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Wouters Family, Dutch Migrants, 1951

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Source: Museum Victoria

Henricus Wouters migrated to Australia from Holland in 1951 with his wife Lucia and his stepdaughter Lucia. Unemployment in Holland at this time was high and the Wouters were attracted by the promotional material to Australia's promises of work and a better life. Henricus was an electrician by trade but was working as an assistant manager in a department store in The Hague, where he lived. He met his future wife at the department store where she also worked. However, he was sacked when he married Lucia without telling the management.

They paid 400 gildas for their fares (a substantial sum then) and departed Amsterdam on the Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, a cruise liner which had been a troop ship during the war. Henricus recalls the communal bunk sleeping quarters but describes the voyage as like a holiday. The ship had reached the English coast when it was forced to return to Holland due to fires being started (Henricus believes as a result of conflict between the Dutch and Indonesian staff). Police officers were brought on board for the voyage and that was the end of the trouble. The ship went via Port Said, Aiden and Fremantle and had many Dutch immigrants on board. When leaving Australia the ship would go via Indonesia to collect Dutch people returning to Holland.

The Wouters were supposed to be disembarking in Sydney but they had former neighbours who had immigrated earlier and were invited to stay with them in East Doncaster in Melbourne. They did so and Henricus quickly got a job as a labourer in an orchard in Templestowe. Through his employer, his family secured a house in Templestowe within three months. The family would move to another house in Templestowe and Henricus also worked as a farm hand on a chicken farm.

They have returned to visit Holland and have never regretted their decision to migrate.

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