In my village, the Prince Willem Alexander Retirement Village (PAW), there’s plenty of migrants, mostly Dutch. Some of them are here long enough to have been involved with the founding of the village. I interviewed another one of our residents about his migrant experience.
Steve Flierman was born in Deventer, in 1931. His father was an electrician, responsible for keeping a flour mill running. Flierman senior was from Deventer, but Steve’s mother came from Amsterdam. Steve was one of six children, four boys and two girls. The family was lucky to live through the depression and WW2 without major dramas.
Steve went to school in Deventer till he was 18, when he left to work in the office of a manufacturing company in a clerical position. After one year there, he was drafted into the Dutch air force for the obligatory two-year service. Upon leaving the air force Steve went back to his old clerical job in Deventer (it was custom to keep jobs available for those returning from military duty). Steve worked there for another two years.
During this time Steve met Joke, who became his wife in 1956. Johanna as she is called here, was from Utrecht and moved to Deventer during the war. At the time that Steve met her, Johanna was working as a typist in an office in Deventer.
While making wedding plans, Steve and Joke were confronted with the enormous housing shortage in Holland. As Joke already had two brothers living in Australia, they decided to emigrate after getting married. They made all the necessary arrangements, booked passage on the Waterman, and three weeks after their wedding they sailed away, taking only their personal belongings.
When they arrived in Brisbane, Johanna’s brothers had organized accommodation near the Brisbane CBD for them. Steve worked a variety of odd jobs, and after a year they moved to ‘temporary’ housing in Oxley, where Steve worked for a corner store owned by Dutch people.
Meanwhile they experienced a bit of culture shock, not just that the Australian food was not so appetizing, coffee was not so good, and many items often eaten in Holland were not available, but many customs were different too. They were amazed to see laundry hung out on Sundays, or gardens mowed, cars being worked on or bbq’s being held. Of course, over the years the influence of migrants from Italy and Greece helped improve the food situation a lot. They also found a Dutch butcher and a baker.
After twelve months in Oxley, Steve, Johanna and one child moved to Richlands, near Inala. Here Steve had acquired two fruit and veg shops. During their time in Richlands five more children were born. The family also maintained their Dutch connections and became members of the NAQ Dutch club. Later Steve was involved in the establishment of the Dutch Federation in Queensland. After quite a few years Steve closed one shop, sold the second one, and the family moved to Kedron to be close to their preferred school system for their children, now consisting of four girls and two boys.
While in Kedron, Steve went into real estate, took a Dale Carnegie course, and then enrolled into a four-year course to become a property valuer. Once he had completed the course, he obtained his State registration and worked for commercial properties consultants in the CBD as a full-time commercial property valuer. While Johanna kept busy looking after a family of eight people, Steve thinks, and is proud to have been the first Dutch migrant to achieve the ‘valuer’ profession in private practice Queensland.
Steve related that he was the first to value a brand new high-rise office building in the CBD, which was quite a responsibility. He also told an anecdote about going to value a certain property labelled as “massage parlours”. He was not familiar with that term, and was bit embarrassed to find that these turned out to be brothels. His Dutch connections involved him in valuing the land that has since become the PWA village and he became a member of the organising committee. The village was officially opened in 1991.
After the children graduated from school, they went on to become a nurse, a phlebotomist, a cancer therapist, a KLM purser, a Virgin Australia pilot and an IT security consultant. Two of them are living in Holland, providing reasons to travel and visit Holland again and again. Especially as it also means that three of the grandchildren and four great-grandchildren live there.
Steve and Johanna moved to Albany Creek and Steve retired a few years later, in 1996. In 2016 they moved into the PWA village and here Steve is practicing his Bonsai hobby. Sadly, Johanna has now moved into the nursing home in the PWA Lodge where she receives a very high standard of care.
Steve is very positive about his migration experience. He finds the Australian lifestyle pleasant, his family became well established, and all six children are doing well in professional jobs. Things were not always easy, but overall it went well, and they were able to visit their siblings in Holland many times, as well as travel to various popular tourist destinations around the world. He feels that it was a good decision to migrate to Australia.
Marianne Pietersen (April 2021)