The Sydney arrived in Fremantle, WA on the 13 September 1957. The SS Sydney was a liner in the Flotto Lauro fleet. The journey took 36 days, longer than anticipated due to mechanical issues. We travelled through the Suez Canal. I was assigned to a men’s cabin which was the size of a closet with 6 bunk beds in it, three on each side. It was ok. I made friends easily and I had my squeeze box (my accordion) which I used every day to entertain the young generation on the deck at the bow of the ship.
I remember there were quite a few lovely ladies on board, watched very closely by their fathers. We would drink wine and I enjoyed it a lot. The wine was made from red powder and not many people liked it, only us young fellas.
After a couple of days in Fremantle we sailed to Melbourne. This was the roughest part of the journey. Everybody was sick including me. I ended up in the ship’s hospital one night, I was so ill. Eventually we arrived at the Melbourne docks and then travelled by train to the migrant camp in Bonegilla, near Albury. When we arrived, we were assigned four men to a room.
One day, after 20 days or so, I heard my name being called over the loud speaker, “ Giovanni (my Italian name) Sirola come to the office.” I went and they said “Pack your bags. You are leaving tomorrow for Canberra.” I packed and boarded a supply train bound for the capital of Australia the very next morning. Just like that - the decision was made