but...

Mary writes for Bonzer! magazine. For more good words click on http://www.bonzer.org.au

I was working as head telephonist in a London hotel when I decided to emigrate to Australia. I thought it would be an interesting experience and a chance to travel. I had lived in Germany for a couple of years and had itchy feet.

Actually my preference was Canada but it was cheaper to go to Australia at that time. So I thought I would go to Australia for two years then to Canada on the way back home. Of course I hadn't really thought how far away it was and how many dollars it would cost me to return. I still haven't been to Canada!

The hardest thing for me at the time was to find information about Australia apart from the usual travelogue movie ads from Australia House. I wanted to know something other than that: personal experiences preferably. In fact the girls who worked in Australia House gave us quite a lot of insight and I managed to get some Sydney Morning Heralds from one of the banks.

Working in a hotel, I also met guests and staff who were Australian. I know I was quite concerned about the ferries (in Sydney) because I wondered what happened if you missed the last ferry and were stranded somewhere. Once I had made the decision to go to Australia I made all the arrangements through one of the banks I think it was the ANZ. They were most helpful.

My friends and family were horrified at my decision, but I assured them I would be returning in two years' time.

I decided to travel by sea (there was a choice of sea or air travel), to give me time to get used to the idea. Unfortunately during the five weeks on the high seas I began to feel extremely nervous and wondered what on earth I was doing in the middle of an ocean, on a ship on my way to a very strange country, with hardly any money and no job. However, I can still remember my first sight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge - awesome.

I travelled on the S.S. Fairstar, which then belonged to the Italian Sitmar Line. It was a beautiful ship. I shared a cabin with five other girls who were on their way to various parts of Australia. My travelling companion was also a telephonist, and there was a nursing sister going to join a heart-transplant team, a hairdresser going to Tasmania to meet members of her family, an office worker and two radiographers. Luckily, we all got on very well and even kept in touch for many years after our arrival. I think half of them eventually went back to the UK and I lost touch with the others.

We had a great voyage, apart from when it got very rough, and met some great people, mainly families who were going to Perth. My travelling companion and myself were going to Sydney and were sponsored by Apex, a service club, whose members were wonderful to us and made us feel very welcome There was always someone around to help us until we got settled in jobs and housing. We had phone numbers of people to ring if we had any problems of any kind.
We had absolutely no problems en route or hassles with immigration.

I was extremely lucky because I was met (unexpectedly) by some people who knew my family and who made me very welcome. I soon got a job and realised that if I wished to go back to the UK I would have no problem working hard enough to earn my fare home reasonably quickly. After a few months I met my future husband and I have been in Sydney ever since.

I have no regrets. I love this country and the people in it. It has been very good to me. However I do wish it wasn't so far away from my home country! I have missed my family very much during the years, even though I have been lucky enough to have four trips back.

Australia is my home now, but part of me still stays in Britain and always will. However I have no desire to go back there to live permanently but I love to visit.

I am now a senior citizen who has discovered the joys and sorrows of computing. I discovered e-mail groups early in the piece and this has opened up a new way of life in an on-line community. I am now in contact with people all over Australia and other countries. I am in regular voice and mail contact with a lady in England and one in Ireland; most of my other contacts are in America.

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