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The day I called Australia home

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Lorna Ramirez
LORNA RAMIREZ was born, raised and educated in Manila in the Philippines, attaining a degree in Chemical Engineering and working as a laboratory manager in a textiles company. In 1977, with her husband and her son and daughter she migrated to Australia. She worked as a laboratory technician and a chemist in Australia, only retiring in the year 2000 to care for her first grandchild. Lorna Ramirez has travelled extensively, gaining much from her interactions with people all over the world and building a strong foundation for her philosophies about life. She loves gardening, cooking, and reading and playing the piano. She is also interested in the Stock Exchange. Throughout her life, Lorna Ramirez, a woman of faith, has been a wise observer of human behaviour and has collected her many pearls of wisdom and observations to produce this inspiring and uplifting book.

It was raining heavily on that night of the 31st of August 1977 as we drove to the airport for a new life in Australia. My husband is an Electronic and an Electrical Engineer in the Philippines, while I am a Chemical Engineer. My children were aged 9 and 5. It took us an eight-hour journey from Manila to Australia. I had mixed emotions-excited but scared. We do not know what to expect, going to another country with a different culture, no relatives and friends to offer support was a huge gamble at that time.

Coming to Australia was a part of the Whitlam Government scheme called Assisted Passage Migration, which provided financial assistance to new migrants.

At the airport, we were met by the government staff, who led us to a waiting cab.

Midway Hostel

We reached our destination at the Midway Hostel at the Hampstead Road, Maidstone, for newly arrived migrants, now known as the Student Village. Friendly staff took us to an interview room where he helped and guided us with our applications for Medicare, children’s allowance, and unemployment benefit.

The board and lodging at the Midway Hostel were free while you go searching for a job. Once you get employed, you have the option to stay for a few months with pay or leave the hostel. They provided us with a two-bedroom unit with a bathroom, toilet but no kitchen. Cooking was not allowed in the unit. Food was provided at the communal or dining hall. A smorgasbord of food, lots of meat, poultry, variety of salads, fruits and desserts were served each meal. At the Hostel, there were several communal laundry facilities that became our meeting and interacting places and gave us a chance to know different races and cultures.

We had a supply of fresh milk and fruit every afternoon. Towels, linens were supplied and washed for our convenience. Sunday Mass was said, and a school bus took the migrant children either to  Catholic or public schools and dropped them back at the Hostel.

Within two weeks, both my husband and I had jobs. Filipino families bonded together. The Filipino relationship with each other was quite remarkable as we tried to hold on to one another for strength and security. At the Hostel, a frail elderly Sister assisted us with all our spiritual needs. She also provided us with thick clothing and cardigans for surviving the cold nights in Melbourne.

Life after hostel

After two months at the Hostel, our family moved to a two-bedroom flat, a walking distance from a Primary Catholic School. Since my husband and I were both working, my heart bled each time I went to work in the morning. Fortunately, we have a Filipino family as neighbour who helped us.

Life in Australia was so different in the 70s. Shopping malls, groceries and banks were open only five days a week but on Friday, they were open on an extended hour up to 9 pm. This was the main reason why we have so many establishments of Milk Bars (local general stores). You don’t see them anymore. We would barely see a soul when we went to the city during the weekend. However, this was compensated for by the fact that almost every weekend, we went to different camping areas in Victoria- fishing, bushwalking and just relaxing with extended families and friends.

In the 70s, the average loaf of bread was only 48 cents, and the yearly average wage was $9,000 per annum.

Watch for FREE

During the night, the vacant lot in front of Highpoint Mall was used as Drive-In Cinema, very popular at that time. On Sundays, this was used for Trash and Treasure stalls. 

In the 70s, becoming an Australian citizen was a lot easier. You had to be a permanent Australian resident for two years with a good moral character, the ability to speak and understand English but not necessary to be able to read and write English.

After two years, we became Australian citizens. We then moved to our very first house.

Years passed, the children grew up and finished their University degrees. Now both of us are retired. Hubby and I continue travelling around the world and to different breath-taking places in Australia.

Our house is just a few kilometres from the Midway Hostel. Each time I pass by the building, I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness, joy and mixed emotions. Those unforgettable memories are still in my mind. Our lives and future were shaped and started in this building.

We are so lucky to have given a chance to have a new life in this wonderful country that is AUSTRALIA!

(This article is an excerpt from my book My Passion My Calling. Visit www.lornasbook.com for her other titles.)


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Watch for FREE
Lorna Ramirez
LORNA RAMIREZ was born, raised and educated in Manila in the Philippines, attaining a degree in Chemical Engineering and working as a laboratory manager in a textiles company. In 1977, with her husband and her son and daughter she migrated to Australia. She worked as a laboratory technician and a chemist in Australia, only retiring in the year 2000 to care for her first grandchild. Lorna Ramirez has travelled extensively, gaining much from her interactions with people all over the world and building a strong foundation for her philosophies about life. She loves gardening, cooking, and reading and playing the piano. She is also interested in the Stock Exchange. Throughout her life, Lorna Ramirez, a woman of faith, has been a wise observer of human behaviour and has collected her many pearls of wisdom and observations to produce this inspiring and uplifting book.

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