We drove out to the Grain Terminal at Pinkenba today.
It’s not very picturesque. A bunch of silos at the mouth of the Brisbane River. There’s a strong smell of rotting grain, and muddy puddles everywhere.
But what’s important about it to me, is that it’s on this spot on 1 May 1965 that we arrived in Brisbane from the UK aboard Ellinis.
You wouldn’t think that thousands of migrants to Australia would have come ashore here. But this is where the Australian history of our family began, so it’s something special to me.
On that day in 1965, we sat around on the wharf for a few hours waiting for a bus. Although the ship arrived at about 9am, the bus didn’t come to get us till mid afternoon. Not a very pleasant introduction to Brisbane.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Pinkenba. There’s nothing very pretty about the place. It’s just silos, fuel storage tanks, wharves and the oil refinery. The roads are muddy when wet and dusty when dry. I’m sure many a new arrival thought to himself or herself “what the hell have I got myself into here!!!”.
The bus drove us down Kingsford Smith Drive to Yungaba. It’s about a 30 minute drive. I’ve read in other places that they used to have a welcoming committee on the front lawn with tables set laid out with tea and cakes for the new arrivals. I don’t know if they laid it on for us, but the place is quite picturesque.
This beautiful mansion is tucked under the Story Bridge. The bridge’s imposing form intrudes on the place from every angle. You can’t escape the noise of cars passing overhead. To get in and out of Yungaba you have to enter via a driveway that passes under the bridge. And to get anywhere else, you either have to drive over the bridge, or negotiate traffic coming off the bridge.
We stayed here 10 days in 1965.
During that time, my sister was quite ill, and stayed in hospital a few days.
I was ill too.
After a week and a half of sleeping in the dormitories at Yungaba, we caught a taxi out to Wacol Migrant hostel, and stayed in a Nissen Hut for a few weeks before finally being moved to a wooden relic from World War Two – our new home for the next 10 months.
When I think of all this now, I have a new admiration for my Mum and Dad. Coming to a new country, with no money, not knowing anyone, with two young kids, and one on the way. What a remarkable testimony to them that they made a success of it.
I’m so proud of them.