Migrants to Mosman

From the late 19th century Irish immigrant Richard Hayes Harnett Snr and his son opened up Mosman as a desirable place to live. Migrants flocked to Mosman and the boom times began.
Share the stories of a Belgian wool buyer, post Second World War immigrants and refugees, an Italian model and among the more recent migrants, Balmoral Bathers Pavilion owner and chef, Serge Dansereau.

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Gerald Christmas
20 April 2019, 15:41 · #

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Gerald Christmas aged 10 migrated from England with his parents for only 10 pounds and arrived in Sydney on June 17th, 1948. They lived in Clifton Gardens and Gerald attended Mosman Primary School in 1949. They later moved to Balgowlah.
Gerald married Rosemary Erskine Smith in 1961 and eventually they settled in Balmoral where they still reside.
Gerald was a partner with a city law firm for 40 years until his retirement in 1998. They are active in Mosman affairs. Gerald was President of the Mosman Art Society for 20 years.

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Cast (in order of appearance)
Randa Loupis
Terry Carew-McLain
Marc Parmentier
Albert Pinelli
Julia Patterson
Arvind Baddepudi
Alessandra Pucci
Serge Dansereau
Eve Klein
Wesley Lew
Kerry Papas
Ivana Druart-Vucic
Graham Elder-White
Madeleine Prior
John Boutagy
Aurelien Druart-Potron
Minal Dalvi

Narrator: Andrew O’Keefe


Unless you’re indigenous we all come from somewhere else.

‘Migrants to Mosman’ shares the stories of some of those that came from somewhere else and settled and started a new life in Mosman.

Randa Loupis: I came from Jerusalem, Palestine.
Terry Carew-McLain: I was born in Rome.
Marc Parmentier: Georges Parmentier was born in Mouscron in the south of Belgium.
Albert Pinelli: I was born in Montelungo.
Julia Patterson: Reading in England.
Arvind Baddepudi: Small town called Guntur.
Alessandra Pucci: I was born in Eritrea.
Serge Dansereau: I was born in Montreal in Canada.
Eve Klein: Berlin, Germany.
Wesley Lew: China.
Kerry Papas: Cyprus.
Ivana Druart-Vucic: Belgrade in Serbia.
Graham Elder-White: Devon in the United Kingdom.

Mosman’s rich migrant history began just a few days after the First Fleet landed in Sydney Cove when Mosman Bay was included in a detailed survey of the Harbour.

In June 1789 the Europeans returned to Mosman Bay to repair HMS Sirius. The bay was described as a place where the men were ‘less likely to meet with temptation to idleness and bad company’.

For six months the crew of the Sirius became the first Migrants to Mosman.

The seeming remoteness of Mosman and perceived threat of the Australian bush meant any permanent settlement of migrants to Mosman was slow to start.

In the early 19th century some of the few inhabitants of Mosman included former Irish convict Thomas O’Neil, who was farming at Balmoral, fellow Irishman Barney Kearns, who was operating a ferry service across Middle Harbour and Bungaree and a group of Aborigines from the Broken Bay area, who had been settled on Georges Head.

It was not long before Scottish immigrant, Archibald Mosman, arrived in the 1830s and established a successful whaling station, giving the suburb its name.

By the mid-19th century the whalers and ship repairers had moved on and Mosman once again became a quiet back water.

A smattering of migrants from non- English-speaking backgrounds provided some diversity to Mosman’s population. Land developer, Vincenz Zahel from Austria, Captain Blix, a Swedish master mariner, and August Pfaefflin from Germany, all settled in Mosman.
There were also the transient migrants, the Chinese market gardeners at Shell Cove and the residents of the Artists’ camps at Balmoral and Sirius Cove.

Into this scene swept Irish immigrant, businessman and property developer Richard Hayes Harnett Senior. Used to wooing visitors on weekend ferry trips to Mosman, Harnett could see the great potential of Mosman as a place to settle.

In 1893 Harnett’s son, sharing the same name and vision as his father, became Mosman’s first Mayor and together they were responsible for opening up Mosman as a desirable place to live in the late 19th century.

The boom times began and Mosman was ripe for migration.

Around this time wool buyers were flocking to Sydney from Europe and Japan and many settled in Mosman.

These business migrants, particularly the vibrant French speaking community, brought a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to Mosman.

One of these wool buyers was Georges Parmentier who migrated from Moucron, a town in the south of Belgium renowned for its wool mills

Marc Parmentier and Madeleine Prior:

Marc: My understanding is that a lot of the French and Belgians, the young people were interested in going to places like Australia to seek their fortune because in 1905 Georges’ brother Joseph came out to Australia and established himself as a wool buyer. Then in 1913, approximately I think, Georges came out and followed his brother and that was the beginning of the story of their time in Australia.

Madeleine: And it was interesting because it became a French enclave, Mosman.

Marc: So in that time, from the time that he arrived until 1935, I think he had done very well.


In 1919 Georges Parmentier married Adele Boggio, daughter of wool buyer Charles Boggio. They resided in a grand house, now demolished, Beau Sejour at 182 Raglan Street Mosman.

Marc: He’d engaged a fairly well known architect, Adrian Ashton, and it was a very substantial piece of land. It went from Raglan St at the front to Shadforth St at the back. It wasn’t rectangular; it was a kind of triangular block. So that would have cost quite a bit, I suspect.

Madeleine: There was parquetry flooring throughout. Five bathrooms. Full servants’ quarters. There was a Carrera marble staircase that went up and that was all imported from Italy. There was a cellar that you went down and it had a very distinct smell and down there there were little mini bottles of Coca-Cola and tins of petit pois and pâté and wines, of course.

Marc: I wasn’t allowed upstairs.

Madeleine: Weren’t you?

Marc: Oh no.

Madeleine: We used to play hide and seek in their wardrobe, it was so huge. He also had his underpants monogrammed and he always wore them just above the belt so you could see the initials.

Marc: Inside the house – I touched statues and things which if you did in a museum today you’d be arrested. There were just amazing artworks. It was an extraordinary place.

Madeleine: The main lounge room had a full grand piano and they used to have nights where opera singers would come and they’d all be in their gowns and dressed – and Mum has a lot of memories of sitting listening to wonderful opera singers in the home.

A lot of it was the French community but those nights – I think it was a pretty good cross-section. The French were always – the Dekyveres and the Playousts and the Lemerands and the Lieutenants – they were always around, I think.

Marc: I’m not sure how they were regarded by the community. I think because they did very well for themselves and perhaps because they were French Belgians they might have been perhaps seen as a different class of people.


It was an exciting life for the wool buyers of Mosman.

Marc: He would spend half the year, he’d go to France and he would stay at the Hotel Meurice.

Madeleine: And his apartment was next door to Salvador Dali’s and he took my husband – they had an adjoining door – he took my husband and I in once and in the middle of Dali’s living room was a bathtub.

Marc: I reckon there were perks. I don’t think it was all business.

Madeleine: No, oh God no, they had a wonderful time. They took the families. They could afford to have a nanny and a governess, so they still had their schooling going on on the ship and while they were away.

Marc: We know that when he was visiting Salvador Dali …

Madeleine: Oh, the painting.

Marc: Dali did a painting of him.

Madeleine: A portrait. Oh, we know where that went.

Marc: Well, I don’t.

Madeleine: It went to one of his lady friends.

Marc: Well, there we are


In 1982 almost 70 years after arriving in Mosman Georges Parmentier passed away.

Marc: So he literally died with a glass of Dubonnet in his hands.

Madeleine: Great way to go.

Marc: I think he would have been happy with that.


After the stock market crash of the 1920s and the Great Depression, migration slowed until the 1930s when, in 1938, the Australian government, supported by the Opposition, began accepting refugees from Hitler’s Europe.

Eve Klein:

The circumstances in 1935, as you can imagine, being a Jew, was that we were going to be persecuted and things were going to change and Hitler was rising to power and things were very, very complicated and in 1937-38 we realised that we have to get out but it was a time where Hitler said, okay, get out, leave your things, you can’t take anything with you, but we’ll allow you to get out if you can. We knew we had left our family, which was two grandmothers, and they were only in their 50s, and a young aunt who was only in her early 20s, and said, we’ll send you visas as soon as we know where we land. And we did. But it was too late already. So that was in 1938 already too late and they’d been arrested and put into concentration camps. The aunt, aged 22 or 23, was in the Warsaw ghetto and then put into concentration camps and none of them survived. My parents had sent a visa and when my children went back to check things out in Poland, that letter was still sitting in the post office.

*Narrator: *

Eve’s family escaped Germany, but their initial destination was not Mosman, in fact, not even Australia.

Eve Klein:

And so we boarded a Japanese ship which was heading for Shanghai. We stopped in Singapore and officials came on board, British officials, and said are there any engineers on board, and my father was an engineer. We’re building an aerodrome, as they called it, would you be able to assist us with this construction? Well, he said yes, and we got off and we were in Singapore then for two years and my father had a wonderful position and it was a wonderful life for us refugees.


Mosman was also welcoming refugees. Local GP Tag Holmes and his wife Margaret established the ’50-50 Club’ in 1939 where each week an equal number of their Australian friends were invited with an equal number of ‘New Australians’ to their home for a social evening of music, singing, dance and talks.

Meanwhile the refugees were on the move in Singapore.

Eve Klein:

After two years we were rounded up and there was a group of around 200 of us refugees, mainly from Austria and from Germany, and the British rounded us up and said, we’re going to ship you out as enemy aliens because the Japanese are coming into the war and so we were put on, would you believe, the Queen Mary, the ship, which was then turned around in Australia as troop carrier, and we were went to what we knew nothing about – Australia.


With the outbreak of the Second World War, previously accepted migrants, Germans, Italians, Japanese and Hungarians, were interned or kept under police surveillance.

Eve Klein:

We were under guard. We were taken to an internment camp in Tatura near Shepparton in Victoria. The situation was that they were actually detained for two years. My parents decided to send me to a children’s home in Melbourne, a Jewish children’s home from the Jewish Welfare Organisation. All of a sudden they realised, the authorities realised that these were really genuine refugees and the next thing, my father was put into the army to fight for Australia. Things were so crazy.


In 1945 the Department of Immigration was established and headed up by Arthur Calwell who announced there would be mass migration from Europe.

Arthur Calwell

The mission on which I am now embarking is vital to the nation. I am going abroad to seek ships for immigrants. If we have no ships, we shall get no immigrants and without immigration the future of the Australia we know will be both uneasy and brief. As a nation, we shall not survive. Give me the ships and I will guarantee to load them with the right type of our future Australians.


Mosman Council made use of Calwell’s Displaced Persons’ Resettlement Scheme and employed post war migrants for road and footpath repairs, housing them in a newly built prefabricated migrant hostel at Rawson Park.

Calwell’s scheme of populate or perish transformed Australia and between 1945 and 1965 more than two million migrants came to Australia.

Eve Klein:

In 1945, now I am nine years of age, the war ended, and we just thrived. Australia was a fairly naïve country and even though they didn’t speak very good English, they were not – it was a case of assimilating, but they had a marvellous life.


Kerry Papas came out in 1948 from Nicosia Cyprus.

Kerry Papas:

After the war in Cyprus there was nowhere and there were no big buildings and they were bombed from the war, so everybody was leaving. We used to go to the cinema then and on the cinema was this slide, come to Australia, we need you, we’ve got plenty of work. Well, we got on this plane, two propellers, it’s a war plane, I’ll never forget this, and it was 130 people and there was the sides of the plane that’s where the parachutists used to sit, the rest of the people sit on the ground. It was five days. It was exciting, yes, it was something new, get away from the war and the famine and all of this. Then here was freedom, you have no father to tell you what to do or your mother. Yes, I was free.


In these immediate post war years Australia was second only to Israel in the proportion of migrants accepted. At the same time, Palestinians were being forced to migrate.

John Boutagy and Randa Loupis:

Randa: One of my earliest memories is actually witnessing the terrorist attack of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. We were stopped at barriers just before the King David Hotel and suddenly the whole building collapsed in front of my eye. My memory of it was that my sister was sitting in the back seat, started to laugh hysterically, and I began to cry. I still have that very vivid memory of that. One day tanks rolled down our street with a loud hailer to say, you’ve got to leave your property, otherwise you’ll be shot. So they started to organise convoys for Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes and their towns and we drove through the night, through the desert, because of course it’s cooler. We left Port Said very late at night. It was lots of lights, lots of activities, and my aunt, my mother’s half-sister, gave me this ring as a present and I’ve still got it. That’s the only thing I have from Palestine. We were met at the boat by my uncle and his family. He was living in a big house, very sadly no longer there, in Cremorne. We lived in the ballroom. The house was so big it had a ballroom. And mum and dad slept on the band area and we slept on mattresses on the floor in the ballroom. We became stateless refugees because there was no longer a Palestine.


The second wave of post-war migrants arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, seeking employment and better living conditions.
Many Greeks and Italians, and by this stage Chinese too, came from rural towns. When they first arrived their farming skills were put to use as market gardeners and cane cutters.

Wesley Lew:

For them it was an opportunity to create a better life for themselves because looking back through their history about what they were doing in China, they were market gardeners, very poor, and my mother talked about the times that growing up in her era that food was short and was always going hungry, whereas when they came to Australia they had the opportunity to make their own wealth and create a better future for themselves and for us.

Kerry Papas:

Well, I cut cane for three years. When I came back to Sydney I got a job in a delicatessen, at the Quay, and then I worked there for a couple of years and then one of my friends, he was a waiter, he used to work at this place in York St; I was making only about 10 pounds a week and he was making 30, 35, and I said how – I said can I get a job in there. Slowly I got a job in there. Then I never looked back. It was the best time of my life I had then.


Family businesses were a common feature of their migration experience and milk bars, green grocers, fishmongers, delicatessens, restaurants and bootmakers were all run by migrants in Mosman.

Wesley Lew’s parents came out from China to find a better life, they worked hard and eventually opened Lew’s restaurant in Mosman.

Wesley Lew:

My family came out to Australia. They went to Goulburn to work in a Chinese restaurant which was called the Kentucky Lounge. I believe that is still operating today. My father came out in 1951 to get some money and to presumably set up house. Then my mother came out afterwards to start the family life in Australia. When my parents came to Sydney they opened up, of all things, a fish and chips shop in Annandale. When my parents moved from Annandale to Mosman they started their own Chinese restaurant in Mosman. They operated the restaurant on their own because my father was a cook and my mother did the waitressing and the serving in the restaurant. The restaurant opened in 1966. I don’t recall there were many other restaurants in the area because I do recall people ringing up and saying that they wanted a whole dinner to be prepared and they brought saucepans in so they brought them into the kitchen and as food was prepared they put them in the saucepan and people would take them away in their own saucepans. So that was something that I didn’t think was anything out of the ordinary but looking back now, I don’t think anyone does that these days.

When my parents moved from 692 down the road to 639 Military Rd. the new restaurant that they started had wallpaper, had I suppose table cloths, and dimmable lights, so the whole restaurant was a bit more upmarket than what the first one was.


By this time Australia’s ‘White Australia’ policy was coming to an end. There were still challenges for the Lews but the restaurant was thriving and so were the children.

Wesley Lew:

My parents spoke basic English. I suppose it was enough to get them by, to deal with customers and as we were growing up we interpreted most of the stuff for my parents. Being under 10, I didn’t notice any differences but looking at the old school photos it was sort of easier to pick my photo out of the class photos because I was the only Asian in the class photo. Even back then there was not much of the Chinese community in the Mosman-Lower North Shore area, but for myself growing up in Mosman I just didn’t really see any difference other than part of the local Mosman community.


Albert Pinelli came from the rural community of Montelungo in Tuscany. His uncle, Luigi Pinelli, was the first one of the family to come to Australia in 1938.
Albert’s father migrated in 1950 with his cousin and soon realised if they were industrious and hardworking in their new country success and their family would follow.

Albert Pinelli:

My dad sent for me and he said, well, you’re going. Your mother will follow when we accumulate the necessary finances to follow. I left Italy in 1953 and my mum gave me a little note of rules of what to do and what not to do. My mum had put a pocket in all of my singlets and that note was always next to my heart. After a year at school I could speak, get by with English. I left school and I started working full time in Crows Nest – there was a fruit shop near Five Ways. My father at that time was working in the Mater Hospital and he worked for the Virgonas. The Virgonas lived in Mosman. My dad used to work there at weekends doing the gardens. Well, it was a busy time but my brother at the time was working there as well. My brother was an apprentice mechanic. At night time he was an usher at North Sydney cinema, the Orpheum, owned by Bob Virgona and his family.


Italians have always been eager to own houses and have been willing to make great sacrifices to do so.

Albert Pinelli:

We had to get a house because Mum and sister were coming. So we ended up, we’d looked around the Spit Junction, in real estate agents’ offices, till we found one, a weatherboard house, 1,250 pounds. We haggled and we got it down to 1,100-something. That was in Bardwell Rd Mosman. Mosman was a bit of a backwater, so to speak, and properties were cheaper.


Mosman was the place to live for the Pinelli family, and with Albert’s sister Irma marrying local fruiterer Matthew Arena, Mosman conveniently became the place to work for Albert too.

Albert Pinelli:

Because he didn’t really know a lot of people around Mosman, he said, when I buy the fruit shop, I want you to come and work for me. Mosman was very sort of primitive in a way. You do build up customers. Building up customers is very easy. You smile, you’re polite, you go out of your way to please the customer, and they come back. You build up a relationship.


Building up relationships for Albert led to marriage, a career in real estate and back to Arenas, this time the deli not the fruit shop.

Albert Pinelli:

The deli grew business-wise to such an extent that we had to start that early to prepare. The harder you work the luckier you become. We had a reputation, we used to start at 3:30, we used to get a delivery of bread at 5 o’clock, we had to have x number of rolls ready for a lot of tradies. So you bring the best from over there, you get the best from here, and life goes on.


Another hard working family, the Boutagys from Palestine, arrived in Australia in 1950 and ran a corner store at 45 The Esplanade at Balmoral until Gordon Boutagy retired in late 1969.

John Boutagy and Randa Loupis:

Randa: My dad would have wanted to have his own business because he had a very big retail shop in Jerusalem which sold electrical goods, something like Harvey Norman. People said to him, if you want to buy a business go into the food business because people always want to eat. It was a mixed business of grocery store.

John: And it was subject also to the rules of the day. Come Saturday, midday, you weren’t allowed to sell groceries, so they had to be boarded up so groceries couldn’t be seen, but you could serve milkshakes and lollies.

Randa: Oh absolutely. Ice-creams, lollies.

John: Yes, but no groceries.

Randa: Sandwiches but no groceries, no.

John: Unlike today, Balmoral Beach in the wintertime was empty but as soon as the weather heated up and people came the place got very busy and that’s where we were required on hand to help, especially on weekends. Summer weekends were a nightmare as far as I was concerned.

Randa: Yes, they were, they really were.

John: They were. The place was very, very busy.


Family, home ownership and often business ownership were high priorities for many Mosman migrants but it wasn’t always an easy path.

Kerry Papas:

Well, yes, I work in nightclubs. I made so much money but I gambled it. Gamble, partying, cars every year, and I had nothing when I got married. I came back from the honeymoon, 100 pounds, that’s all I had. Okay, from now on, I said to my wife, we’re not going out, we’re not partying, nothing. We’ll go to the movies once a fortnight. At Cremorne because it was not far from Belmont Rd. That’s it. I don’t need a car, I said, many buses, so I sold the car. I saved my money and there was a little house for sale further down at the corner of Belmont Rd and Bardwell Rd. I said, yes, this house was about 5,000 pounds. That’s all it was. And then they gave me the money, I bought that house. I bought the shop at the Quay, Circular Quay, a mixed business, and from then on I went on and bought another shop further out, and then another shop later on, and I met this Jewish fellow, friend of mine, he says to me, you Greeks, you’re stupid. I said, why? He says to me, you get a shop, you stay there and you work in it, that’s no good. You make the money work for you, not you for the money. Anyway, that’s what happened and then I went on and on. I had eight shops in my time.


Not all post war migrants came to Australia looking for work and a better life. Terry Carew-McLain arrived in Australia from Italy in 1955 as Maria Teresa Paliani with all the glitz and glamour that comes with being a former Miss Italy and international model.

Terry Carew-McLain:

So when I was about 17 I started to model in Italy and I was in Pitti Palace in Florence doing some showing for the buyers of the world. Somebody from David Jones was there and apparently they wanted to do a very big Italian exhibition in Sydney, with clothes and cars and everything really. They asked four of us if we were interested, with the agent obviously, you know, so I said oh yes, yes, but of course in those days I was only 17 so basically I had to have the permission of my mother; my mother said you must be mad and eventually we went to solicitors and so on and my mother gave permission. It was a fantastic experience actually because I was very well chaperoned and it was pretty amazing. Yes, four models. We came to Australia with Qantas. We took 78 hours to get here. We stopped in Singapore. We had a lovely time with the pilots in Singapore and my English was very bad and I did a bit of a gaffe there one night because we went to dinner and then we started to dance and I just said, I was so tired because I suffer from jet lag tremendously, and I said, Look, now we go to bed, so they made a big joke all through the thing about this. Then we got to Sydney and came to the Australia Hotel and we started work. It was a very hard work because we had 200 garments to show twice a day in David Jones. That was here for a month and then we went to Queensland, then we went to Adelaide, Perth, Wagga, and also to New Zealand.


Terry came to Australia for work and stayed for love.

Terry Carew-McLain:

Well, there was a guy here who was a nephew of Agnelli, you know, the Fiat people, and he was here to bring the Cinzano, the drink, it had just started. He wanted us to go to his house and have a party and so on and we said, no, we’re too tired, we’re too tired, but eventually we said okay. And that’s where I met John. But I didn’t like him very much so I just – he tried to take me home and I didn’t want him to take me back to the hotel because I didn’t know him, but anyway he was very persuasive so he took me to the hotel and then he started to ring and then follow us all over where we went. You know, he was a bit mad. So that’s what he did. They took a car to come to Brisbane for the weekend and the car broke down 150 km from Sydney and so they left the car there, then they ran back with a taxi or something to the airport and took a plane back. Just madness in those days. At one stage his mother said she wanted to meet me because we were in the papers all the time so we were fairly well known by then and so yes, we went to dinner with his sister and his mother and John and I. I think I was a bit of a shock for his mother because I ordered some asparagus and left half of them because I didn’t like the white, and she told John I was very extravagant so to be very careful.


John Carew and Maria Teresa Paliani married in Sydney in December 1956.

Terry Carew-McLain:

It was a small wedding. We married at Riverview with the French priest and then the reception was at his mother’s house. Poor John put up with a lot, well, when we were first married, because I really didn’t know how to cook.


After the first year of marriage in Melbourne the newlyweds, with their new baby, headed back to Sydney, first Queenscliff and eventually Mosman.

Terry Carew- McLain:

From Queenscliff we came to Mosman quite often and I quite liked it. The atmosphere, although there wasn’t very much atmosphere compared to today. It was very expensive and he was the sort of person who had to have cash to buy everything, so we actually didn’t buy a house for eight years, and then of course the children grew up and then in 1975 John had a heart attack and died suddenly. Some years later I met Joe but somehow he was such a great man that things happened and we got married in 1980. He was one of the greats of Mosman, by the way, in painting.


Terry stayed in the fashion world and stayed in Mosman.

Terry Carew-McLain:

Then in 1987-88 I opened the Benetton shop in Mosman. We had to have everything from Italy. It was terribly expensive. We had to pay for all their things coming from Italy in advance and then of course there was the big stock market fall and you could see immediately what happened. People weren’t buying anything much. So I enjoy Balmoral, I enjoy the shops now, I enjoy the via vai of this place.


In the early 1970s with a Labor government elected, a policy of multiculturalism meant migrants were to be chosen according to personal and social attributes and occupational group rather than country of origin.

Alessandra (Alex) Pucci was born in Eritrea to Italian parents and after her schooling returned to Italy to go to university before coming to Australia in 1970.

Alex Pucci:

My father was a journalist and he had founded an Italian newspaper because at the time there were many, many Italians, not only in Eritrea but all along the Middle East. Ethiopia, which was the biggest country next to it, took over. My father, who had been in his papers, he had been going for the independence of Eritrea, from Ethiopia, he was given 48 hours to leave.
Alex was already studying in Italy and soon her husband Gino Pucci would be encouraging her to come to Australia and settle in Mosman.

Alex Pucci:
There was a visiting Australian fellow, Jane Blundell, and so she spoke a lot about Australia, fantastic country, and so my husband was enticed and he said, why don’t we go. She managed to get him a contract for two seasons. When the job was over he said, I like the country, I’d like to stay. I wasn’t convinced at all and eventually I decided that Australia was better. He set up his own company and he called it with his own name, the Gino Pucci company, and he designed and he set up a factory to make handbags and shoes. So the very first day we were in Sydney they took us to Balmoral island and my husband turned to me and he said, I want to live here.


Alex’s husband Gino was an entrepreneur in the fashion world whereas Alex, who had studied pharmaceutical chemistry and genetics in Italy, had more difficulty finding a job.

Alex Pucci:

And I did apply and I had 200 responses, all negative. No one wanted to employ me so I decided to go from the bottom and I found a job as a technician in a pathology lab. When I demonstrated that I knew what I was doing I could get a job as a research assistant at Sydney University and when I did that, that professor said, look, realistically, with your Italian degrees you are not going to go anywhere and you’d better do a PhD here. And I did.


Alex went from strength to strength creating the first biotechnology company in Australia in 1981.

Alex Pucci:

And when I was in the States I saw the very, very beginning of the biotech industry there and it was so exciting that I came back and I said, I’m going to do it in Australia. I got some initial funding from my husband and a friend of his and I set up a really advanced laboratory and then I went to the government and I said, look, I’ve done my bit, now it’s up to you, and they were very generous actually, very, very generous. They funded me for the next five years.
The accolades continued for Alex and so does her researching and writing on topical scientific issues.

Alex Pucci:

So ’86 was Businesswoman of the Year; ’87 I became an Officer of the Republic of Italy and in ‘88 was the Order of Australia. After that I became a non-executive director in a number of different companies. One of these companies was the Sydney IVF company, it’s a fertility company and it’s relevant because this book contains the story of that.


Government policy and world events continued to shape migration in the 1970s and 1980s with less emphasis on family reunions and more emphasis on skilled and business migrants.

Growing up in Montreal food and cooking were strong influences for Serge Dansereau, owner and head chef at The Bathers’ Pavilion at Balmoral Beach.

Serge Dansereau:

We always had a huge garden. My father was an amazing gardener. My mum was the cook of the family. She would cook the meal. My grandmother used to be a caterer. She used to work in a lumberjack camp with a team of men. She was a big influence in my life as far as cooking also because she’d cook in a semi-professional way. I had an uncle who was a professional chef and he was one of the famous chefs in Canada that used to run big hotels. I got my first job through him and I got employed there as a kitchen hand, so washing pots and pans, and I had never come in contact with other nationalities and it was very French-Canadian where I was, and suddenly there was Haitians that came from Haiti that used to do a lot of the kitchenhand, washing the pots and all of that; there were Swiss chefs, there were French chefs; there were Italian waiters; it was fantastic, there were Germans, it was all those different nationalities and I got not only the bug of working in the kitchen, I loved the environment, but also the fact that all those people came from somewhere else. Eventually the head chef said to me, why don’t you go to cooking school, because he could see I was really enjoying it, and I applied to the best cooking school in Montreal and I got accepted. When I graduated, then they gave me a job which was a funny title: it was called ‘chef on ice’ and chef on ice meaning that you were a bit like a person who would help anywhere that they needed. We had seven hotels in our district. I would go from Cherbourg to Quebec City to Cornwall to Ottawa. After doing that for three, four, five years I decided that maybe it was time to take a different direction and I let a few people know that I was ready to take a posting overseas. Eventually the phone call came in and they said, Sydney Australia.
So I went to the library and at the library they had a beautiful – and I looked for a book on Australia but there was a book on Sydney, beautiful book with all the photos of the beaches, the lifestyle, the red roofs I remember, and the boating the sailing and all that, and lifestyle. I was absolutely blown away. I always will remember that book that just suddenly made me realise that I was going somewhere else. I saw the lifestyle of Sydney and I was hooked from that day on.
So I came to open The Regent hotel in Sydney. I was second in charge of the kitchen and it was a very large kitchen, it was a very busy hotel. It was the first true five-star hotel in Australia. I remember the president of the company, that owned the company, came in one time. He told the general manager, the director of food and beverage and myself that we didn’t know what good food was, and we thought we were doing pretty well because all our restaurants were full every single day. He organised for the three of us to go to California. At that point of time there was the explosion of Californian cuisine. It was very much a new way of eating, a modern way, as opposed to being very classic and French and formal. It was the beginning of the chef. The chef came out of the kitchen. The personality was the chef. The food was what people came for.


The legend of California Cuisine, Jeremiah Tower, years later credited Serge’s use of fresh, natural and local food as his influence and the real creator of the California Cuisine.

Serge’s success in the Regent’s flagship restaurant, Kables, lead to his creation of the Chefs table.

Serge Dansereau:

It was supposed to be just for one night. The restaurant was absolutely full and we had an overbooking. The maître d’ absolutely didn’t know what he was going to do and it was somebody quite important. The maître d’ said, look, I can sit him in the kitchen, I’ll look after them. And it started, in a sense nearly by accident, and people loved it because I looked after them, and obviously they told other people, then people started to call in to say, I would like to come to the chef’s table.


After 16 years at the Regent Serge wrote his first book while travelling through Italy and France and returned home to take up his new role at Bathers Pavilion.

Serge Dansereau:

Victoria Alexander approached me after all the effort that she put in to try to do a small hotel and when she got told by the council that it could only be a restaurant then she felt that she needed somebody with her to help her. Like at The Regent I wanted to make everything in-house, from the bread, even the butter that we made for the restaurant, home-made down there, but the restaurant took off because of my name, because of what I’ve done before at Kables, and so the restaurant took off and the café just built up and built up and within a year it was full every day. I was kind of riding this tiger, trying to find enough staff to do the work, trying to train them, trying to guide them, and I still had the builder with defects and I still had to organise the food, change the menu, it was – it took me a good five years before I could feel on top of my work.


From Montreal to Mosman Serge has achieved in the industry and contributed to the community.

Serge Dansereau:

Humpty Dumpty became really a charity that’s part of Mosman. It’s fantastic. This year they raised $2.6m. We still do all the catering; we still do all the footwork; I still design the menu. It’s really a full event that Mosman can be proud of.


Today differing backgrounds are still part of the migrant mix to Australia, but moving for quality of life unites these more recent lifestyle migrants to Mosman.

Ivana Druart-Vucic and Aurelien Druart-Potron:

Ivana: My family migrated to Australia, Melbourne, when I was seven, so 1990. I think there was always a bit of segregation between Australian-born students and migrants, I suppose, and most of my friends were Italian or Greek.

Aurelien: I decided to leave France – not so much to leave but rather to explore the world. I was a few years in Mexico, university in Mexico, and I lived there also for a few years in the United States, in various cities: in New York, Philadelphia, Miami, and I also lived in the UK, in London. That’s where I met my wife Ivana, in London. I was invited to Ivana’s house for lunch and I was just expecting her and maybe the parents but the whole family was there including the grandmother, the uncle, the cousin, everyone was here to see me, which was great.

Ivana: London is good but if we wanted to start a family and so forth it just was too hectic of a city to do that and the quality of life that it afforded just wasn’t right for us. Australia feels like home for me.

Julia Patterson:
I lived in Boston for a while. Then I came back to England and I met my husband who is Australian. The work-life balance is much better in Australia. Living in central London with young children is not a lot of fun, the schools aren’t very good, they don’t have a lot of outside space.

Graham Elder-White:
I came to Australia as a backpacker. I spent a lot of time working on a farm on and off in Victoria and loved the way of life, especially the rural way of life here in Australia, so even then there was something about Australia that kind of had me hooked. Then I came back and proceeded with my life in the UK until I met my wife who was Australian. She always said that she was going to end up coming home and I always loved the country so I didn’t really have a problem with it.

Arvind Baddepudi and Minal Dalvi:

Arvind: My mum was a doctor and my dad was a lecturer in the local college so all the people who were in similar professions, like accountants, doctors, engineers, they all had a separate kind of township kind of thing on the outskirts of the town.

Minal: My dad was a Reserve Bank officer, so it was a really nice apartment complex that we lived in. It was quite secluded and so we had a lot of space as children to play around and we had a really close-knit social network there.

Arvind: We made some choices. We thought, should we go back to the US, should we go back to Canada, should we go back to the UK, so we had four or five English-speaking countries, because we didn’t want to learn a whole new language, so out of the pick we chose Australia.

Minal: We thought that Australia would be a good pick because my brother had really nice things to say about Australia. He said the lifestyle is great.

*Narrator: *

It was only a matter of time before Mosman was discovered.

Ivana Druart-Vucic and Aurelien Druart-Potron:

Aurelien: I came to Mosman because I just looked at a map actually and if I had not met Ivana I’d probably be living in Paris. The quality of life is to me much better in Mosman. As far as I’m aware there’s not such a beautiful beach such as Balmoral anywhere in Paris. One of the great things in Mosman is that the food is great. There is a lot of excellent bakeries so as a French man I love my bread and my croissants and we’re lucky to have a number of boulangeries on our doorstep.

Ivana: I think we appreciate the tranquillity of it because it does sort of feel like a little village within a city.

Julia Patterson:

We moved here five years ago and I think for the first few years it was a bit like living in Disneyland. You drive round the corner and you’ve got a beautiful view of the ocean and it’s always sunny. I think Australia is friendly and I think Mosman is particularly friendly. It feels very neighbourhoody. So yes, people talk to each other in the shops and different places, particularly if you have children or if you have a baby – perhaps less so now my children are a bit older but when you have a baby lots of people will come and talk to you. I think I like that there’s a lot of people moving in and out. There’s lots of English people, there’s lots of Americans, there’s lots of people from all over the place who are quite keen to make friends. The things that I love about Mosman are the facilities. As I said, it’s beautiful, the beaches are beautiful, you can – my children are learning how to ride their bicycles at the moment, so we go to the oval or we go to different – there’s lots of kids cycle tracks with coffee shops nearby so we spend a lot of time doing that, which is great.

Graham Elder-White:

People are great, really friendly, particularly the older generation, I find, in Mosman. The coffee shop culture is great as well. I also like the fact that you have the beach; you also have access to the city so easily. But the national park as well, so that kind of fulfils for me that outdoorsy spirit as well. You know, there’s just so much to do.

Arvind Baddepudi and Minal Dalvi:

Arvind: It’s so beautiful, it’s so picturesque and it’s so easy to walk around in. Eventually we’ll have to buy a house and I don’t know if we can afford a house in Mosman. So I don’t know if affordability will push us somewhere else, but if possible we would love to be able to continue to stay on in Mosman.

Minal: Yes. I love the accessibility to beaches here in Mosman and the walking tracks that are so close by, the access to green spaces, and a swimming pool right around the corner.

Arvind: You take the ferry to the city. That’s my favourite part. That’s a beautiful experience.


Historically Australia has been the most welcoming country in the world to migrants and that includes Mosman – long may it last.

Serge Dansereau: I’m very much part of Mosman.
Alex Pucci: I do enjoy everything about Mosman.
Randa Loupis: Mum and Dad loved being here. It was peaceful.
Eve Klein: A wonderful opportunity.
Terry Carew-McLain: We’re very lucky really in Mosman.
John Boutagy: We came to a great area. We couldn’t do any better than that.
Albert Pinelli: There’s nowhere better than Mosman.
Ivana Druart-Vucic: Yeah, we love Mosman.
Graham Elder-White: It would great if the real estate was a bit cheaper but other than that, that’s probably the only downside that I can find.
Julia Patterson: I don’t see why I’d live anywhere else.
Arvind Baddepudi: Mosman is probably one of my favourite places that I’ve lived in all my life.