‘Reffos’, ‘wogs’ and ‘blackfellows’

The arrival of my cohorts coincided with the arrival of 2 categories of foreigners, the ‘reffos’ and ‘wogs.’ The reffos were war-displaced European refugees whose entry was facilitated by reference by officialdom to ‘Beautiful Balts.’ Most of those I met were well-educated. Indeed, the first girl to befriend me in Australia was a fellow student who had been raped in a concentration camp. The wogs were able-bodied young Europeans (many with trade qualifications) much needed to develop Australia’s infrastructure. I have talked with many of these so-called reffos and wogs, since I tended to collect interesting foreigners.

Any foreigner (of all 3 categories) heard speaking a foreign tongue on public transport or on street corners got a tongue-lashing from self-appointed guardians of white British Australia – ‘Why don’t you speak English, you (expletive)’!

The government’s efforts to have the European entrants respected, led to the nomenclature ‘New Australian.’ It was soon translated into Bloody New Australian, mainly in the pubs. I remained a ‘black bastard’ for a while. I was then told that the indigene refers to himself as a ‘blackfella’; all others, white or coloured, were apparently described as ‘yellowfella.’ Rejecting the latter description as misleading, that is, it said nothing about being tan or brown, I tried describing myself as a ‘blackfellow’ (carefully pronounced). That did not work. I now had no label reflecting my superior colour – the shade that so many Aussies are attempting to acquire on beaches and elsewhere.

It has to be accepted that, as each new immigration or refugee intake arrives, the host people would include the earlier waves of arrivals. I believe that this helps ultimate integration. But not quite. I heard the son of a Croation immigrant refer to Vietnamese refugees as wogs. However, the old Anglo-Aussie remains sensitive to foreign accents, forever remarking on them. He is deaf to his own peculiar accent!