The Sociology of A Place To Call Home Part 4
by Sandshoe (Honshades)
In 1984, 15,771 persons whose last country of residence was Australia migrated to New Zealand. 14,097 persons went to Australia. Gain to New Zealand: 1,604.
In 1985, 12,537 persons resident in Australia migrated to New Zealand, 3, 234 less than in 1984. 21,964 persons went from New Zealand to Australia. Loss from New Zealand: 9,427
Statistics can be made to say and do anything they say. Tell them to bark and they roll over. I don’t think so when they are blatant..
In 1986, 22,578 more people left New Zealand and went to Australia than moved to New Zealand from Australia.
The drain of residents from New Zealand because they went to Australia was a blow-out.
I did not know those statistics in 1984, 1985 and 1986 that were the first three years I lived in New Zealand. I do know the white colonialist factor.
The elephant is in the room. I am harsh and believe me, I love this country with
passion because sometimes, we end up loving the place where we have experienced hell.
Where a predominance of migrants into a local environment are not English speaking or are a race and colour other than white, a white female migrant is overlooked by a white administration if she succumbs by virtue of the same experience to unattended ills or is subject to deprivation and abuse. A society that is breaking down isolates a migrant white woman as surely as any other.
I just yearned at community events and picnic places for our family to belong to large and boisterous groupings of Pacific Island migrants. With the emotional problems of an isolated woman who was a migrant with a large family of children and no immediate family to seek haven, of course I identified with migrants with large families.
I felt little shared identity with loose groupings of white New Zealanders at that time. I heard their accent as gutting. The national newsreader pronounced days of the
week as Mondee, Tuesdee etc. I misunderstood in face-to-face transactions the simplest words.
How long is a piece of string.
The reception party we were told to anticipate was long in the making. When it was we drove to a remote location I viewed over violent tree tops buffeted by a gale and nothing else in sight. A sign on the door of its bach warning to not steal or take our things they mean a lot to us transfixed me. I felt overwhelmed. I had never seen a sign like it on a door of housing that is a home. I looked to incoming new staff members who were like us finding their feet. I asked the wife of a recently arrived professional who had a job in his same department or building how it had come about and she replied ‘Nepotism’.
A blusterer of a huge man asked me where I was standing alone at a buffet table what it was like where I came from and I would not be used to the rain. I said thinking to please that where I am from it’s very wet so I’m used to rain, I like rain. He chortled, snorted, abrasive, “No, it’s NOT. Australia’s a dry country!”
No matter perhaps he considered himself a statistical genius and humorist. No matter his judgement how to behave towards a pleasant woman might have been affected by alcohol. The impact was crushing isolation in that space. He delivered his retort and stalked away.
In a round robin of what everybody did conducted in a circle on the brilliant green lawn, I was the one guest without professional employment outside the home. There was an awkward silence that caught me off guard and maybe it was mine.
Guests were introduced by description of what institution they worked for and the hostess was confused how to introduce me. I was relieved to see one of the identifiable good guys I had previously met. She took me under wing I rarely left from under. We were ushered by the hostess to be seated beside a picture window, which was now I realised the bach seemed to be built on an edge of a cliff top albeit that may have been illusion. I hate heights. The room spun as I sat down and refused an attempt by the husband of the hostess to force me to stand up and sit at the window to see the
beautiful view. Yes, lovely view I said from where I was and wrote a short story about it later in which I announced my hypocrisy complete.
The view was bleak and of waves as violent as the trees in the valley smashing against a point as if it the long tongue of a living beast. A violent sea was spraying into the air.
Children rolled on a section of dark green lawn that had a steep incline and my children fitted in. That could have been enough.
My thoughts instead were meshing with the complexities of racial distress experienced by one of the central characters in the novel, Light in August by William Faulkner. I read Light in August when I was at High School and Joe Christmas, an orphan was born with white skin in the Deep South of the American States, but believes he has black African forebears. He fitted nowhere as a result of his identity he imagined otherwise he had none seeking black associations that rejected his cloy and maladjusted in white association.
I witness I saw evidence of racism in spades where we lived in our suburb.
Most distressing it was common to hear young white men call out abuse directed at aging Polynesian women driving small sedans laden with produce from the markets. I knew racist Australia. My growth to understanding this new racism caused me feelings of the greatest rage and shame. I have experienced now widely the primary trait of a white male anywhere who is a bully to repeatedly round on lone women and cause harm by whatever means they can capitalise.
As devastating, white and black kids spat globules of mucous onto streets and pavements. When later the older two children began to hawk with gusto onto street
pavements out walking with friends they made who hawked too, my skin crawled.
I was suffering catastrophe is the best word.
In the day to day management of the family I was a key to provision. I knocked on neighbour’s doors to introduce myself where I saw a vegetable garden in a back yard. The supplement was necessity to a diet of rice, potatoes and as many varieties of bread that can be imagined as I was proficient at baking bread. My husband’s income status was a junior ladder rung. We had not expected it. He relied on verbal discussion. He was now promised he would advance when he had completed a year’s Diploma in the area of Community Health.
I was incredulous. I understood why he gave not a thought his level of income would not be on a higher rung.
His projected Diploma he knew nothing of previous to signing his contract of employment complemented six years of medical study, two further as an intern of which one was spent in his city’s hospital and the second in a markedly different city, a further few intensive months as a locum public hospital Registrar in a remote location and the only medical professional for miles around, one year of specialty in a public hospital to get experience with anesthetics regard to children and his intention
was to stand him in stead in remote locations, followed by a protracted Ph. D. He had been a supervisor of Masters students, an invitee to present a paper to an international conference in Edinburgh, Scotland and as well presented papers variously at conferences in Australia. As well as his Ph.D he had studies in statistics through successive units in economic statistics. His extra curricular activity included a position years long as an activist lobbying the Australian government to take a role encouraging smoking cessation. He was a locum doctor the duration of the length of his Ph. D. He had experience of day locums in their surgeries for general practitioners in need of a stand-in.
All of the foregoing has to suggest something to an administrative body before it transports a family of seven from one country to the other on the basis of a verbal discussion at a conference in Sydney when it was said there was not much time given to it.
I condemn the areas of usury by which research scientists are exploited. I understand the usury as lived experience.
I was alarmed in advance. Before we left Australia I received a letter of welcome that was an invitation to join the staff wives club. I did not identify as a feminist per se regardless my feelings of shock were immediate and I threw the letter down, murmured what sort of place is this I am going to?
In the study of the geography of health, place and space it is said: we are where we live. Emphasis for the purpose of establishing a health research plan is removed from what we eat. We eat, instead where we are. The factors considered are as examples
food transport to place, what are the food miles to place, where is our housing in the place, what sort of facilities and utilities do we have in our homes specific to place, who else is dependent on that place and how many, so on limitless including the topography of place. I would add only we are who we can be where we are.
Disconcerting that when we mooted going to New Zealand, we had options, other places to consider, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, a potential was the UK, another was to change course albeit that was not a seriously considered option. Our plans included I had, unabashed expected I was the centre of attention to further my qualifications to a level commensurate with the number of children in the family, my years, my need to make social contribution, well educated, entirely over dependence on one income, entirely over not having one.
Personal complications set in not least of which were trenchant post-traumatic stress and emotional issues that were an onslaught. My husband and I who with our family of children had suffered some of the loveliest moments when we met and shared them with three children and then five separated in circumstances that were ghoulish.
I initiated our separation in 1986 on my return from travel to Australia where I assisted my aged father to dismantle his sister’s estate. Grieving the death of my Aunt as an added burden, I felt the loss keenly. Reflecting back on her, I had resolved
in the time since moving to New Zealand to spend some dedicated time with her that as a consequence never had. I had wanted to confess myself needing her guidance in view of her 30 year career as a Classics mistress in a private girl’s college.
Her name was the same as mine and she never married. My name was everywhere as I moved in that home of her lifetime lived in Australia. She migrated to Australia with her parents and siblings after her graduation in 1922 from Aberdeen University so held in the house was almost 60 years of her history and extraordinary forethought. She had one drawer for example that was a mindful museum of the history of stockings. She left a complete record of lived experience. No-one had the least idea. I, only, knew the real value of what was lost because the contents of the house were distributed and sold and the property sold, tried to intervene but likely too meek and mild.
My husband and I sold our house on the hill in New Zealand next, the day it was opened for inspection on basis of the kitchen. We had installed a new kitchen. I designed it with the help of a tradesman and worked on it through nights, finishing and preparing surfaces for painting, painting with the tradesman the next day, keeping a roller constantly wet, switching between loading the roller and layering paint to a standard equal to the facilities and design. The parents of the young single man who bought the house asked to visit immediately to see the kitchen. He was a tradesman.
His mother announced to me with a laugh”He’s got a better kitchen that I do.”
I have seen what was my kitchen again when I travelled back to New Zealand 35 years after returning to live in Australia. The same owner, now family with grown
children, owns it. The kitchen is the same kitchen to its last detail except from in memory a new stove. I have not since seen a durable and smart kitchen like it.
The cost of the kitchen was something else. Remembering the house sold on the day it went on the market we nevertheless recovered the money we paid for the property and raised for improvements inclusive work on the laundry to make it good and waterproof.
I set about finding a rental property for myself and five children. Rents were astronomic. GST was introduced in 1986 at the rate of almost 20%.
1984 however, two years before, is crucial that marked the inception of the brutal period of reform referred to in New Zealand’s economic history as Rogernomics.
to be continued…
Christina Binning Wilson