10 October 2022

Riverina Rewind: 46 hours 25 minutes aboard the Flying Dutchman

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The Veerhuis family touches down in Australia after more than 46 hours total airtime. Image: Museum of the Riverina (Veerhuis collection).

Today, the Museum of the Riverina takes us back to a migrant story from the 1950s and the moment the Veerhuis family landed in Australia.

Petrus “Piet” and Petronella “Nel” Veerhuis owned and operated Cafe Zuid in Hilversum, The Netherlands.

Their first child Petrus Marinus “Peter” was born on 9 August 1941 and the family lived in rooms above the shop.

Nel was not happy raising her family within the cafe atmosphere, and this, coupled with the family’s good friends and neighbours immigrating to Australia was a deciding factor in the Veerhuis family seeking a new life “down under”.

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The Veerhuis family, comprising Piet and Nel and children Peter, Henry, Roy, John and Fred, departed Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on 23 May 1951.

At the time, Nel was pregnant with her sixth child, Leon. Two more children – Anne and Bill – were born in Australia.

Standing on the steps of the plane, Peter remembers thinking two things – did his parents know what they were doing, and would the weather be warmer in Australia!?

Here, the family is pictured having just arrived in Sydney.

Flying with KLM’s Flying Dutchman, the flight took a gruelling 46 hours 25 minutes (airtime), with stopovers in Damascus (Syria), Karachi (Pakistan), Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, Darwin and then on to Sydney.

Upon arrival in Sydney, the family were greeted by cold weather, not dissimilar to what they’d left behind. They then endured an uncomfortable train trip to the migrant camp in Bathurst.

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After spending about three weeks in Bathurst, the family was then transferred to the migrant camp at Uranquinty, which they found to be a very different environment.

There were few Dutch migrants there, with most of the new Australians being refugees from Central Europe.

After a two and a half month stay at Uranquinty, the family moved to Gardiner Street North Wagga, where they co-purchased a house that they shared with the Turel family (their former neighbours in Hilversum).

Photo and information supplied by Michelle Maddison, curator at the Museum of the Riverina.

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