by PETER GRACE
AUCKLAND — The contrast between apartheid-era South Africa and New Zealand is still striking for NZ Catholic’s advertising manager Dennis Augustine.
Mr Augustine told NZ Catholic that, as a child, his family was the only Indian Catholic family in Estcourt.
Estcourt is a small town in Natal, he said. Their parish was St John’s.
Despite the injustice of apartheid and the accommodations it necessitated, Mr Augustine said he did not recall any especially bad experiences from the system.
“It seems crazy when you come here [to New Zealand], but it’s true. And we weren’t unhappy about it.”
Apartheid was accepted, he said. “We knew what we could do and what we couldn’t do.”
Going to the post office, for example, they had to use the “coloured” side and not the “white” side. At church, the second bench was understood to be for them. They were not barred from sitting elsewhere, but if they did the body language of white people would send a message.
The faith of his mother and grandfather, which they passed on, helped the family live with apartheid.
“I was so strong in my faith that I wanted to become a priest.” However, in the end, he decided he wanted to marry — and married Marcelle.
Mr Augustine said his dad was a reporter for the South African Press Association and Reuters. “He wrote for all the newspapers until they found out that James Augustine was an Indian man.”
The Augustines also could not go to the local hospital. So his dad and some other people built four healthcare units, for Indian Catholic families, on church land alongside the hospital.
His mother and grandfather were very devout and went to Mass every morning, Mr Augustine said. Their service to the Church was eventually acknowledged with a papal award for each of them.
His mum and dad also got a papal blessing on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary.
After losing his writing job, his dad got a job as secretary of the South African Indian Congress, an organisation that fought against racially discriminatory government policies.
Mr Augustine said he and Marcelle came to New Zealand in 1999, after their children had settled here and found they like the country. He and his wife have been working at Pompallier Diocesan Centre since 2000.