Santa Fe, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina on 17 June 1974
Sydney on 20 June 1974
Westbridge Hostel, Villawood, Sydney in June 1974 for four months
Endeavor Hostel, Matraville, Sydney in November 1974 for seven months
Furnished unit in Eastlakes, Sydney
Process worker at Wills Tobacco, Kensington, Sydney
Process worker at Arnotts Biscuits, Homebush, Sydney
I was born in the town of Santa Fe in Argentina. When my father got a job as a chef on a ship the family moved to Buenos Aires where I grew up. I went to school and then made my First Communion when I was ten years old. I remember it very well. There were a group of single ladies, friend of the family who loved me very much. They gave me the dress and the prayer book for my First Communion. I still write to these ladies and we tell each other of our lives now.
After school and technical college I worked in the office of a magazine publisher and then I married. My husband was a tanner and I kept on working even when I had my son, Fabian. We needed both wages to manage. It was about that time that my sister gave me the idea to come to Australia. I thought about it and decided that we should do it and got the paperwork for my husband, myself and Fabian to migrate to Australia. Then I fell pregnant and our plans to migrate were put on hold.
When my daughter, Valeria was born and I stopped work. It became very hard to make ends meet on one wage. I felt that my life was not what I wanted; I wanted more for my children. So when Valeria was eight months old I took her to the British hospital where she had a medical examination. They sent the paperwork to the Australia Embassy and two hours later they rang to say the papers were ready and we could travel any time we liked!
It actually took us a month to prepare for our departure. We had to say our goodbyes and pack of course. We just had a suitcase each so we did not have a lot of room for anything other than necessities. I did bring some photos though and things of personal importance like my communion prayer book which is an important memento of my Catholic faith which has also travelled with me to Australia. I also packed Fabian’s baby suit that he wore for his baptism. This was important to me because it related once again to my faith and to my son when he was a baby. These things are very precious to me – they are the only things I have to remind me of the important things of my life in Argentina.
We also had to organize a loan of $300 for the airfares for the first part of our journey, from Buenos Aires to Peru during that month. You see, the Australian government chartered the Qantas plane for migrants free of charge but there were not so many people wanting to migrate from Argentina at that time – so we had to get a commercial flight to Peru where we joined the chartered flight.
We left Buenos Aires on 17 June 1974 on Argentine Airlines and finally arrived in Australia on 20 June 1974. It was a Thursday night. I will never forget that night. We travelled from the airport to Westbridge Hostel in Villawood on a special bus. I was sitting on the bus with my daughter who was dressed in the pink baby suit – the one in the photograph – and saw all the shops lit up and open at 9pm – all along the Hume Highway. I thought, “this is good”.
The hostel was excellent – I remember opening the door and thinking it was just like an apartment – one room for the kids with a bed and a cot and a room for us with a bed. There were sheets and cups everything. We had our meals in a big dining room and everything was so clean.
We didn’t have to pay for the accommodation until we found work and then we had to pay a percentage of what we earned. In around December 1974 my husband found work on the assembly line at General Motors Holden in Pagewood. So we moved to the Endeavor Hostel in Coogee and then I found a job as a process worker at Wills Tobacco in Kensington. I worked in the packing department at Wills. Endeavor Hostel was very good for us because it was closer to our work and also my children were looked after at the child care facilities there while we worked.
When we moved out of Endeavor we rented an apartment in Eastlakes. We eventually ended up buying a house here in Botany. My children went to the local schools here.
The hardest thing about migrating to Australia has been the language. I tried to learn English at the hostel but I was busy working and looking after the kids so I feel that I never learned English very well. But life has been good in Australia. We always had work and my kids were well educated. I went back to Argentina in 1987 for a holiday – it seemed so different to what I remembered. It seemed as if people were even less well off than when I had left. Perhaps it seemed like that because I have become used to my life here in Australia – I couldn’t live in Argentina now. I think I have changed as well as Argentina changing, I am older and my life is here.