Packing for Perth


May 29, 2013

While not a phrase widely known in Australia, ‘Packing for Perth’ is used a lot on the other side of the Indian Ocean by the many South Africans planning to leave their homeland for a new life in the Western Australian capital.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show there are more than 100,000 South Africans living in Australia, making up 41.9 per cent of all African people now living in the wide brown land.

The vast majority of South Africans who leave for Perth are either Anglo-Africans of English descent, or Afrikaner people of Dutch descent.

In 2009, Challenger Institute of Technology lecturer Johan Dreyer left South Africa and settled permanently in Perth.

“Many [South Africans] choose Perth because they want a place as similar to South Africa as possible, a place that would feel familiar without the constraints of race being a constant factor for the socio-economic standard and political order,” Mr Dreyer said.

Mr Dreyer said that, as an Afrikaner, he got “a lot of shtick” back in his home country for leaving South Africa, and was accused of showing “no loyalty”.

Johannesburg-born Lynn Canes said she left for Perth because she felt her children had no future in South Africa.

Lynn Canes in her African-themed home

Ms Canes said that although, at a superficial level, Australian and South African cultures appeared similar, they really varied quite markedly.

“[South Africans and Australians] both love their drinking, sports and barbecues, but beyond that we are totally different,” she said.

“Our histories make us different.”

Ms Canes said South Africans saw Australia as a peaceful, safe and well-governed nation with a good economy.

She said that she considered going back to South Africa all the time, but would not go back because of her children.

Ms Canes said her children were safer in Australia, and able to walk down the street in the middle of the night which was “a freedom you don’t have in South Africa”.

Claire May blows her South African vuvuzela

Claire May, a business analyst who recently moved to Perth, is already referring to the WA capital as “home”.

“I’m from Durban – Perth is Durban,” she said.

“It’s just like South Africa except without all the negative elements.”

Ms May said she and her husband hoped to start a family soon and had no intention of returning to South Africa, aside from the occasional visit.

But she said she was still a “South African at heart”, and supported Durban’s Sharks rugby team whenever it lined up against an Australian outfit.

She also admitted to having mostly South African friends – although not always by choice.

“Australians here grew up together and have already established their lifelong bonds of friendship, so it’s hard to make new friends,” she said.

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