Retiree Joe Singh
JOE SINGH, 71 RETIREE , BUNYA
In 1967, I arrived in Brisbane on Australia Day from Fiji to study aviation electronics on a Colombo Plan scholarship. It was the first time I had left home and I had just $40 in my pocket. I’m the eldest of seven siblings and my mum [Pan, 85] and dad [Ram, who died five years ago, aged 89] and all my brothers and sisters later emigrated to either Canada or the United States. I’m the only one in Australia.
The last thing my dad said to me as he gave me a hug at the airport in Fiji was not to fail my exams. My mum begged me not to marry a white girl. The intention was that I go back to Fiji after my studies but I did fall in love with an Australian girl [Judith, 69] and we married in 1970 – with my family’s blessing – and have three kids [Anthony, 43, Jaswan, 41, Rena, 37]. I’ve been an Australian citizen since 1971.
After five years of study, I started out cleaning floors and ended up as senior electronics planner for Air Services Australia. At the beginning of our marriage, it was very difficult financially. We lived with Judith’s mother for about two years so we could save for our own place. When we got a house, it was very basic. We ate sitting down on the floor and we scrounged furniture from people giving things away. When we finally could afford to get the phone on, we were the only Singh listed in the phone book. Now there are pages of them.
In 2012, I retired and I’ve been busy working around the house. I’m pretty handy, and I love gardening and looking after my grandkids [Ethan, 5, Priya, 3]. I cook Indian food but I have a go at anything. I get most requests for my chicken curry. Four times a week I go to the PCYC at Arana Hills [north-west Brisbane] because I like to stay fit.
My life here has been fantastic. On Australia Day, I reflect on the life I’ve had and every Anzac Day I go to the dawn service to give my thanks to the country that gave me everything I have.