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My First Year in Australia

I arrived in Australia in the middle of winter July in 1981 and on the third day I got married. It was life of many beginnings in a new place many ways.

On my wedding, most of our guests at St Marys Cathedral in North Sydney were newly arrived migrants who don’t own cars.  We had to lend to some the car we borrowed for wedding transport. What about us?  We  travelled in style to Dee Why, NSW aboard  a taxicab owned by one of the guests who happened to be a taxi driver.

At the restaurant, the owner gave us a 100 percent Australian Pavlova for our wedding cake

Australia in 1981 was under the ruling Coalition government led by another Malcolm. There were workplace labour  strikes now and then. Strange as it was, I soon found out even civil service workers and public servants can go on strikes for days for various demands.

The Australian Institute of Sports (AIS) was earlier inaugurated by Prime Minister Fraser in Canberra. Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock reigned as Foreign Minister. Later in September that year New South Wales Premier Neville Wran would be re-elected yet again, increasing the ALP seats in NSW Parliament.

As for myself, it took me four months to land a job. I soon realised, Australia has vocation-oriented labour force.  Many workers enter the labour force through apprenticeships and it was hard for migrants approaching middle age like I was to get a bre

It was a catch 22 situation to many migrant jobseekers.  The cliché situation was that employers would require the migrant jobseeker local working experience.  The usual result was hundred or even thousands of hours spent in those many and ever present Commonwealth Employment Services or CES offices in Sydney and main suburbs.

Australia then was a Camelot for tradesmen.  Young workers are honed to develop a trade to join the work force. Thanks to the beginnings of globalisation, migrant workers are able to break through this threshold via the less familiar  and less liked jobs, such as shift work and  frontline jobs in the emerging computer industry.

In Manila I worked in a number of journalism related jobs as a newspaper beat rounds man, as government bureau PRO, and as bank publication assistant. I considered myself lucky to have landed a job with the then AAP Reuters Services in Sydney, as a night shift  assistant in its daily economic news service.  We produced daily financial and commodity newsletter distributed ever morning to Sydney’s various banks, brokerage houses and economic institutions, not to mention the telex news services to ships around and near Australia.

Accustomed to many friends and family relations back in the Philippines, I felt there were really few people in this  country.  Still there were really few  Filipino speaking people around.  One noticed the many queues or lines of people in bus stops, supermarkets, and market shops.

Back in 1981, shops and supermarkets are closed by 6:00 pm. Thursdays nights are the only special time when workers an employees have time to really shop for weekly provisions.  And Asian and Filipino food and provision are only available in the Chinese shops of Dixon St. in Sydney’s Chinatown.

One thing my old boss at AAP Reuters told me I will never forget, ”If you do not have friends, you simply have to start making friends.”

Until I realised later, my old residential district of Dee Why, NSW was a much preferred address by many. I did not realise immediately then the special “air of paradise” of  Lower North Shore where the beach culture and ambience of golden surfies rule.

For the past 31 years my wife and our daughter and a son and I have lived in Western Sydney.

For migrants, weekends mean endless family parties in residences. Those were the early times learning about Australian barbecue, Foster and Tooheys, not to mention the obligatory  parlour games of mahjongs and Ten Pin bowling.  One learned to love the game of cricket, NRL and AFL football  even if only versions  watched on TV.

Australia is blessed with wonderful natural gifts as I joined friends and relations in periodic tours of the countryside and their scenic spots.  Sights of Wollongong,  Nowra, South Coast,  Jenolan Cave and Newcastle were encouraging to a new arrival like me.

With stable job, I viewed ahead a wonderful life and dreamed of a family and a home like those with red tiled rooftops I saw from the airplane on my arrival in this country.

My first year in Australia was memorable in the sense that a twenty-something like me was able to cope  with what will surmise  ahead in one’s  life in this wonderful country.  Frustrations and anxieties about life in another country were overwhelmed by smiles and hope one is blessed  in the new country once referred to by its early explorers as the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit.

My beloved daughter and blessing from the Lord was born a year later in May 1982. My wife became Australian citizen in 1983 and I followed her in 1985.