|Country of Origin
|Date of Birth
|Year of Arrival in Australia
|Antonius (Tom) Vermeeren
Growing up you don’t generally spend a lot of time analysing your life. You just accept it. As long as you get a bed to sleep in and regular meals and are having fun with friends you’re satisfied.
So after finishing high school Toon got an office job without having given a career much thought. He ended up working in the supply chain. As it turned out, that’s the line of work he ended up doing for the rest of his working life.
During his compulsory national service he did take time to consider his circumstances and realised that there must be more adventurous places to live than the Netherlands in 1967. Holland was still recovering from the war and migration was an escape from a crowded environment. In general options available to him were: Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. He didn’t speak Portuguese, Canada was too cold, South Africa had apartheid and NZ was too small. So he made up his mind to go to Australia. (apologies to Australia for the negative selection process). Besides, Toon’s sister Bea and her husband Henk had migrated to Australia in 1960, so they provided a foothold.
On the 10th February 1967 Tom said goodbye to family and friends on the docks at Rotterdam and sailed on the MV Flavia to Australia, where he arrived in Melbourne on 24th March. A few days after sailing from the last European port of Southampton they were hit by an almighty storm in the Gulf of Biscay. Most passengers and many of the crew were seasick and the decks were roped off for safety. People were sick everywhere and they had a couple of unpleasant days. However the hardy few who rose for breakfast on the first morning of the storm were presented breakfast on paper plates as much crockery was broken and nobody had been able to access replacements from the hold.
But finally the sun came back and they were fascinated by their travel through the Panama Canal (the Suez canal was still blocked as a result of the 1966 6-day war). They saw flying fish, were accompanied by dolphins diving through the bow wave and had a fascinating stopover in Papeete Tahiti. Before disembarking in Port Melbourne they still were given the opportunity to sightsee in Auckland and Sydney.
Upon arrival in Melbourne he was called Tom. The more logical name would have been Tony, but that sounded too Italian and in those days Italians were not the flavour of the month or so he was told. His first impression of the suburbs reminded him of the American Wild West movies with single story shops and awnings.
He accepted any job to get started in his new environment, so worked all the overtime he could get at Wonderheat in Croydon, a walking distance from his sister’s house where he boarded. Work on the factory floor proved a challenge as the noisy environment made understanding Australian quite difficult after having been taught ‘proper’ English at school.
As soon as he earned enough money to buy a car he landed an office job in Armadale and accommodation in St. Kilda, which facilitated socialising and made life for a single bloke a lot more enjoyable. Initially friends were travel companions he had met on the Flavia, but gradually these were replaced by friendships with work colleagues.
In his social life he spent time with Maria, who he had got to know on the ship coming out. They were married in 1969 and had two lovely kids, Martin, born in 1973 and Fiona in 1975. However, sadly the marriage got into difficulties and did not endure. Tom and Maria eventually split up in 1985 and went their separate ways.
Tom remarried in 1988 and he and his new wife Di (an immigrant from England) began a long and happy marriage. What they also did to celebrate their new life together was get naturalised and became fully fledged Australians.
They were fortunate enough to visit Europe a number of times and whilst they loved seeing their former homes and visiting family and friends, it always confirmed to them what a good choice coming to Australia had been. They’ve also been fortunate enough to proudly show of ‘their’ Australia to Dutch and English family members and friends who come to visit.
Work-wise Tom only had 3 employers in all his working life in Australia. He did a six-year, part time, course at Box Hill Tech and this, combined with his new wife’s support gave him the discipline to get into middle management in the supply chain and retire at 58.
The crowning glory these days to Tom’s life are his two grandsons Blake and Lewis, who have brought great joy to the next phase of his life.