The House of REPRESENTATIVES FEB 2005 DISCOURSE OF M. P. ALAN GRIFFIN ABOUT THE STELLA CLAVISQUE CLUB

 

The first group I would like to discuss is the Stella Clavisque Club, which relates to the Mauritian community.

Back in 2003, I was very happy to be a guest at that club's 35th anniversary celebrations. I had also had some dealings with the club in the past regarding a request that they made to get funding for a petanque pitch for the use of their members. They produced a booklet about that celebration of 35 years. When you go to the detail,

it gives an interesting insight into the experience of migrants who came from Mauritius and also I think the experience of migrants in general, in terms of the circumstances they face when they come to the country. I will read from that booklet:

They came in the 60's in ever increasing numbers. Whereas in the past, Mauritians had migrated mainly to South Africa, the death throes of apartheid and the end of the White Australia Policy had aroused interest in this vast and mostly empty continent.

Wars, famine and natural disasters have always created mass movements of populations and changed the racial and cultural structure of nations, the most significant being the Great Atlantic Migration in the 19th century, which formed the USA.

Mauritian migration, however, was different in that it was part of the voluntary movement of individuals who, since the end of World War II, had been leaving developing for industrialized countries. Furthermore, unlike the nationals of many European countries whose passage to Australia was heavily subsidised by the Australian government, Mauritians came here at their own expense. Although independence was looming, its concomitants a dim unknown, most did not flee out of panic but were looking for better conditions of life and better prospects for themselves and mainly for their children, as overpopulation and an economy that relied almost exclusively on the sugar industry were matters of serious concern.

This move was not made without trepidation. Hopes and dreams mingled with misgivings. There was doubt and vacillation, as most were torn between, on the one hand, the appeal of more readily available jobs, improved economic, educational

and health conditions and on the other, the casual, insouciant lifestyle, the close-knit family bonds, the friends they were leaving behind, and the magic of a warm and sun-drenched land and of the lagoons where at noon the sun seems to shine

“like boiling gold on ocean”.

In the intensity of conflicting emotions many chose to stay. The following is a tribute to some of those who decided to go for it and join “the weird mob”. Not for one moment, however, did their memories fail them of the days of old among those

they left behind in their island in the sun.

... ... ...

Responding to numerous appeals from immigrants, floundering as they tried to cope with their new circumstances, two Mauritians accepted the challenge: Jean Commins, whose brainchild the SCC was, and Karl Bozelle, who nurtured the newborn and fostered it to full growth. Karl appealed to a small group of Mauritians to join them in their endeavour.

That was in August 1968. I will continue to read from the booklet:

The original aims and objectives of the club were to help Mauritian migrants settle and integrate. It came across vary degrees of helplessness. In some cases hopes and dreams had given way to despondency and despair. Many were pining for the past. In those early days a dedicated few served the club well. Many made house calls, trying to restore morale by giving families practical assistance and advice on how to look for a job, obtain financial support or medical care, furnish their apartments, make new friends or meet old ones; arranging cheap travel for them and providing them with low cost entertainment.

The club realized almost from the outset, that to keep up its members' spirits, it was essential to provide them with the opportunity of excursion trips back home at the cheapest rates possible. It investigated the feasibility of group flights, explored

Wednesday, 16 February 2005 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 184

CHAMBER the merits or otherwise of joining a federation of Mauritian clubs, ran into trouble at times through the malpractices of people it dealt with, had a large measure of success, hailed the first chartered flight in 1972, and was eventually in 1977, by a Mauritian Government project, relieved of the burden of organizing these flights.

Later on after 1976, after the days of mass immigration, when new arrivals could easily obtain better advice and help from settled relatives and friends, the club's objectives were reassessed and adjusted towards social and cultural activities to meet

the changed demands of its members and to offer a balance between functions for the younger and the older generations.

The club's success in those early days, and indeed its survival, was entirely due to the tireless devotion of a few, who never allowed themselves to be disheartened not only by poor attendance at general assemblies but also by lack of interest and support at functions and outings. Some of them were forced to serve on the committee year after year and one or two of these years they could be forgiven to think of as `anni horribiles'. The only indulgence they allowed themselves was using

the newsletter to in turn express their concern, appeal, complain, deplore and occasionally express their despondency at the apathy of those they were serving, in many cases just the apathy of fatigue.

These tireless few set about organizing socials and outings as opportunities for members and their friends to meet, enjoy themselves and boost one another's morale.

Starting with three or four of these social occasions: a mid-year dance, a children's Christmas party and a New Year's Eve ball, they later added disco nights, Mauritian nights with Mauritian music and food, Bastille Day balls, youth nights, dominoes

tournaments, old time dancing, talent nights, games and sports days, petanque competitions, seniors nights with free dinners and BYO get togethers.

Some planned functions had to be dropped through lack of interest, others were only moderately successful, some parties were overbooked, caterers were not always up to standard and some venues inadequate, hardly providing the best of settings

for the club's balls and dances. However many will have kept fond memories of the club's end of the year functions at Alan Mclean Hall in Mordialloc.

The SCC also held joint functions with the French Club of Victoria, at Club Suisse, Caulfield Centenary Hall and East Burwood Hall, which many enjoyed.

Many, indeed most of the socials, were well attended, specially as the organisers kept trying to stimulate interest by engaging a Mauritian or a South American band, or professional ballet dancers or singers, by offering prizes for the best costumes at

fancy dress balls, or by programming a fancy hats night or a fashion parade presented by a Paris fashion designer or a winter festival as an opportunity to advertise Mauritian talents.

The 20th Anniversary Ball of 1989, the April 1993 Silver Jubilee Ball, which was attended by all those to whom the SCC owes a debt of gratitude in recognition of their devoted service, and particularly the 30th Anniversary Ball were outstanding

successes.

For the younger generation the club set up special sport committees to promote sports and games for boys and girls alike: soccer, volleyball, badminton, basketball, and ping-pong. The opportunity that offered itself in later years to use the Lois

Twohig Reserve gave an enormous fillip to these activities.

... ... ...

The club's Newsletter early on became an invaluable source of information about available help. It advertised organisations like the Community Aid and Advice Bureau, the Red Cross Industrial Services, Telecross, a booklet of people's rights,

decisions of the Immigration Ministry, invitations to the presidents of Mauritian clubs to meet the Mauritian consul, Ethnic Radio and the offer of a spacious room once a month at the Endeavour Hills Leisure Centre.

In this way club members obtained a profusion of information on a wide variety of concerns and subjects of interest: babysitting and child minding facilities; migrant welfare; free legal service; what to do in cases of e.g. drowning, heart attacks or

gas asphyxiation; how to improve their English; the benefits of citizenship; their political, legal, accident and compensation rights; sponsoring prospective migrants; French films, TV, songs of yesterday and today; help with housing; health education;

income support; service provided to and funding of ethnic organizations; first aid training; a safer workplace and a helpline for isolated people; as well as news from Mauritius and France.

... ... ...

The Stella Clavisque Club never courted celebrity and prominence among Mauritians in Victoria or Australia. It is proud of having spawned other clubs formed by groups that placed their emphasis elsewhere. It found a sense of fulfilment in helping

needy individuals and groups. Perhaps the best known and the most deserving of such organizations is SACIM, the Society for Aid to Children Inoperable in Mauritius. These children had to be met at the airport and driven to the hospitals where

they would receive treatment. Fundraising became even more important in 1994 when the Royal Children Hospital began charging for open-heart surgery, and required extra efforts.

Wednesday, 16 February 2005 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 185

CHAMBER. The SCC over the years contributed to a wide variety of deserving causes: Caritas Mauritius; the Peter Crimmins Research Fund; the Springvale Aid and Advice Bureau; parishes and craft schools in need in Mauritius—et cetera.

For its members and their friends the ... Club was a bridge between their new country and the old. It was a lifeline. Early on the President visited the SCC of Mauritius and established links between the two clubs. The SCC of Melbourne

joined the Federation of Mauritian Associations in Australia and Mauritius, and Karl Bozelle became the president of the federation for 1974-75.

As you can see from the details that I have outlined here, the club shows much of what can be done by migrants in establishing themselves in a new country and some of the problems that are faced by migrants in those circumstances. Again I quote from Roland Florent from the club:

Thanks to the vital role of organizations like the Stella Clavisque Club the Mauritian community is a significant `bit player' in yet another successful experiment in multicultural mix that is Australia.

Another local organisation I would like to refer to is the Association of Ukrainians in Victoria and their Noble.

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Latest update: Friday 4 December 2020