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Living in Australia as a Jamaican

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

In the third episode of our YouTube Live "Spotlight Feature", we met with Jo Lindo, an ardent subscriber here on My Island Jamaica and yes, a Jamaican living in Australia.

See Also:Living In Jamaica An American Shares Her Real-Life Experiences

Jo’s Life in Jamaica

The story of Jo’s life begins in St. Ann, Jamaica where she lived with her parents, Jamaican Roy Lindo and her mother, an English woman and the daughter of the Colonel in Chief for the British Army stationed in Jamaica at the time.

Jo’s father descended from the Sephardic Jews who came to Jamaica in the 1500s and is the nephew of Cecil Vernon Lindo of the Lindo Brothers. Jo’s father worked at Cardiff Hall located in Runaway Bay, St. Ann. 1962 was a memorable year for most of us because of our independence, for Jo and her family, that year they suffered a great loss.

Firstly, the work at Cardiff Hall was halted due to Jamaica gaining Independence. Even more so, her father regrettably passed away in October of that year. With her father being the breadwinner of the household it caused financial straits for Jo and her remaining family.

The Move Back to England

Her mother decided to move back to her homeland of England to provide a better opportunity for herself and her family. In July of 1963 when Jo was 11, they boarded a Banana Boat bounded for Liverpool, England.

They then stayed with her mother’s sister who was living in London at the time. Her mother then set about finding a job which saw the family travelling between Northern and Southern England before finally settling in London, England until Jo was 16 years old.

How They Ended Up in Australia

As fate would have it, in July 1968, Jo’s mother was at a cocktail party with a local ‘lady of the manor’. In making conversation, she spoke of her considering to migrate from England. Her mother, who was by this time in her 50s, found it challenging to find a job and find her footing in England and hoped that a new country would allow her to provide a better life for her and her family.

A gentleman who worked at the local bank overheard and gave her his business card. She enjoyed the party and went home, not thinking much about this gentleman and his offer for the next few days.

A few days later she got a call from the same gentleman who introduced himself as Mr Toyser of the Westminster bank and was invited to come to his office to speak more about migrating.

She did, and before the interview was completed she had wowed him enough for her to be referred to the head of the Banking Company of Sydney in London.

Again, before their interview was completed she was scheduled to meet with the head of the Australian Department of Immigration, four weeks later they were booked to leave England for Australia!

Life in Australia

In September, they left Southampton, England and travelled along the continent of Africa on a ship, picking up migrants along the way.

The trip cost 10 pounds. They settled in Perth, Australia where her mother got a job earning $60 a week. Jo being 17 by this time and just recently graduated from high school, had somewhat of a difficult time finding a job.

It was only after three months of searching and unsuccessful interviews that she finally landed a job.

This was only after she, in true Jamaican fashion, questioned her interviewer on how would she ever be able to get the experience everyone wanted if no one was willing to give her a chance.

When she asked her employer after working there for a while, why he decided to hire her and he responded “Because you challenged us.”

Jo’s career saw her working on an oil rig in the outback, the only woman in a team of 31 men. She describes it as a fun time in her life. She tells the story of her experience with an Australian Bull in Kimberly’s, Australia. Australia is known for its many animals and Jo had a very frightening but funny experience with the animal.

While she worked on the oil rig they had to move the camp somewhere else. And while in the bush she had to find ‘a little bush’ herself. While she was there, she heard a rustling behind her. When she looked it was a Kimberly Bull. A very frightened Jo had to stay very still and hide under the bush for half an hour before the animal walked away and it was safe again to walk back to the camp.

Her Experiences with the Aboriginals

Jo found herself missing her Jamaican roots and during this time she found the Aboriginals. She enjoyed their culture and the stories they would share of how they came to Australia over 40,000 years ago.

She would in turn tell them of her homeland of Jamaica and how she travelled to Australia. At first, it was strange to the aboriginals for a seemingly white woman to be so interested in them but they, soon enough, begun to understand who Jo was and where she was from.

This further opened them to share their culture with her. She even got a chance to go out ‘into the bush’ and she saw how they lived and survived without modern sources of food.

She was taught many ways of surviving in the bush if necessary. She was taught about the sacred places for example the Arnhem Lands in Queensland (which is not open to the public and you need a permit to enter the land) and what they meant to the Aboriginals.

There is one notable aboriginal named Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu who came from the Arnhem Lands. He was born blind and taught himself to play the guitar which is quite impressive. She speaks of his life and how in tune he was with his spirituality.

He wrote many beautiful aboriginal songs and has even played with Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He, unfortunately, passed away from Kidney disease. There are also many aboriginal didgeridoo players like David Hudson who have played with several different orchestras around the world.

She speaks also of her time in Sarah Island Quarry Bay Tasmania which is a known penal colony in Australia on holiday when she heard the story of five men who built a boat and were the only ones to escape the island.

They made it all the way to South America where they were recaptured and brought back to serve their sentences. Incredibly enough, there was a Jamaican in the mix of men. This story is still told today in Strahan, Franklin River Tasmania, Australia in an interactive play called “The Ship that Never Was”.

The Jamaican/Caribbean Community in Australia (Perth)
Jo speaks of there being a strong community of Caribbean migrants (mainly Jamaicans and Trinidadians) when she just moved to Australia with whom she could share her culture but some of that has slowed down over the years due to assimilation to the new country.

They, however, do stick together and meet up as much as they can. Some of her closest friends even now, are Jamaican migrants. Jamaican entrepreneurs who migrated in the 1950s started a tropical fruit business and are now the largest suppliers of tropical fruit in western Australia.

She even got a chance to meet Verna, who had worked with her father in Lindo Brothers and so she heard stories of her father and the rest of the Lindo family when they owned and operated the Wray and Nephew company from 1917-1939.

Similarities between Jamaica and Australia

When asked about similarities between Jamaica and Australia, Jo quipped “We try to speak English.” She then went on to talk about how passionate both countries were about sports and there is a strong Cricket fan base in both countries we have healthy competition between each other in the sport.

Opportunities for Work in Australia

While it might be difficult to get into Australia, there are many opportunities especially in the Oil, Gas, Mining and Agriculture industries with Wine and Timber to a lesser extent.

She encourages Jamaicans who do get into Australia to align themselves with the Caribbean/Jamaican Associations to make assimilating to the new country and culture a smoother process.

Dos and Don’ts in Australia

Jo encourages people who would like to relocate to Australia to be prepared for the dry humour of the Australians (taking the mickey out of you).

They are described by Jo as a people with rough exteriors but hearts of gold. Be prepared to have fun, Australians enjoy having a drink and partying.

It is a multicultural country so prepared to see many cultures and ethnicities.

It is a country that believes in being respectful and this behaviour is expected from everyone.

What Makes Jamaica Special?

When asked what makes Jamaica special she answered “the beauty, it is the most beautiful island…the mountains and the water; it is just very beautiful.

The people, I love the people, the music, the rhythm.” She describes Jamaicans as the best entrepreneurs in the world with our ability to make a business out of almost everything. Jo visits Jamaica as often as she can and even brings her friends along to enjoy all the island has to offer.

To enjoy the full video, watch on Facebook here or on YouTube here.

I also recommend you read The Jews In Jamaica Their History & Heritage.


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