When we landed in Sydney almost 5 years ago, it was probably the most overwhelming yet exhilarating time of our lives. Where would we live? Where would I buy my groceries? What is the traffic like? And most importantly, how on earth am I going to find the right school?
In order to settle into life ‘Down Under’ and get sorted with all the things necessary to ‘live’ as a family, we had given ourselves about 10 weeks leeway.
A few days after arriving, our relocation consultant, turned up! Lisa drove us around for three days looking for the best location in Sydney, to fit what we were looking for to build our new life. (A dream right??)… Yes, we were spoilt, but using a service like this, meant we landed on our feet in the perfect spot for the whole family!
I am well aware that lots of expats arrive in Australia without this kind of assistance, and that’s why I want to introduce you to a couple of amazing women who are dedicated to helping you find the perfect school & location for your family even if you’re not on Aussie soil!!
Steph is a mum to 3 kids, who lives in Bayside, Melbourne. Steph worked for 6 years at Kilvington Grammar before having her first child and taking 6 years off to expanded her family. She completed her masters while away from the classroom and got involved in community kindergarten where currently she is President. Steph went back to the classroom in 2017 working in the state system and now works 2 days a week teaching Year One. Steph loves teaching because no day is the same, the kids make you laugh and you’re always kept on your toes.
‘Teaching is so rewarding! Seeing your students ‘ah ha’ moments and pride in their success makes all the tough moments worthwhile’ – Stephanie Murphy
Claire is also a mum and has worked for 11 years in the Catholic system across different areas of Melbourne from Cheltenham to Melton and now based in East Malvern. She has her masters in ‘Inclusive Schooling’ and is currently working 2 days a week in Year 6. Claire has taught extensively in Prep and has been a transition coordinator welcoming children in at the beginning of their primary school journey. Conversely Claire has also taught 3 years in Year 6 and has seen her students graduate and transition to secondary schooling. Claire is a lover of learning, challenging herself to always think differently, try something new and see where it leads. She also has the most infectious laugh making it hard to not all end up in stitches.
School Finder was borne from our own personal experiences. When I (Steph) was looking for a school for Henry (my eldest) I found not only were my choices limited (at the time we lived further down the Peninsula) but the variety of offerings was so diverse it was hard to really decide what I wanted. At the same time Claire had just had her first baby and so, as I searched Claire answered my phone calls about what I liked, what I didn’t and things I noticed while looking at different schools. 2 things were really clear – even with our teaching background, we still needed a clear criteria and set of parameters that met our children. Parents on tours with me spent most of the time smiling and nodding uncertainly, whilst I spent a lot of my time deciphering jargon for them.
After I had chosen a school for Henry and we were in the process of moving and finding him a kindergarten, we decided to write down some of the things that Claire did with me, informally, as a framework for what now we call our Welcome Survey. My husband built the website, we started putting our name out there and between friends, family and word of mouth our little start up was born and we began to get clients and test out our service.
‘In our first year we didn’t charge any of our clients, we wanted to see if what we did worked for families, we wanted to review and refine our service and build relationships with new people and schools. Now we have clients from all over Melbourne and interstate Australia. Including several international moves also’ – Stephanie Murphy
What services do you offer expat parents moving to Australia for the first time? Can you assist parents even when they have never visited the area?
When families move to Australia we want to ensure we talk to them about what the Australian school system looks like, how the calendar year & terms work, and educational approaches. We then walk them through the online resources they can access including MySchool, Find my school and bettereducation.com.au.
As with all of our clients, whether local or far away, we start by sharing our welcome survey which really identifies what parents are looking for in a school setting. We question the pragmatics of location, after school care, and canteen, to the values and ethos by which people raise their families and what they want from a school. We also question how much involvement a family wants to have in a school community.
Then, via Skype or if in Melbourne in person, we coach parents on how to use online tools, how to build a personalised criteria and how to write direct questions that relate to that criteria. If parents have never visited the area, we go for them and report back or book them in for when they arrive in Melbourne!
School Finder has 3 staggered packages depending on need. So if parents are happy after the one on one they are not locked into the next step. If we tour on behalf of the client we go with their criteria and questions and operate like a proxy for them. Schools are often really happy to take us through and because we are teachers who walk the walk and talk the talk, we can be quite direct in what the family is looking for.
If a parent was moving to Victoria, from overseas, what would be the reason they would choose your help?
For a family moving to Victoria we would start with the welcome survey then set up a Skype or Zoom meeting to chat and talk through the Australian schooling, personalised criteria and questions. We use multiple screens to teach parents how to use online tools and we discuss some of the issues with sites like bettereducation.com.au which is advertising heavy. This is the ‘Check In’ and is vitally important for introducing families to us and the Australian Education System.
Our next package up called the Line Up – sends us away from the check in to do the research and take the leg work out of ‘what’s out there?’ After we have done our research we come back to the client with 3-5 schools to tour, how they meet their criteria and contact/tour information all in one document ready to go. We also tour for our clients so if they have completed the Line Up, then they want us to tour, we can do that on their behalf, either charged as part of the full relocations package or by the hour depending on the clients needs. In some cases we have already toured the school so we don’t need to tour again but do some fact finding in terms of class sizes, entry points, availability of spots.
We try to keep our service really personal, so what we do for one client may not match the needs of another. We make sure we tailor our service to your family’s needs. Stephanie Murphy
In your opinion, what is the most challenging thing when helping overseas/expat families find the best school for their child?
Apart from the time difference which makes it near impossible to get on the phone to chat to the schools, we have found that expat families find the difference in the Australian and UK education models quite significant. That, combined with understanding the VCE end of the journey can be tricky.
Why do you think your services are important for parents moving to a new country?
As one of our clients recently said ‘You’ve been our woman on the ground’. Moving to a new country is exciting and daunting but when you’re migrating with children there are so many things to consider. Where do we live? How far is that really to work? What is close by? Do we want to go to the local school? Can we walk there? Is there childcare I like close by?
We believe we can give expat families a helping hand in understanding what Australian schooling is like and help them to feel a bit more ready for what they are arriving into when they get here.
Recently I was on a school tour and met a family who had arrived from Scotland 4 weeks earlier. The family had toured over 12 schools, been looking for housing in 5 suburbs and were still living in their AirBNB feeling utterly overwhelmed. Their kids were, on the whole, happy to be living in a new place but, their youngest was struggling without a routine.
Within a week we found them a school, helped them settle on a location to live and now 3 weeks on they are much more relaxed into Aussie life.
Claire and I got into teaching because we love helping people, forging good relationships and a great rapport with those around us and seeing the results. This is exactly what we do with School Finder. Stephanie Murphy
I understand that leaving your home can be overwhelming, let alone struggling to build a new life so far away! Claire and Stephanie have made this process a whole lot easier for you, so I hope you will support them in their crusade, to make expat family life a lot easier to build! Recently the team at School Finder have connected with a relocation company who specialise in Melbourne rentals (hurrah)! This means that they can help you find the right school and get you into your new rental stress free.
I’d love to hear how you found the right school for your new expat kids!
Are you dreaming of a childfree vacay with your gal pals?
Are you desperate to say goodbye to the laundry and school run, and lay by a pool, sipping Manhattan’s like an extra out of Sex in the City with your long lost mates from back home? Isn’t it about time you took a break and spent some quality time with your friends, minus the hubster and the kids? A relaxing break, being all classy and beautiful? This could be the chance to really be you again, to rekindle old friendships long left behind.
Well, it turns out when the media were telling us ‘Mums’ that we all deserved.. no… needed a ‘Mumcation’ they were thinking of classy trips to the local winery, or Yummy Mummies sipping Chardonnay in hot tubs chatting about Florence’s ballet lessons. They weren’t thinking about the millions of Expat mums who would be rushing to the airport, gagging for a bag of pickled onion monster munch, clutching their passports, heading home for a week in the pub with the girls.. I’m here to fill you in on the reality of The ‘Expat Mumcation’…
The reality of an Expat ‘Mumcation’
I’m currently ‘drying out’ in Hong Kong airport after my very own Expat ‘Mumcation’, and let me tell you, it’s not pretty. I’m sweating, my stomach is churning, I’ve got the shakes and the bags under my eyes are way more impressive than even the best Louis Vuitton cases.. My fake tan has almost completely disappeared, my perfectly shaped eyebrows have started sprouting, and I have just broken a nail. My hair is greasy, my jeans are way too tight and I have a broken tooth. I feel (and look) like the guys out of ‘The Hangover’
Just over two weeks ago I gleefully waved farewell to my two little darlings in Melbourne and headed off on a ‘Mumcation’ to the UK to celebrate the wedding of a dear friend. I had just under three weeks of freedom ahead of me and was pumped, preened, waxed, and feeling tip top. Having planned this trip for months, I’d had time to give myself a good talking to about my behaviour on my upcoming trip.
“You’re an adult Olivia, there’s no need to go crazy”
“It’s important that you’re sensible Olivia, you have two small children who need you”….
Well. It turns out that when you go on a ‘Mumcation’, whether it’s in Barbados, Benidorm or Bognor, you just can’t help yourself. I joked about behaving like a 14 year old, but totally lived up to it. I was child free, I had a wad of cash in my pocket and the barman was gonna get it… “double G&T’s all round”…. oh dear god…. Even typing that is making me queasy.
I had landed at Heathrow after a 26hr trek from Melbourne, squeezed my ‘bestie’ and headed to Windsor for a “quiet night” before Saturdays Hen Do… After a very civilised dinner, lots of giggles and catching up, we decided to have a walk before bed. Turns out the local pub did 2-4-1 cocktails, so we had 18. At 3:45am we found ourselves down some back alley with a bunch of 17 year olds, smoking and begging the bouncers to let us in an already closed nightclub. It wasn’t pretty. I was free as a bird, for the first time in ages and my behaviour was, quite frankly, unacceptable.
19 days later and it turns out my liver isn’t thanking me for the 2 whole bottles of gin, 27 tonics, 4 bottles of prosecco, 6 bottles of Sav, 102 Sambucca shots, 34 tequila shots, an entire tube of Mango flavoured Berocca and one whole box of Alka Seltzer. My heart is barely pumping due to the 29 pork pies, 18,000 Cadbury chocolate buttons, 22 Menthol cigarettes (I don’t even smoke) and about 72 packets of Salt & Vinegar Squares.
I lost count of the cans of coke I guzzled (wtf) just to get over the hangovers.. My dentist is going to poke me in the eye. I ate scampi and chips about 8 times.. because my daughter misses it?? Do you see what I’m getting at? Most mums will get together with their local friends, pop to a hotel in the city, have a few too many, totter back to their room, and get up for a leisurely brekkie, before making their way home to their little darlings. When your best friends are 10,000 miles away, there is no “weekend break”; it has to be at least two weeks, involve binge drinking and excessive calorie consumption. You basically have to make up for the 3 and a half years you’ve missed out on, when it comes to food, drink and shopping. *whoops.
The truth is, we all need to see our friends, spend time with them, and make the bloody most of it while we’re there, because it doesn’t happen very often. If that means almost dying in the process, well, hey, it is what it is… You know what though.. No matter how useless my body is, lying here in my tiny bed at the airport, no matter how many wrinkles I have added to my forehead, no matter how wrecked my organs are, I would do it all over again… No matter how much my heart ached for my babies, no matter how much I missed my husband, no matter what I may have missed out on, I wouldn’t change a thing.
We laughed, really, really laughed. We laughed so hard it hurt. We sat round the table and shared meals together after years apart. We talked for hours about our children, our lives, about everything. And, we laughed a bit more. We had time to be us. We spent time doing things we wanted to do, without time restrictions, play dates or bedtime routines. I watched my friend marry her love, and we all ugly cried to Oasis’ Wonderwall at the disco…
I guess what I am trying to tell you is that when you take your ‘Expat Mumcation’, do it in style, because it’s over in the blink of an eye, and you’ll be back on the other side of the world, reading “The Tiger Who Came To Tea” thanking your lucky stars you did it…. and survived…
I often use the phrase ‘living far from home,’ in fact it’s one of my favourite hashtags! However, it confuses even me. I also tend to bang on about ‘home’ being where we are together, where the children and the Mr are. Home for me is where we live, work, play.. so therefore ‘home’ is Melbourne… isn’t it? Ah the Expat existence! Today I’m mulling things over so I thought I’d reach out for your advice.
Does it matter where we consider home to be?
Probably not. Is it possible to have more than one home? Yes, I think it is. Why am I homesick when I am at home then? Can you see I’m battling with myself?
So many expats are ‘living the dream’ down under, living their “best lives” all tanned and throwing Aussie slang into their convo’s; yet lots of expats live this Australian life of sea, sun, snags, and surfing with…. regret, homesickness and longing.. Guess what! I’m one of them.
No matter how long we’ve been here, it hasn’t got better.
I don’t pine for the UK, I don’t miss ‘Britain’, I’m not craving monster much crisps, or proper gravy. I don’t miss the rain or the M25.. I pine for my friends. Those life long friends, those college friends, the friends I made when I first became a mother. The friends who know me inside and out, the friends I can be my real self with.. The friends I call when things get tough. I’m craving the time spent with cousins, the children really knowing their relatives, their godparents and their long lost friends they left behind.
You may or may not have heard I lost my beloved Grandfather this weekend. He was a my absolute favourite human.. *sorry kids. Losing him has sparked a weird sense of unease about our expat life. Losing this dear, dear man has made us question what we are doing so far away from our loved ones.
This loss to our family has made our house eerily quiet, our hearts truly heavy and our minds dance all over the place. How long do we sacrifice our ‘connections’ to live under sunnier skies? How many years do we want our children living 24hrs away from the people who love them most? How much longer do we miss out on time with our friends? How many more Christmases do we want overseas and not sitting around the fire with a mulled wine and loved ones? Does Aussie life bring us enough to sacrifice so much?
Living on the other side of the world has its perks don’t get me wrong, it’s just every time I try and justify this beautiful life, I find myself saying “yeah but we have that at home” and “yeah but if we were doing that at home we’d be with X, Y and Z.”
I’m forever second guessing… everything!
I’m not second guessing because we are unhappy in Australia, I am second guessing as I can’t help but feel that we have been away long enough, and now we need to be closer to our village. When things go wrong, or sad things happen, I feel a pull toward home. I immediately make overseas phone calls, I send emails and messages across the pond, and right now, it’s making me feel like that’s where we should be. Permanently.
Living as an Expat in Australia, comes with so much adventure, and being in Melbourne, the most liveable city in the world is such a blessing. We have so much more at our fingertips here down under, but is that enough to be giving up all we had at home? Shouldn’t life’s adventures be enjoyed with the people we love, the people who know us best, the people who miss us too?
So, where does this all end up? Who knows. Can we really do the big pack up? Could we really repatriate back to Blighty? Would we even be happy or have I got my rose tinted specs on? Have you done it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Before we go any further… Coles have definitely not sold out of scones, or cucumbers.. So your party will go ahead as long as you don’t wear out your flag waving, butter spreading hand before Saturday!
Are you one of millions of Expats across Australia going nuts for the upcoming nuptials of possibly the most bizarre (but gorgeous) couple on the planet? I feel like we’ve only just got over Eurovision and we’re straight back on it with the flag waving and frantic public displays of patriotism!
I would love to say I am all over this wedding, but I feel very disorganised. I’m almost beginning to panic.. As if I’ve got a real invite. *Trust me, I would have been on a massive diet if I had!
I feel like maybe I should have made as much effort as my expat friends, but…. I just haven’t. I don’t have cupcakes waiting to be baked, I am not planning on whipping up cucumber ‘sarnies’ and a cream tea and I probably won’t be attending any parties, although I think at last count I had been invited to 6. Yes 6! Not because I’m popular just because all 6 of my friends are having parties!
Watching the world (and Australia) in particular going all out for this wedding makes me wonder whether Expats become more patriotic and possibly more Royalist once we’ve left the country?
Us expats are marking our territory, and making sure you all know Meghan is going to be “OUR PRINCESS”! We want to make it bloody clear that (although she’s American, and we’re in Australia) she belongs to us Brits now and we’re gonna throw the biggest bloody party in our garage (because that’s where the big telly and the beer fridge is) with beef snags, (because that’s all we can get) and loads of our expat mates, because like I said, we’re BRITISH and we own this bloody wedding!
I wonder if we would all be frantically covering our houses in bunting, buying new outfits and getting Meghan loves Harry tattoos if we were living in Berkshire? Would we be charging into our local Tesco’s in Guildford demanding the highest quality cucumber for our “Royal Wedding Party”? Would we be buying job lots of these ‘Hazza and Meggie’ cozzies for all our girlfriends if we were back in Blighty?? Brrrrr just the thought of it… Is Britain going as nutty about this as us lot overseas?
Here, in the land down under, Brits in their thousands are gearing up for a mammoth ‘sesh’ in front of the telly on Saturday night! Please don’t forget though we will not be listening to the legendary Huw Edwards charming us through every step of the wedding, we will be watching Aussie coverage of the Royal Wedding! This has enormous potential to turn out to be an infuriating 6 hours of drunken Aussie students being interviewed on Pall Mall holding inflatable Kangaroos! Yes, it may leave much to be desired if their current coverage from Tower Bridge is anything to go by! *Please prove me wrong Channel 7!
When Kate and Wills got married in 2011, I had a party at my house and wore a shirt made out of a Kate Middleton tea towel,” – Edwina Bartholomew from Sunrise
I totally love the magic of a royal wedding. The costume, the carriages, the surprise attendees.. “Whaaaat, Elton isn’t invited”… (I’m sure he is btw). I love the precision timings, the tabloid gossip and the ‘sheer class’ that only the British can bring to a Royal Wedding. In the UK it will feel very different to here. The ceremony doesn’t get going until 9pm Down Under, so we’ll have waited a lot longer than the UK, and the anticipation will have been building..aaaaaallllll day!!
At 8:59pm we will finally see the bride and at 9:00pm on the dot we will be glued to our screens as she walks down the aisle at the wedding of the Century (sorry Kate)! Union jack flags covering the house (and the ute), and G&T (*make that beer) fuelled women in ballgowns and tiaras, passing out in their living rooms before Meghan utters the words “I do”…
So Harry may be funking (yes that says FUNKING as in FUNKY!) up the Royal Household by marrying a super hot American ACTRESS who has been divorced… **GASP, and the Royal family may be curling their toes in their brogues as they walk into St Georges Chapel on Saturday, but I think it’s wonderful, and it seems like a bazillion other expats do too! If only Clarence House could arrange an overnight wedding next time so as we can watch it with our breakfast…in bed!!
I opened Google this morning and it told me that there are 258 days remaining until the end of the year. Thanks Google, you’ve reminded me that all those things I have promised myself that I would get done in 2018 aren’t moving as fast as I’d like, and it’s woken me up to just how blinking fast this year is going!
So, just over 100 days into 2018 and The Wilson’s are ten months off the end of our visa! Yes ten months!! I know!! I can almost see it sitting on the horizon, sarcastically beckoning me toward it.. Bastard!! It’s insane. Ten months left until we need to vacate the country. Well… we get 12 weeks after that date to officially get out before we become illegal immigrants, but yeah, we’re on a tick, tock, tick, tock, countdown right now.
I guess like most families who came to Australia on a 457 visa, (before Mr Turnball abolished it.. Thanks Malc!) we kind of assumed four years away from home would be enough, and we’d be ready to go home. Or, if we weren’t ready to go, we would have at least put some plans in place to stay for a while longer…. Um…. *insert tumbleweed! We have no plans as yet; we have no contingency plan if we don’t get extended and I literally have no idea what we will do or where we will go…. (I can hear some of you muttering “this woman is insane”) Truthfully, this really only came up in conversation in the car this morning with just ten months to go.. ‘What the actual @£$%’ I hear you say!
I know! It seems a little irresponsible not to plan or prepare everyone for the possible big life change ahead, however I’m still in the ‘live for the moment’ stage, ‘running around in my underwear because I’m so excited to be here’ stage; and I can’t for the life of me snap out of it. I’m telling myself “hey, it may never happen, let’s just go to the beach and not think about it” and “ah well, if it’s gonna happen we may as well make the most of life in Oz and go out for dinner… and NOT talk about it”… therefore allowing the thought to slip to the back of my mind for a while longer; because if you don’t talk about something it doesn’t happen right?
Potentially however, we have ten months left until we need to go! Ten months until our practically native Australian kids have to move again. *Truth: Every time we stay in a hotel Monty asks “how long are we living in this house Mum?” In ten months time, we may have our passports in hand, and be heading off to pastures new.. or old, back to our friends, my girl gang, who knows?
I just took a sip of water and glanced up at my friends faces smiling down on me from the last postcard they sent from the UK! A sudden gulp! Honestly, just over three years ago, whilst we were hugging, and wailing as they were waving us off on our adventure, I remember distinctly telling everyone (myself included) “it’s not forever, it’s only four years… If that!!”
However now, sitting here, the kids at school, friends round the corner, things planned, work life thriving… it’s hard to imagine leaving Australia. It’s hard to imagine going through all those goodbyes again, only this time with our new found friends.
The uncertainty of living on a visa and not being secure in the knowledge we can stay is a huge thing. Even though I push it to the back of my mind, it’s a big deal for any expat family.
Living life as an expat is such a treat. We get to explore, see new things, and experience new adventures; but part of me wonders whether the time has come for us to be thinking about a ‘forever home’ for our family. A place that the children can say they’re “from”… A place that we can settle, properly settle in, put pictures up on the walls without worrying about the landlords reaction, plant what we like in the garden, paint the walls whatever colour we like, and design a space for our growing family. Somewhere we can stay and know that we’ll not be moving again. Part of me thinks that maybe the children need to be more settled. Maybe we all need it, but I don’t think any of us really want it!
Having said all that, the thought of having a ‘forever home‘ terrifies me. The thought of buying a house, moving in, and thinking “right that’s it, we’re here!” makes me come over all cold. I hear people saying “oh we’ve just bought our “forever home” and before I congratulate them, all I can think is ‘you poor, poor thing”. Forever stuck in one place seems so final..
Maybe I’m frightened to settle somewhere because it’s not in my nature. Maybe our family is supposed to keep moving. Maybe that’s what’s written in our stars! Maybe I’m scared to make life so static because it means long distance friendships are definitely a forever thing. It means guaranteed travelling to visit loved ones, rather than the comforting possibility of one day relocating to be closer. If we decide on a forever home, it means one way or another, we’re closing one door, and locking it tight and I don’t want to do that! I like the idea of being able to move when we want, go where we want, experience life somewhere else if we want to. I like the romantic idea that ‘one day’ we’ll go ‘home‘, but not just yet!!!
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that for this expat family and all the others out there, who maybe haven’t completely settled on a place to stay put, or signed their life away on a house because it’s in the right catchment for high school, or who don’t seem to have any life plans that include a particular location; we actually do have our forever home. We’re already living in it. Our forever home is right here, right now, and wherever we are together in the future. Our family is our forever home! It doesn’t have to be bricks and mortar, it doesn’t have to be staying in the same place for the rest of our days, we are in our forever home all the time, no matter where on the map that may be this year!! Our forever homes are dotted all over the world, wherever we want them to be, as long as we’re together.
‘A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are built for” – Unknown
The Jewish Museum is located in St Kilda, and easy to find. We headed in and straight up the stairs to the sound of Amy Winehouse’s beautiful voice in the distance.
“This isn’t an attempt to tell people what my sister was like, or what kind of people my grandparents were, or to force my opinions on you. This is a snapshot of a girl who was, to her deepest core, simply a little Jewish kid from North London with a big talent who, more than anything, just wanted to be true to her heritage.”
Like millions of people I’m a huge Amy Winehouse fan so this exhibition was a must see for me. She was such an intriguing character and absolutely someone who got to me. I loved her music, her voice, the sound as if from another era. In my eyes she was a true talent.
Amy Winehouse (1983 – 2011) was an incredible singer and songwriter but far beyond that and evident throughout the exhibition, she was all about ‘family’; hugely proud of her home (London) and her Jewish roots. The exhibition feels so personal. As if you’ve walked into her bedroom and you’re thumbing through her things.
The memorabilia on show feels too ‘young’ to be that of someone who has passed. The iconic outfits, giving a real sense of just how tiny Amy was. Amy’s belongings sit in a vast white space; her school uniforms, photographs of her with her friends, her records, and her guitar, all a stark reminder of a life well and truly cut short. A life filled with so much drama, yet essentially she was a proud Jewish girl with a strong sense of family and traditional values.
Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait is a personal and intimate exhibition which explores Amy Winehouse’s inner world, and the influences that shaped her career and personal life – Jewish Museum
Through this exhibition Alex Winehouse celebrates his sisters life and heritage, and allows us to explore her world and everything that influenced it. There are lovely family trees, old photos, and stories of her family who left Belarus in the late nineteenth century, and headed to London, where Amy was to grow up and fall deeply in love with her city.
Amy won five Grammy Awards and had numerous hit songs including Rehab, Back to Black, and Valerie before dying tragically at the age of 27 in 2011.
Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait honours Amy’s memory and achievements, and provides a personal portrait of her family life and Jewish heritage; things that were not always visible in her public life.
“The Jewish Museum is perhaps an unexpected venue for an exhibition about Amy Winehouse, but Amy’s brother, Alex, was adamant that this was the best place to tell her story, because being Jewish was so much a part of who she was.” Jewish Museum of Australia Director Rebecca Forgasz
Since launching in London in 2013, the exhibition has toured internationally from San Francisco to Vienna, Tel Aviv and Amsterdam, with huge success. The Jewish Museum is the only place in Australia to host the Amy Winehouse exhibition and they are very excited to share this fantastic show with us lucky Amy Winehouse fans.
Grab your tickets before it’s gone!!!
Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait
Adults: $12 (18+)
Children: Free (5 and under)
Children: $6 (6+)
Concession: $6 (students, pension card holders, Health Care card)
Family: $27 (2 adults, 2 children or 1 adult, 3 children)
A new exhibition has opened it’s doors at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum and I can say with all my heart, it’s one of the most moving exhibitions I have had the pleasure of visiting.
‘Between 1947 and 1981 nearly 1.5 million Brits arrived in an Australia that was predominantly white and British – it had worked hard to be so’
A few weeks ago I went along to a preview of the new exhibition ‘British Migrants, Instant Australians?‘. We were treated to Devonshire Tea, a cup of Earl Grey, and some magnificent guest speakers, before heading in. It felt quintessentially British, although there was no driving rain or fog to be seen!
Paul Jennings, best known for his writing of many children’s books, got up to speak about his migration from the UK at the age of six. He told us of the distress he felt leaving behind his beloved Grandmother. Sitting there listening to his heartfelt words, I felt as if I was listening to my own children speaking in 30 years time. I could totally relate to his feelings of homesickness, longing, and upset at leaving the only home he’d known; I had a lump in my throat!
‘When I was six I left England, with my parents and my little sister Ruth, to come and live in Australia. That was in 1949. In those days, people came to Australia by boat. The one we came on was called the Ranchi. We sailed for five weeks before arriving in Melbourne’- Paul Jennings
His story was compelling, and a real tear jerker. It’s so easy to overlook what migration was to families back in the 40’s. It’s especially hard to consider what that journey must have been like whilst living in todays modern world of round the globe flights, and Skype calls! British Migrants in the 1940’s left home simply thinking it was ‘for the best!’ Expats still take this risk when they move far from home, although being more aware of the world possibly makes it less of a “culture shock”.
Red Symons also spoke about his migration from the UK. He told us of his everlasting memory of stepping into a land with an immense amount of sky. The single storey houses, the flat landscapes, and the endless blue skies. His words made me wonder what my children will remember from our early days Down Under? That moment we arrived in the dead of night, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the accents. So different to home!
‘Newcomers from Britain had all the advantages of a shared language, culture and history. So fitting in should be easy. But reality is never that simple’
The thing that struck me most about all the speakers at the grand unveiling of the latest exhibition was how their hearts broke at leaving family and friends behind; yet they recognised the opportunity they had been given. They all got stuck in, pushed their homesickness and worries to one side and made the best of their new lives. They went over and above to “fit in”, they changed their accents and worked hard to build friendships. The chance to leave behind post WW2 Britain, the grey skies and limited job opportunities, for a land which had everything they could wish for in abundance was too good to ignore.
The exhibition holds some wonderful, heartfelt stories of lives well lived, cherished friendships, and of the “migrant” feeling of being ‘too foreign for home, too foreign for here, and never enough for both’.
Whilst wandering through the exhibition, I couldn’t help but go back to those nagging thoughts in my mind… “Will my children grow up feeling like this?” “Will they look back with sadness at what they missed when we moved?” “Will my children grow up with a constant longing in their hearts?” Honestly, I’m not sure. Today’s “migrant” is so incredibly different from those who arrived in Australia all those years ago. The world is so much smaller and the internet bigger than ever. We can keep in touch without lifting a pen, or licking a stamp, and we can see distant loved ones at the touch of a button.
I’m not sure my children feel any different to their peers. No one comments on their accents (anymore), no one really even asks them where they’re from. We’re learning we’re not that different after all. This is an indication of just how migration has changed. My children are not really seen as ‘migrants’ in the classroom! I’m not sure any of us are! Is an expat a migrant anymore?
Not only is this new exhibition a fantastic insight into the lives of thousands of migrants and their voyage to Australia, but it’s a real showcase of bravery, courage, and human kindness which will teach all visitors a lesson in the need to show compassion to people migrating to this wonderful country!
The Immigration Museum has beautifully showcased artefacts from treasured family collections, with words spoken by those families themselves. They have taken time to cleverly and sympathetically tell people’s stories of migration, with a mixture of mediums including handwritten letters, memorabilia and old posters promising a life rich in work and sun.
As an expat myself, who has brought my British children to Australia, I found the exhibition moving to say the least. I cannot begin to imagine what the 1940’s migrant must have thought arriving in this warm, far away land, with nothing but the bare essentials; some of them not knowing what to expect. To think that they came here and managed to build new lives, away from everything they had ever known, with no modern technology to contact home is just mind blowing to me. Honestly, their courage astounds me, and I highly recommend this exhibition.
Emma and Rich moved from the UK to Australia in December 2016. They live in a delightful little harbour city called Fremantle in Western Australia. Emma blogs about her travels and life as an expat at Distant Wanderers . Here Emma tells her story about being more worried about not taking the plunge, than actually doing it!!
If you’d have told me 4 years ago when I was planning a year of backpacking around Asia and Australia, that I would meet a British born Australian citizen the day after I arrived ‘Down Under’ and would end up moving to the other side of the world to be with him, I most definitely would not have believed you. I was planning to spend a year travelling and then return home; never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day I would call Australia my home. When I met my partner, I was excited by the fact I’d met someone who shared the same inexplicable love for Australia, something I’d never been able to explain, but I knew part of my soul belonged there. Our mutual love for Australia, travel and adventure meant we instantly hit it off.
Fast forward a couple of years, living in the UK, we both knew that Australia was where we were meant to be. We had talked of going back for so long, and both being ‘doers’ and not just talkers, we took the plunge and booked a one-way flight. This, for me, made it seem much more real and as the months started ticking by I started to doubt whether I was doing the right thing.
Rich had lived in Perth before, so he didn’t seem as anxious. He knew what to expect and had a good network of friends there.
I had moments where I was terrified; giving up my entire life to start somewhere completely new, where I didn’t know anyone, where I wouldn’t have full working rights, where I would have issues with jobs, money and visas etc. I was feeling overwhelmed with the decision I’d made to move to the other side of the world and sad to leave behind my family, an amazing network of friends and a good social life. More than once, I wondered what on earth I was doing. I was a bag of nerves and frankly, a mess. It was probably a good thing that we’d already booked the flights as I most definitely would have backed out otherwise.
I started to research moving to Australia and soon realised that it was the very idea of not doing it that scared me the most.
I was more scared than I liked to admit about moving overseas, but the idea of living the rest of my life wondering ‘what if…’ filled me with dread. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a fabulous opportunity, one many people would love to have and I should run at it with open arms. It was scary, but it was also amazing and exciting and I knew home wasn’t far away if I wanted to go back; we at least had to try first.
We’ve now been in Perth for just under a year and I can honestly say that moving abroad was the best thing I’ve ever done. People ask me what it is about Australia that I love and why I moved here, but I think it comes down to more than just the place.
It’s stepping outside of your comfort zone and learning things about yourself, throwing yourself into a completely bizarre and new experience, learning about another country and ultimately, yourself.
I came across a quote online that struck me so deeply; it made me realise that what I had done was massive and I had been brave to follow my dreams.
‘Nothing is comparable to the new life in a new country. Though I am still always myself, I am changed to the marrow of my bones.’ – Unknown.
Living overseas changes you, makes you appreciate and see things differently. You’re far away from everything and everyone you have ever known and loved and it can be lonely, overwhelming and tiring. However, when you stop to think about what you have accomplished, you realise how proud you are of yourself for uprooting and starting afresh.
I miss my friends and family so much and think about them every single day. I wish we lived closer so they could just pop in for a cup of tea. That’s the hardest thing about moving overseas. I try to fully immerse myself in daily life here; I want to feel as though I am making the most of the beautiful surroundings that are on my doorstep. Australia is a truly amazing place, the weather is stunning; the relaxed lifestyle and wonderful natural beauty are of course a massive bonus. I feel as though I belong here, that it’s home and that my life is here. I am joining clubs, meeting people, going out for walks and exploring this amazing place that I live. Though I miss my life back home, I have no desire to move back there any time soon. Rich and I try to get out as much as possible and explore as much of diverse Western Australia as we can, there’s so much to see and do, I don’t feel like I need to go on holiday– we have it all here!
Moving abroad is scary, but as they say, ‘Ships in harbour are safe… but that’s not what ships are built for.’
The idea of never fulfilling my dreams is far scarier and for me, I just think life is too short to not go after what you want.
We are lucky that we’ve been given such a fantastic opportunity to come and live in Australia but we made it happen, we made our own luck. If you’re scared or worried about taking the plunge and moving overseas, that’s OK, it’s perfectly normal. It’s scary, amazing, terrifying, and exciting all at once but it might be the best thing you ever do; the only thing anyone can ever do is try. If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried. If you’re scared, have a little faith that things have a funny way of working themselves out and it could be the most wonderful experience of your life.
Thank you so much Emma.. What a great story, proving to everyone that it’s important to grab the bull by the horns and absolutely ‘Go For It’!! Olivia xxx
I’m currently sitting in a beautiful coffee shop in the lanes of Melbourne, sipping a Long Black and wondering what I used to do on Friday afternoons before we ended up here.. Melbourne is the most magical city. Just meandering through the laneways is enough to make me grateful for being alive. It’s that kind of place! It really does make my heart skip a beat! People everywhere; sightseers, office workers, artists, musicians, shop owners, even bloggers like me, immersed in their surroundings and getting all sorts of inspiration from the bustle around them. It’s hard not to be inspired here. There is just so much to love about this city; my city!
We’re fast approaching the end of another year ‘Down Under’ and there don’t seem to be any signs that we may be adventuring off to pastures new just yet.. Thank goodness. I am amazed at all the things we’ve squeezed in to our first year in Melbourne, and there’s still so much to explore. I’m so full of love for how this city has become home to us so quickly! I never would have imagined a few years ago that we would be here, doing this, and absolutely loving every minute!!
It seems like a lifetime ago we hopped off that plane in Sydney, to see what Australia had to offer. To dip our toes in the clear blue waters of the world famous Bondi Beach. The memories feel like a scene from a black and white movie.. Mr W, whisking us off to explore a warm and distant land. If it had been on the silver screen, I’d have been played by Olivia De Havilland (Obvs), and Mr.W played by Humphrey Bogart! We’d arrive in the Southern Hemisphere, embrace each other at the bottom of the plane steps, and get chauffeured off to our glamorous new abode in Sydney Harbour.
In reality it was nothing like that!
Monty had spent the first 12 hours of the journey vomiting into supermarket carrier bags that I had cleverly stashed in my hand-luggage. Poppy spent 24 hours watching re runs of Peppa Pig, and I sobbed most of the way! By the time we landed in Sydney, we looked more like the Aadams Family than glamorous 1940’s movie stars. Hello Australia, we’ve arrived, and NO we’re not staying for long, I left my besties crying at Heathrow!!!
Now almost three years on from the landing, and…. wait for it… (*Mum grab a hankie)… I’m not sure I could….. go back……
I know, I know, it sounds a little ‘out there’! *All my friends are currently deleting my blog from their newsfeed, muttering “I told her she’d not be back”… Mum is sobbing into her cup of tea, and for some reason, I don’t feel too terrible… In fact, I feel relieved to have finally put it out there.
That’s not to say I don’t yearn for my girl crew, and I don’t miss lots of things about the UK; it’s just that Australia, well Melbourne.. oh gosh I’m so sorry…is home now….
It had to happen eventually. There had to come a time when we all started to think of Australia as “home”. Expat’s all over the world; since being an expat was even a thing, have always struggled with knowing where home really is. I’m sure people stop themselves calling their host country ‘home’, so as not to upset Aunty Brenda, or to keep hold of friends who have promised to disown them if they don’t return!!! The pressure to have just one home, and not love anywhere else as much.. or dare I say it.. MORE, is too much to handle. It’s a strange feeling, as if I’m letting the whole of the UK down, by saying “thanks anyway, but I think we’ll stay put”. I’m sure that’s what makes my stomach churn and mimic homesickness. It’s possibly not that I’m missing the chips and gravy with mushy peas, or the local pub with the log fire, it’s the terror that I’ll be cast aside and never welcomed home with open arms again! I’m a traitor, fair and square!!
We never came here with the intention of staying forever, but you can’t help but build a life for yourselves, and your children. You can’t help but make friends; close friends. You can’t help but join clubs, get jobs, volunteer, join the school committee, find a local pub, join sports teams, become part of a community… You can’t help but make a new life, and somehow that’s what we’ve done. (And no, I still don’t resemble Olivia de Havilland)
We came here for four years, and now with only 14 months left on our visa, I am truly panicking about what will become of us all if we do have to leave our…. ‘home’??
The UK isn’t our home any more. Is it?? We left a life behind, and have created something different, something new, something exciting, something we’re certainly not ready to let go of.
I think what I’m trying to say is, no matter what we do, or where we go, we will always be in a position where we’re living without something or someone. And without doubt, in this crazy ‘expat’ life, we just have to go with the flow; think about what we really, really want, and as selfish as it sounds not give anyone else a second thought! We have one life, one chance at getting it right and only we know ‘where‘ we’re happy! For The Wilson’s, now… dare I say it….? I think we’re home.
“The most beautiful things in life are not things. They’re people, and places, and memories, and pictures. They’re feelings and moments and smiles and laughter” – Unknown