Fernando at Mt. Price Western Australia, 1964.
Fernando at Mt. Price WA, 1964.

I arrived from Madrid in June of 1962. Back In Spain I was a fitter and turner. After passing an exam in Madrid, I came here as part of a group of 200 qualified trades people.

My neighbour had told me that he was going to Australia. And I asked, “but how is this?” and he said, “Well I am going to be called up with an offer to work”. I wished him all the best. My curiosity had been aroused and I soon went and found out what it was about. The end result was that I came to Australia and he did not (Fernando smiles). I came here with my wife and two daughters travelling by boat for one month. When we arrived it reminded us of a small town in Spain.

We began our life in Whyalla, South Australia. I was employed by BHP as a fitter and turner at first, I was offered work on a huge press after that. I worked for BHP until they started having alternating shifts that required me to work in the day one week and the night the following. When I worked the night shift, I couldn’t sleep during the day and that is why I asked for my final termination pay and went to work for Transfield.

I had to make frequent trips to W.A with Transfield. During this time my daughters finished their schooling and we decided to go to Sydney for a holiday. We liked it so much that we decided to move, so I resigned from Transfield. They offered me to work in Seven Hills where they had a branch. They paid for all our relocating costs, including travel and hotels. However, one of the conditions was that I could no longer travel outside of Sydney. My daughters had grown up and I wanted to spend more time at home. But soon after, the branch in Port Kembla had gone on strike and they wanted to send me there because the work schedule was running behind. I said, ‘No’ and resigned.

I then went to work for an American company close to the airport until it closed down. From there I went to Cockatoo Island, where they fabricated submarines and repaired ships. I worked as a mechanical engineer on a crane ship. When cargo ships had trouble with the cargo, perhaps it had moved during the voyage, I would go out and operate the crane. During this time many industries in Australia started to close and Cockatoo Island was one of them. I was close to my retirement age, so I worked for a couple of small companies before I fully retired.

My wife and I found it difficult in the beginning as we had poor English, but not at work because the language was about the plans. Everywhere around the world this is the same. But in any case, there was a lot of work if you knew English or not. In Adelaide, I found it difficult to understand English. However in Sydney, it was a bit easier. My wife would go to the shop and no one would understand her. Another Spaniard and I made a shopping list in English and Spanish so that we could be better understood. Later, I studied English for a little while in order to make myself understood.

I was a founding member of the “House of Spain” in Whyalla, South Australia. When I came to Sydney, I was asked to sit on the Board of Directors of the Spanish Club. I started from the bottom and eventually became the President in Sydney. I always worked as a volunteer, sometimes for free as the Manager. I founded a group for the pensioners within the club. I was also the founding coordinator of Spanish Migrants and later I presented myself in the elections here to become an Advisor (elected by other Spaniards) and I became the President of Victoria and New South Wales. I was there for four years traveling to Spain every six months, but eventually I had to give it away as the trips became very tiring. I didn’t present myself for the next election.

I was also a founder in the working party of the “El Parque Habitacional” Residential Gardens in Rooty Hill. This is a nursing home for Spanish-speaking people. I was responsible for securing the 10% deposit. In order to fund raise we held small events at the club. I decided to ask the NSW Premier at the time to help us, and he did. Due to the pending election in which he was standing he gave us $185 000 for the deposit. The Federal Government funded the 90% balance. We were able to build the nursing home where many Latin-Americans and Spaniards live today.

My current wife is Greek but because she has spent many years in Spain she cooks Spanish style (with the exception of her delicious Greek Salads). I don’t really miss Spain much. I have hardly any family left there and my life is here in Australia. When you are outside of Spain you realise that Spaniards are “Cry Babies”. In reality we live here a lot better than in many other countries. I traveled a lot to Spain, as I was the General Consultant of Immigration for Spaniards here in Australia for many years. Every time I landed on Spanish soil I was very happy, however after a few days I began to miss Australia. I have been here for many years now and I have never had a problem, I am very happy. I am very comfortable here and I am not sure that I want to return to Spain. I am now 83 and I have a very tranquil life. I have my wine before food, and I go on holidays when I please.

What I like most here, is the freedom we have. If you want to express your opinion, you can do so without anyone saying anything. I am very happy here, with my grandchildren and great grand children. Apart from the occasional political upset that I feel, I love being here.
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