Australia of the 1960s was very different from the United States. I haven’t been back, but I would imagine that it still is very different in many ways. I remember the battle of the sexes was just starting to bubble under the surface of every day life in the States; it hadn’t come to a head in Australia yet, and perhaps never did. Australian men were very into their ‘mates’, only that meant their friends, not their women. Women weren’t very happy about that state of affairs, or lack of affairs. I don’t know if they have been successful in changing the Aussie man’s psyche.
When we lived in New South Wales, I wasn’t thinking about men. I was fourteen, and subject to the same urges as any normal girl, but we weren’t being exhorted to grow up faster every time we turned on the telly. I was allowed to grow up at my own pace, and therefore truly enjoyed the experience of being an Australian school girl.
At one time, in the 1960s, Australia was actively searching for people to move to their country and be productive citizens. This is rather amazing really; in the eighties we saw a flood of immigration here in the states, but rarely do countries actively invite strangers to their shores. I’ve heard rumors that Canada is welcoming and polite to foreigners, but so far I haven’t confirmed that. I am thinking of moving my family there in the near future, so we shall see if I can leave my doors unlocked, and be free from homicide by gunfire.
My father took Australia up on its offer to become a modern pioneer and settle in the outback, and become a blooming citizen. He had retired from the Air Force, gotten his helicopter pilot’s license, and still flew small aircraft. He and a partner were going to start and run a crop dusting business.
Naturally, it fell to my mother to hold down the fort at home with four kids, and after two years of uninterrupted single motherhood, she packed us all up, we boarded a Quantas airplane, and off we flew to New South Wales. There, after a suitable interval of getting to know Dad again, we all set out for Kununurra, a tiny outback town in Western Australia that looked just like the town where Crocodile Dundee lived when he wasn’t wrestling crocodiles. Crocodiles were like the black sambas in Africa where we spent Pan Am layovers in Monrovia, or the cougars in northern California, or the black bear in Colorado. I never saw hide nor hair of any of them. I guess I should be glad, I just feel cheated, somehow.
My father saw some though; he told stories of seeing saltwater crocodiles that were in excess of thirty feet long. He also brought us fire opals of all sizes; they were abundant in the outback, and could be scooped up like any stone.