Jean-Charles Crave: Leaving France and landing in Tassie

SETTLED: Jean-Charles Crave has made his home in Tasmania, and he's here to stay. Picture: Piia Wirsu
SETTLED: Jean-Charles Crave has made his home in Tasmania, and he's here to stay. Picture: Piia Wirsu

Tasmania is a state comprised of migrants. They make up the fabric of Tasmanian society, businesses, organisations and communities. The Nations of Tasmania series explores the human side of migration to Tasmania. Here are our migrants’ stories.

Jean-Charles’ story

Frenchman Jean-Charles Crave hasn’t lived in France for close to three decades, and it is no longer the country he left behind. 

“Because of an incredible almost wild immigration in Europe ... there’s a lot more racism,” he said. 

“I never experienced racism when I was a kid ... we had lots of Vietnamese and people from the French islands, black people, we had such a mix but we were all French, we never thought much about it.

“The France that I remember is no longer there, and I don’t miss the old France and I certainly won’t miss the new one.”

Tasmania is home for Jean-Charles now, he doesn’t feel a calling to go back to France. 

When Jean-Charles first came to Australia as part of an around-the-world travelling adventure he didn’t even come to Tasmania.

But he knew he wanted to come back to Australia. 

In 1990, just two years since he visited, Jean-Charles and his first wife migrated to Australia.

Many years later Jean-Charles came to Tasmania, which he said will be his home now until he dies. 

“We came here once in 1994 to have a look on holidays for a month and we really loved Tasmania,” he said. 

When he first landed in Australia in 1988 what struck Jean-Charles was the heat. 

“I remember when we got out of Sydney airport the brightness of the light was just incredible because it's a lot brighter in the southern hemisphere than it is in the northern hemisphere,” he said. 

Jean-Charles immediately felt a liking for Australians, who are “very different from the British, in a good way”.

“Living in England for years being French there’s still a lot of animosity ... but here there’s none of that and I found Australians very open,” he said.

But even within countries there are differences, and Jean-Charles said Tasmania is quite culturally different from the mainland, particularly the big cities.

He said when he arrived the lack of racial diversity in the state was evident.

“I found it very conservative and very white Anglo-Saxon, but that's not a problem and for me … I felt at home here, I really loved it,” he said. 

“If you go to Sydney or Melbourne you really have that feeling that it’s a melting pot of different cultures, where if you go to small towns you go back 50 years in time really and it's very different.”

Even though his home is in Tasmania, Jean-Charles said it is uncomfortable on some level to think his birth country is so different from the place he left behind. 

“The language is evolving for a start … talking to young people, my nephews and nieces, we don't even use the same expressions, I used a word we used to use all the time and they looked at me like ‘What do you mean?’ I realise that really things evolve at an incredible place and 30 years is a long time,” he said. 

“[France] has had a lot of problem with Islam, immigration from North Africa and [French] people have become a lot more reserved I think, more cautious.”

France has regularly been in international news headlines over the past two years as terrorist attack after terrorist attack stuns onlookers. 

The tensions within the country are well documented, as a flood of refugees from the Middle East continues to flow into Europe. 

The France that I remember is no longer there, and I don’t miss the old France and I certainly won’t miss the new one.

Jean-Charles Crave

“I remember when I was a kid we had the Vietnam War, it hasn’t changed one bit. Today it’s a different war in different places and maybe the weapons are a bit more sophisticated, but it’s the same thing, we’re still killing people right left and centre somewhere in the world,” Jean-Charles said.

“Immigration in Europe, we have to expect it because we planned it so much of false countries in the Middle East and we made the social and political system of all those countries so unstable it had to happen and now it’s happening.

“I feel very sorry for what is happening for those people, moving away from their culture and language to countries like Germany, France, Italy and others.”

Jean-Charles tries not to focus on the troubles in France and around the world, focussing instead on the difference he can make in his own community. 

“I work for the alcohol and drug service and I see a lot of very damaged people and my philosophy is I do what I can on a local level in the community and I'm happy with that,” he said. 

“I do my bit but I can’t do any more and I definitely don't want to be involved in the bigger picture and therefore I don’t want to know very much, I don’t watch much on the news and I don't read much.”

While Jean-Charles believes there are lessons Australia could learn from the way immigration and integration has been handled in France he is cynical they will be noted. 

“There would be a lesson if we had people in charge who are not politicians ... I don’t think they want to learn anything from what is happening anywhere else except to take advantage of it,” he said. 

Jean-Charles’ first impression of Australia was very positive, and it still is. 

“It’s such a different country, there's nothing like it anywhere else in the world. 

“If it was up to me I don't think I would go back to [France] I'm happy here, at the same time I’m proud and happy about my background and my culture and the language, but going back to France it's going to a new country.”