Immigrating. Part 1: Deciding to leave South Africa 

Deciding to Leave South Africa

Deciding to leave South Africa when life in South Africa can be so good 

Life was good in South Africa. We had a big home complete with 6 day a week nanny to look after the kids, gardener to tend the garden and look after the pool, smart cars, well paying jobs, good friends and family close by. Life was good.


We were settled in South Africa. We had already booked our son into some of the most prestigious schools in the City and we were on the road in terms of our careers.


A little girl was on the way to complement the little boy we had already. Both children would have some fantastic things in their lives. They would be free to run and play in the garden under the careful, watchful eye of their nanny.


Yes, we had it all planned and had everything we wanted.  Until we visited Australia and realized we didn’t actually have some of the really important things in life.


We didn’t actually have some of the things we needed


After a few days we realised how wonderful it was to walk around and really live in your suburb or City. We didn’t have the freedom to walk down the road to the park without being tailed by the community security guards. It was unheard of to driving to the shops with the windows down.


We didn’t have the security in knowing our kids would be safe when they visited friends or went to day-care.


Aside from safety we couldn’t be sure that our government would protect our children or our parents in years. Yes would we do everything we could but what would happen if we weren’t there.  What would happen to our children if they had to be reliant on government services such as government schooling or healthcare.


This was completely aside from the economy and the currency.


I saw too much


As a lawyer, I specialised in Constitutional rights and was most often working with a sexually abused children. I can still remember the minute I knew we had to leave South Africa. I just heard that a child who had been sexually abused by her father was to be returned to his care. She would be returned purely because the South African department of social services believed family reunification was more important than keeping the little girl away from her abuser.


This was in the same meeting that I heard about a boy setting fire to his parents, killing them both because of the severe abuse he received in prison as a juvenile. He shouldn’t have been in prison in the first place. Worst of all I wasn’t surprised by the abuse.

These were the type of children I was working with, who needed me because the government had failed them.


This was three months after I had been threatened quite severely by a local government authority because I had exposed their illegal action which had affected thousands of poor South Africans.


I can remember exactly where I was standing when I knew we had to leave

Yes, I can remember exactly where I was standing in downtown Johannesburg among hundreds of poverty stricken children when I realized I needed to now make my children my number one priority. We had to move them somewhere they could grow and flourish.

The above were not worst case scenarios, they were scenes I had experienced on numerous occasions. I got so many calls for assistance on a daily basis I couldn’t attend to everyone. That is a sad sad reality! Knowing that there are more people who needed help. Knowing that you are fighting an unacceptable opponent. Realising a lot of people who needed to care just didn’t.

My working experience was not the only harsh reality. There were always these issues hanging around that people would talk about with anger, emotion and sometimes violence. This included poverty, crime, inequality, race. Often it was necessary to talk about these issues but often it was just the constant tension in the air.


The consequences of deciding to leave South Africa

While we knew the decision we had to make the consequences of that decision were hard to get our heads around.

  1. Leaving our families.
  2. Leaving our children’s nanny who we adored.
  3. Having to start over.
  4. Giving up on South Africa.
  5. Losing our friends.


At this stage we were still intent on bringing our dog and cat but that had to change due to their wellbeing.


The very clear push factors that made my husband and I sit down and decide where to move to kept us from focusing on the above too much.


Where in the world could we go, with our skills where we would be happy as a family. The initial results were Canada, the USA and Australia.


Where would we go?

Outright Canada was too cold and too foreign to what we were accustomed. However we did some research and spoke to some people in our professions. After those calls it just wasn’t right for us.


We then spent considerable time focusing on the US versus Australia. Hours of research, communications with the professional governing bodies and numerous conversations between us. I was adamant that the US was right for us. My sister had been living in the US for a number of years, she was established and would be able to help us settle.


But it was so hard getting information from the various bodies we needed help from and it was becoming more apparent that my husbands degree just didn’t covert properly. I had to accept that Australia was becoming a strong contender.


Contemplating Australia 

The Australians however were more than willing to help with information, links to resources, our degrees could easy convert, they played the same sports, had a similar climate and seemed to want us.


I still wasn’t convinced – wasn’t it in the middle of nowhere and started by a whole bunch of convicts.


My husband suggested that we just visit Aus and have a look at what it has to offer. I relented.


We visited Aus over Easter in 2014 with short visits in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.


One day while waiting for a bus on Sydney’s Northern Beaches we found our place in this world. Despite all my reservations, my pre-conceived ideas and misguided dislike. It felt like home, better yet, it felt like my children’s home.

There are three more parts of this story. 

Part 2: Choosing Australia 

Part 3: Actually Leaving South Africa

The Final Part: Settling in Australia



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8 thoughts on “Immigrating. Part 1: Deciding to leave South Africa 

  1. I cannot wait for the next installment! This made me both happy and sad. Happy because you found a place for you and your family but sad because I could just relate to everything you said and it breaks my heart to see South Africa going that way!

  2. Hands down, the best decision we ever made…18 years ago. You pay a high price, but the price is worth it for your future and your children’s future.

  3. Wow Michal! Your words are amazing and I had no idea your job involved all of this! It is so moving I was in tears! Look forward to the next installment. Xxx

  4. There are just so many reasons that made us leave – from hectic crime to racist incidents, being shouted at to leave the country, nastiness and despair but probably the straw that broke my back was when I realised I had lost all my humanity. That I can be faced with a sad and piteous face and an outstretched hand and I couldn’t give a f**. I was over the constant demands, the constant giving with no end in sight. The amount of money I was paying on tax and then still on top of that my own medical, electricity and schooling. I had enough. I didn’t want my children to experience that. I didn’t want them to experience the anger that apartheid has caused – I already was suffering for my father’s sins – I don’t want my kids to go through that terrible stuff. I didn’t want to let them drive and have them screw up as all new drivers do only to be shot or killed. I know I am white and privileged and am very happy to have used that privilege to move my children into a more sane, safe and normal society where they can find their charitable natures, their empathy, their humanity on their own.

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