Jacoba (Coby) Sturk (nee Schellaars)
|Sturk (nee Schellaars)
|Country of Origin
|Date of Birth
|Year of Arrival in Australia
|Jacoba (Coby) Sturk (nee Schellaars)
On 13th Sept. 1955 my parents (Cornelis and Johanna Schellaars), 2 brothers (Arie aged 11 and Arnold aged 9) and I boarded the M.S. Sibajak in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to start our voyage to Australia. My parents wanted a new start for us all and to try and leave the terrible memories of World War II behind. We were all born and bred in Rotterdam, which had its city centre completely destroyed in May 1940. We loved the outdoors, nature and countryside, and our annual family camping trip did not make up for living in a rather small apartment during the rest of the year. So Australia had looked very attractive, when seeing pictures at an emigration information meeting. I found it very hard to say goodbye to all our extended family and all my friends, who were standing on the quayside, waving, in the pouring rain. I had my 16th birthday in Port Said, where we moored for the day to take on supplies. Then on through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea and after Aden it was full steam ahead to Perth. We spent a whole day in Fremantle and were fascinated by the buildings in the town and very amused at the sight of prams hanging on hooks on the back of buses. I noticed the yellow Capeweed flowering everywhere, which I had never seen before. After 5 more days at sea, we disembarked in Melbourne on 10th Oct. after having been checked by immigration officials. We had had thorough health and police checks before we left Holland. A large old red train was waiting on the quay, alongside the ship and a Railway man was walking along the train yelling : Bonegilla, all aboard !! And so we did, to arrive in the camp (by bus from Albury) late in the day. We were allocated 2 rooms in the old army barracks, which were sparsely furnished with beds made from what looked like chickenwire and a thin mattress on top, and a couple of chairs. There were rough communal shower facilities and a lot of toilets in a row : a plank with holes in it, above a smelly big hole in the ground. But we were not complaining, as we knew (hoped!) we would not be there for long. And we loved the surroundings, our view from the huts over the vast countryside !
2 Weeks later work had been found by the immigration authorities for my father in Melbourne and we undertook the long train journey back there. On Melbourne Cup Day we were driven by taxi from the station to North Williamstown Migrant Hostel. We were quite puzzled why it was so quiet in the city on a Tuesday!! Accommodation there was also very basic, 3 small rooms and a communal dining room and toilet facilities. I got a job in Spotswood at RVB Engineering as a typist -clerk. During my secondary education in Holland I had studied English, French and German, and the Dutch language of course, for 4 years. And I had done a typing course outside school hours.
It was impossible to get rental accommodation around Melbourne in those days and when Dad heard about work and housing that was available in the Latrobe Valley, we moved there 7 months later. We were very happy with the timber home we were allocated by the Housing Commission. It had a lounge and 3 bedrooms and a big kitchen and a bathroom with a chip-heater ! And a garden of our own, all around the house ! I soon got a job again, at a travel agency in Yallourn where I stayed for 3 years. Then came a job as secretary to the Officer In Charge at the SEC Supply Dept. in Morwell. Another 3 years work. While there I met Peter, another migrant from Holland. He arrived here in 1954 at the age of 15 with his parents and 4 younger sisters. We married in Nov 1961 and moved to Melbourne for Peter’s work and bought a house at Edithvale. Peter worked in advertising as signwriter and art preparation and stencil maker in the screen printing industry.
We have had busy lives, working and serving on several community committees and bringing up 2 children, Joanna and Adrian. We also learned to love the Australian bush and flora and fauna and often went on camping and caravan trips in different parts of the country. One of our hobbies is gardening and we learned to work with the soil and climate and the upside-down seasons! We will be celebrating our Golden Wedding Anniversary this year, with all our family, incl. my mother, who is now 94 years old. Our children are happily married and we have 3 grandchildren, Catherine, Matthew and Charlie. We have been back to visit Holland a few times and keep in contact with our cousins there. But while part of our heart will always be in our country of birth, our home is here now.