Above picture is of Kirsten Hawkes
The Pedersen family's story as told by Kirsten Hawkes
The taxes were high in Denmark in the late 1960's and they felt that a better life could be had for them in Australia. They had originally made enquiries about emigrating to New Zealand, but this country had already taken its full quota of immigrants for 1969, so they chose Australia. We were due to arrive firstly in Melbourne and stay at Bonegilla, a migrant camp.
The tax system worked
that annual taxes had to be paid in 10 installments per year, but on leaving
the Country, a full years tax would become due if they did not leave before
1st April 1969. (Taxes to be paid in 1969 were for money earned in 1968). They
had to provide documentary evidence from the Danish Government to the Australian
Government that they were free of any debt so did not want to leave with a tax
bill hanging over them. Also, they had left money in the bank in Denmark in
case they did not like Australia and decided to return, and therefore did not
want to risk not being allowed back into the country as they owed tax money.
However, they could not get passage before April 15th from Southampton. Over
there, between Sweden and Denmark, like it is here, between New Zealand and
Australia, you could travel between the two countries and not have your passport
stamped. To make all the paperwork legitimate, they sold their house in Herlev
and left for Sweden on about 28th March. They caught the ferry over and made
sure to get their passports stamped to prove they left the country prior to
April 1st. Only staying for half a day, they then returned "on holiday"
to Denmark, but this time, they did not get their passports stamped. They then
went and stayed for a short time with Moster Carla, sister of Carisa, who was
Rickard Frederiksens mother, in København. It was Easter a few days later
so our family went to Korsør to spend the holiday with Erik Pedersen,
my fathers' father and Gudrun, his second wife.
Our family caught a train from Københaven (Copenhagen) on 15th April 1969 at 9.50am, car 138. It went to Rødby, a southern coastal town in the eastern part of Denmark, and from here by ferry to Germany. We caught the train through an amazing snowstorm and blizzard through Germany. The train went on to Holland where we caught a ferry over to England, then a bus to Southampton. It was a long trip.
We were sailing on the Chandris Lines ship, the SS Australis. It was not a normal immigration ship, but a holiday cruise liner. We were Voyage 19, southbound. Our ticket states the passage was from Southampton to Melbourne, sailing on the 16th April 1969. Our Cabin was number 114 "B" Deck. The cost of the fare for my father and mother was £213 each and for us children it was just over £110.
We actually departed on 17th April 1969 at 1.00am. The Captain of the SS Australis was, at that time, Captain D.J. Challioris. The Chief Steward was K.Pagoulatos and the Chef was A.Contominas. As our trip took us via Cape Town, our scheduled ports of call were Piraeus, Dubrovnik, Messina, and on occasions, Izmir, or Limassol and Beirut, Las Palmas or Gibraltar, Cape Town, and on occasions, Mauritius. But these stops were not to be, except we did go to Cape Town.
We had a Lifejacket drill on 19th April with everyone parading on deck in his or her lifejackets to ensure we were all aware of what to do in an emergency. Every day on the liner we received a ships "newspaper" foretelling of the days events, weather, sunrise, sunset, and any special dinners, etc. This newspaper was called "Seascape". Thanks to my parents for keeping so much of these newspapers, as well as other interesting bits and pieces from the trip. They have also filled in many of the gaps and details as I was simply too young to remember it very well.
Upon leaving Southampton, we were enroute to Piraeus. Tuesday 22nd April 1969 at 8.00am we arrived at Pireaus. So far, the ship was rather empty and it was really pleasant on board with all that space, but at Piraeus we were to pick up 1200 Greek, Turkish, Egyptians and other Middle Eastern passengers. From there, our family did a sight seeing tour of Athens, which included a visit to the Parthenon and the original Olympic stadium. One night, Mum and Dad went ot a Greek play called "Light and Sound" depicting the running of an earlier marathon.
We were requested to be back on board no later than 4.00am on 24th April as that's when we set sail for Dubrovnik, a distance of 571 Nautical miles. April 25th saw us arrive at Dubrovnik at midday where my father went ashore with Hanne and me in tow. The Harbour was not deep enough for the Australis so we went ashore in lifeboats. Mum and Sue were back on the ship as they were sick. The ship left again at 6.00pm, so only a very short stay.
April 26th at midday, we anchored outside the town of Reggio to pick up more passengers and again, lifeboats were used. We left at 4.00pm. We had another Life Jacket drill on 29th April.
On Saturday, May 3rd, a special event happened. We crossed the Equator! This required a reception to allow King Neptune and his Queen on board to baptize in the ships pool, those who had never crossed the equator before. We have some fun footage of this on an old video and it looks like a fun day. It happened at 10.00am. King Neptune and his Queen were there, trident and all and the crew was dressed up in costumes and eventually thrown into the Lido Pool. That night, there was the Neptune Ball in the Ballroom. I am sure that was a huge night.
Dad showed us on a globe where we were, and I got worried that we would fall off but he assured me that we were quite safe. He agreed that we would probably go a little faster as we went down under!
Next stop was Capetown, where the ship docked at 8.00pm on May 8th 1969. Here, we all went ashore and went up the Table Top Mountain. We left Capetown the next morning at 11.00am. Now we started the long trek to Fremantle.
Monday may 12th was Hellenic night, with a special dinner.
I do not remember a great deal from the journey. I do remember seeing flying fish. Also some of the bigger storms had the ship rolling quite a lot. We were often in the ship's nursery, with all the other children, and when these storms hit, the childcare workers cleared space on the floor. We sat on big cushions and slid from one side of the room to the other as the ship rolled in the huge seas. The "Seascape" even gave warnings about the rolling of the ship during heavy seas and that care was to be taken to hold on tight! My father tells me that my sisters and I were given pills to try to avoid seasickness. Hanne and Sue were able to eat or swallow the pills seemingly easily enough, but not me. So my mum tried to hide the pill in an orange. I would eat the orange, then spit out the pill crying "Look what I found in my orange!?"
My parents told me of the fun they had. Alcohol was cheap, child minding was included, so they had wonderful dinners and dancing. My father, being the electronics whiz that he was, even rigged up an outside aerial so we could receive decent radio reception in our cabin.
The ship was due to arrive in Fremantle on 18th May 1969 at 6.30pm where some passengers disembarked. Next the ship was due to arrive Melbourne Victoria 22 May 1969 but there was a general harbour strike.
Due to the Strike on
the Wharves, very common here in Australia in the late 60's and early 70's,
the ship was not permitted to dock in Melbourne and had to continue to Sydney.
Our family was supposed to disembark at Melbourne, as per Inwards Passenger
Manifest - Series K269/4 - and proceed to migrants camp "Bonegilla".
" According to the latest instructions received from our Agents, who are in touch with the Port Authorities, it is anticipated that the strike will still be on upon our arrival in Melbourne and for this reason we have been instructed to proceed directly to Sydney where there is a possibility that the Ship can have all the harbour facilities. " Quoted from the "Seascape"
So she continued to Sydney. It was awesome to see the Harbour Bridge, but especially for us Danes, to see the Opera House under construction. By the time we arrived in Sydney Harbour, my parents had become good friends with another Danish couple, Jørgen and Annie Andersen. They had answered an advertisement in a Danish women's magazine that was from the then Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. He had asked for any willing Danes to come to Queensland to settle there. Jørgen and Annie had written to him and had received back a full A4 page hand written letter from Mr. Bjelke-Petersen welcoming them to come to Queensland and to bring any other Danes with them. Jørgen showed his letter around the ship and because it was a personal reply from the Queensland Premier, they received first class service all the way.. got their drinks first, moved up in the queue at dinner times, etc. Everyone on board the SS Australis had by then, heard about the supposed poor conditions at the migrant camp Bonegilla so my parents decided that perhaps we should give Queensland a try. They then opted to join Jørgen and Annie and decided to head for Brisbane.