hand for Goan migrants
VICTOR CAMILLO MENDONCA
Born: Nairobi, May 1931 Died: Perth, May
WA is home to about 400 families from Goa
— now part of India but once a Portuguese colony —
and few were not helped by Victor Mendonca in one way or
Arriving in a strange, new country is
never easy and Victor was no different from most when he
came to Australia in 1972. Aware of the problems he faced,
he was instrumental in setting up the Goan Overseas Association
“A major part of its existence is
to assimilate newcomers in the country to feel part of the
society,” prominent member Francis Lobo said. “Victor
was always very prominent.”
It was no surprise to Francis that Victor
had been so determined to help arrivals. “He was always
a very generous man,” he said.
Yet it was intolerance that forced Victor
to Australia. His wife, Hazel, said: “They were not
good days in Kenya. It was a very nervy time. Farmers were
being driven off their land and when you see your friends
disappear . . . ”
Victor and Hazel were in government quarters
“with huge steel grills all round and we were scared
to go out at night,” said Hazel. “I was in India
at the time of independence (when there were riots) and
swore ‘never again’.”
Victor Camillo Mendonca was born in Nairobi,
Kenya, on May 8, 1931 to Joaquim, a public servant, and
Menervinha. He had four sisters, Clara, Anne, Lydia and
Zelia, and the family moved — through Joaquim’s
work — to Goa, where Victor went to school.
What was later to become a welldeveloped
sense of humour and practical jokes was not always seen
as that and, for misbehaviour, he was sent to an all-girl
school. He stayed there until his parents returned to Mombasa,
in Kenya, and he completed his schooling. He then became
The Mendonca family was from Goa but in
the early part of the 20th century Kenya, much as Australia
did in the mid 20th century, encouraged immigration to staff
mines, railways and public service positions and Joaquim
accepted the challenge.
In 1956, Victor decided to go to Goa on
a holiday to see his people’s homeland. With three
mates he set off but they had problems getting visas for
Goa, which is on the north-east coast, so they went to Bangalore,
in India’s centre instead.
He said later that they thought about
going to Bombay (now Mumbai) but switched when they heard
that city was “dry”, whereas they could get
alcohol in Bangalore.
He met Hazel Netscher, of German background,
but third-generation Indian, and quickly asked her parents
for permission to marry. Victor went back to Kenya and the
romance was conducted by mail.
His parents were strict Portuguese Goans
and of high caste. Marriage to a white “outsider”
was not what they had planned and Victor did not tell them
until two days before the December 28, 1957, wedding.
The pair returned to Kenya and, in Nairobi,
Veronica and Brenda were born. Victor had a promotion, which
meant them moving to Nakuru, about 100km north where their
final child, a son, Savio, was born.
Victor’s love of sport found its
greatest expression there and he excelled at hockey. But
even then his insistence on helping was strong. Francis
Loba’s brother Chappi, who lives in Perth but was
born in Uganda, remembered that they used to meet when he
took Ugandan teams to Kenya for big events.
“He hosted the Ugandan teams,”
Francis said. “He was always having teams stay at
his home. They then had a rest and a shower and went on
to the tournaments refreshed.”
But the ongoing unrest, which followed
independence from Britain in 1963, left the Mendoncas frightened
and they thought of emigration. An Australian judge, who
had been appointed to the Kenya High Court, made up their
minds about which destination they would try.
“His name was Simpson,” Hazel
said. “I was working at the court and we had been
told he was arriving. We were all dressed up in our finest
— then Judge Simpson walked in and he was wearing
an open shirt, shorts and thongs on his feet.
“Immediately, I said, ‘I want
to go to Australia. I like the style.’”
Hazel’s brother, who had emigrated
earlier, sponsored them and the family arrived in 1972.
Victor did not find work easy to get but, in 1974, he got
a position with the State Treasury, then Veterans Affairs,
where he stayed until he retired in 1991.
But his experiences when he arrived in
a foreign land saw him, Steve de Souza, Cappi Lobo and others
set up the Goan Overseas Association of WA in 1979. He never
missed a function and he never let newcomers arrive in WA
without going out of his way to help.
Every two years, Victor went back to Goa
to see his mother but in 1995 he slipped and broke three
lower vertebrae and had two further falls in 1997 and 2001.
In 2003 he had a knee replacement and in 2004 he gave up
the cigarettes he so loved (along with beer) before a cancer
He had a form of leukaemia and needed
a blood transfusion every six weeks. He died on May 17,
leaving Hazel, their three children, three grandsons, three
grand-daughters and a great grandson.
And he leaves the Goan Overseas Association,
which now has its own radio program on community radio station
6EBA, strong youth and seniors groups, and hundreds of people
whose arrival in Australia was made that bit easier by his