Post-war Migration and Bruck Textiles
Post-war Migration and Bruck Textiles
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Rural City of Wangaratta
In this video, former employees of the Bruck Mills in Wangaratta discuss what it was like to work there in the 1950s-1970s, in particular in terms of post-war migration.
Bruck Textiles came to Wangaratta in 1946, creating a population boom in the town, and attracting workers from all over the country and Europe as post-war migrants made the company a working destination. Bruck Textiles began with manufacturing furnishing and apparel fabrics and still operates today, though its emphasis has shifted to high performance fabrics such as those used by the Australian Defense Forces.
-Well, I arrived in Wangaratta in 1962, as a 12-year-old kid.
-I never felt like a migrant.
-Well, I think Wangaratta's virtually sort of a model for Australia, the way it's happened, to be honest.
NICK PAOLA: My father came here after the war. A few months later, he obtained the job with Brucks. And he was there for the next 10 years.
-It being after the war, and we'd just had a hell of a kerfuffle in Europe, and my brother, my oldest brother, he had migrated to Australia in 1951. And the letters he wrote, well I thought he would be a millionaire next year. You know, the way he was saying how good it was. So, my brother and I, we talked, and we worked on it and we finally migrated here. And here, there was also plenty work, and this was at Brucks and the Woollen Mill.
-My brother had started a few weeks before me. And he was there until he retired. My other brother worked there for a little while. And other members of the family, aunties and uncles, have worked there, as well.
NICK PAOLA: Well, there's a lot of migrants that they came to Brucks from Bonegilla. After the Russian invasion in Hungary, my father was coming to Bonegilla. And he met a lot of Hungarian migrants, refugees. He met some of them and he took them back to Wangaratta, which then, eventually got a job with Brucks.
-And there is old army barracks here in town, and people will tell you that's where they stayed when they first came to Wangaratta from the migrants centers. They were sent and they stayed there and worked at Brucks.
HENK ZEINSTRA: Wangaratta was a textile town.
-I started off in what they called, at Brucks, the finishing room. That's where the big rolls of material get put though the machine to make it more shiny, and smell better, and all that.
-It was actually quite good.
-I liked it, and what it, of course, is. You learn and you try it. I didn't know anything about textiles. But that doesn't take very long. You soon learn what you have to do.
-The skilling would be purely whatever was required to do that job. And that was your task, and then you would just methodically go at it day in and day out.
-At first you have to learn the technical terms, you know. They say something and they say, what is that? Explain it to me, what that means. And it takes a bit of time. But you weren't the only one because I would say about, well 3/4 of the work force was migrant stock. Yeah, there was plenty of them. Italians, and Germans, and bit of everything.
-From all countries. It was like the United Nations.
-All the different languages was the interesting thing, because of course, in the '50s and '60s there wasn't a lot of support systems for non-English speaking people.
-If you had Italians that would speak their language, another country people would speak their own language. But if there was an Italian and a Pols or Yugoslav, they would speak English to understand each other.
-Now when I think back, we probably could have done a lot more but, it was really learn English or else type thing. We had a polish lady as training officer and an Italian man as a training officer in the weaving side of our mill.
-There was a lass in Wangaratta whom we used to call in to do some Italian translation. If ever we had manuals from the machinery manufacturers overseas, sometimes we had a German man there who could do some translation for us. Or if there were any individuals that needed extra support, those sort of facilities were founded. Back in the '50s and '60s, even in the early '70s as I recall, must have been quite difficult for people of, sort of a home language to come in and pick it all up.
-Everybody worked well together. I look at those people as, they put out a very good contribution to, not just to Brucks but to Wangaratta as a whole.
-There's certainly no hiding it. There's certainly not much dislike because on Sunday you see him again at the soccer field. Why make arguments? You know?
-Irrespective of which country or culture you come from, and everybody sort of got together as part of the community. There was a lot of mateship among everybody. It was quite good.
-It was. It was a little, sort of a gel pot of what the future of Australia became.