Saturday, 21 April 2012

Two years indentured

Stasys Šiuskus arrived in Perth and stayed in the Grayland migrant camp for a brief time. After two weeks, he was told that he would be going to pick grapes in South Australia. He was sent by train to Adelaide and then by bus to Renmark. A farmer named H. Rasheed selected a small group of Lithuanians and took them to his property on 28 March 1948. He would receive £4 per week for a 40 hour week. Two shillings were deducted for tax. Other farmers allowed their workers to earn by amount and so could potentially earn more.

On one occasion, the group picked large grapes and then were taken to a crop consisting of small grapes. Here the farmer changed how they were to paid, now they earned their wage by the amount you pick. The group knew they were being taken advantage of, and as a group decided they would not pick and instigated a strike. The farmer got the Union representative, who sided with the workers. He had to pay them an hourly wage which included the half a day they were striking.
At the end of the harvest they received a letter from the Renmark Harvest Labour committee, it read;

As the harvesting of the dried fruits has now concluded it is gratifying to hear of good work done and also your conduct during the period of engagement with our Growers. You will now be moving on to other parts of Australia and we wish you every success in your new home of adoption and feel sure you will be loyal to the British Empire.

After the harvest, Stays was sent to work on the railways at Bancham, between Naracoorte and Mt Gambier. He lived here in tents, two to a tent. His next door neighbours were J and Vytas Neverauskas. Meals were eaten in a communal area, the food was good and inexpensive. They were earning 1 shilling a week which was paid fortnightly, after tax they received £13.

Stasys was injured and spend two weeks in the Naracoorte hospital; he contracted rheumatism in his foot. He asked for a transfer to Adelaide. After a week he received notification that he was transfer to Islington, to work on the tractors at the Railway yards. He was fortunate to find a room with furniture at 254 Main North Rd, Prospect.

The day after Stasys two year contract ended he purchased a six ton truck and drove north to the Leigh Creek coalfields, where he could now earn over six shillings an hour.

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