Giving Way to Emergency Services

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You see some interesting things walking around the city streets. Discarded shopping trolleys. Motorists running red lights. Pedestrians pummelling the button to make the pedestrian light change sooner. (It doesn’t work!) But occasionally you see something that really makes your blood boil.

I was waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green (and NOT pummelling the button!) when I heard the unmistakeable sound of an ambulance siren. As soon as I heard it, I started looking around – where is it? And then, there it is, coming down Herries Street, siren roaring, lights flashing.

To my utter disbelief, I watch as cars continue through the traffic lights while the ambulance sits, waiting to cross the intersection and be on its way.

Un-believable!

It wasn’t just one vehicle or two, but quite a few that crossed the intersection in full view of an ambulance with blaring siren and flashing lights. Fortunately, some drivers actually had the sense and consideration to stop, be patient and let it through. I could not believe it.

Sadly, it is not the first time I have seen this happen and I expect it won’t be the last, but it is certainly quite appalling.

I don’t know where that ambulance was going but I am pretty certain it was going to somebody’s loved one, somewhere.

One day, an ambulance might be coming to your loved one.

It might even be coming to you.

It’s pretty simple really. It’s called the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If that ambulance had been coming for my loved one – I would want people to give way.

If it was coming for me – I would want people to give way.

Fortunately I have seen plenty of occasions when people have stopped and given way. I have even seen motorists mount a traffic island in an attempt to make way for an ambulance. It cheers the heart to know that there are people who stop to think about others.

When you hear the siren, when you see the flashing lights…It doesn’t matter if the traffic light is green. It doesn’t matter if it is your turn to go.

You stop.

You give way.

And if you need to and can, move out of the way.

The same goes for other emergency vehicles, like the Fire and Emergency service.

This is what it means to show respect for each other.

This is what it means to live in community.

#Book Snap Sunday – The God of Small Things

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This week I’m borrowing an idea from Sharon from Gum Trees and Galaxies, who used the beautiful pond at Laurel Bank Park for her snap of Claude Monet’s Mad Enchantment a few weeks ago. The floating water lilies and reeds was the perfect backdrop for Arundhati Roy’s debut novel, The God of Small Things, which was awarded the Booker prize for 1997.  Set in India, the novel tells the story of a multi-generational family, from 1969 to the early 90’s. It is a time of change, however… “Change is one thing. Acceptance is another.”

Beliefs about caste, especially about the relations between the Touchables and the Untouchables, run very deep. “The Love Laws lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.”  The price for crossing the line is very steep.

Much of the story focuses on twins Rahel and Estha, whose lives are irrevocably changed by a complicated mix of malice, violence, cultural beliefs and social discrimination. Rahel and Estha are two-egg twins, unalike yet sharing a “siamese soul.” Separated for 23 years, they bear the guilt for a sin they never committed.

“You’re not the Sinners. You’re the Sinned Against. You were only children. You had no control. You are the victims, not the perpetrators.” 

Their mother, Ammu, is a woman “already damned.” After a foolish marriage to escape “the clutches of her ill-tempered father and bitter, long-suffering mother” resulted in divorce when her husband turned out to be “a full-blown alcoholic with all of an alcoholic’s deviousness and tragic charm”, she knows for herself “there would be no more chances”. But Ammu has “little left to lose, and could therefore be dangerous.”

And then there is Velutha, a Paravan, Untouchable, “not allowed to touch anything that Touchables touched.” However, Velutha is given opportunities not usually afforded Paravans. Trained as a carpenter, he is “allowed to touch things that Touchables touched” and for this “he ought to be grateful” because it was “a big step for a Paravan.”

His father, though, is still an “Old World Paravan”. He remembers the days of crawling backwards and “sweeping away their footprints so that Brahmins or Syrian Christians would not defile themselves,” and covering their mouths “to divert their polluted breath.” His gratitude to Ammu’s family for their benevolence and generosity, “widened his smile and bent his back.”

Velutha’s quiet assurance, pride and sense of worth disturbs his father’s entrenched beliefs about caste segregation but when he realises his “Untouchable son had touched…entered…loved” what he had no right to touch or love, the Terror is unleashed.               

The God of Small Things is a somewhat complicated narrative, moving between past and present without the usual text markers so it does require the reader to pay careful attention, however the rich imagery used by Roy brings all the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of India and the passing seasons to life. It reminds us that it is the small things that can bring about massive change and that things can change in just one day.  

Sep-Oct Reading Update

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The last two months have been quite busy again with final essay writing and moving house being top priorities. Still, over the last two months I managed to read…

11358751The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton

 First published in 1908, The Man Who Was Thursday is a thrilling and humourous read featuring a guy called  “Thursday” as well as a bunch of other characters all named after the days of the week. Thursday infiltrates an organisation of anarchists and discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. 

 

 

23018751Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It is difficult to find the words to do justice to this novel. Adichie brings to life the devastating and heartbreaking consequences of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). It has been suggested that up to 2 million people, mostly women and children, died from starvation – a deliberate tactic of war willingly embraced by the Nigerian government, and its allies, against the Biafran rebels. The title is a direct reference to the emblem on the Biafran flag – a rising sun on a background of red, black and green horizontal stripes.

  • Red for the blood of the siblings massacred in the North
  • Black for mourning them
  • Green for the prosperity that an independent Biafran state would bring
  • A rising yellow sun for the glorious future that beckoned  

A half of a yellow sun could also have a different meaning. It could also depict a setting sun, as the Biafran hopes and dreams for independence slipped away from view, crushed by violence, starvation and the vested interests of major world powers. A very sobering read.    

910576The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle award in 1985 and made into a film of the same name, Tyler’s story depicts the wonder of life – beautiful, painful, wonderfully chaotic but also very full. As Macon slowly opens himself up to love again, he learns that life is messy, no one escapes unscathed but that there is always hope and love.

 

 

 

25015111Leap by Myfanwy Jones

 Shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award, Leap follows the journey of Elise and Joe, living on opposite sides of the city, yet both dealing with the pain of loss, grief and guilt. While Elise is drawn to the tigers – sleek, solitary, deadly – Joe runs, climbs and jumps, preparing to make the leap. Highly recommended. 

 

 

3244505Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx

This collection of short stories set in  Wyoming, features a wonderful array of characters, depicting the lives and times, the poverty and hardship of rural families.  One of the most well-known stories is “Brokeback Mountain”, adapted for film starring Heath Ledger. Some of the stories are sad as the old world of ranching passes away. Some are a little gruesome, yet darkly funny. My favourite story was “The Contest” in which the men of Elk Tooth sign up for a beard growing contest over the Winter. 

 

Book Bingo

Another three squares completed and just nine more to go. I’ve been really enjoying this challenge as it has encouraged me to read outside my usual fare and deliberately seek out books that will meet the criteria.

  • Romance: The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
  • Title with a Place Name: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx
  • Literary: Leap by Myfanwy Jones

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Until next time, happy reading!

#Book Snap Sunday – Wyoming Stories

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Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx is a collection of short stories that features a wonderful array of characters and depicts the poverty, hardship and resilience of the people of Wyoming. It was originally published as two volumes: Close Range in 1999 and Bad Dirt in 2004. This combined edition was published in 2007 and features one of Proulx’s most well-known stories, “Brokeback Mountain” which was adapted for film in 2005 and starred Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Wyoming is one of the largest states of the US but also the least populous. The state capital of Cheyenne had a population of around 63,000 in 2017 while Toowoomba’s population around the same time was about 135,000. I was quite surprised to read that, however given that two thirds of the state is covered by mountain ranges, the climate is described as semi-arid, and it is drier and windier than anywhere else in the US, well that puts it into perspective. Wyoming is also home to the Yellowstone National Park.

Some of the stories are sad as the old world of ranching is passing away. Some are a little gruesome but with a dark sense of humour, like “The Blood Bay” in which a cowboy, in need of a new pair of boots, discovers another cowboy frozen to death in the snow. Eyeing off the dead man’s “fine pair of handmade boots” he requisitions the boots with the help of his knife and leaves them to thaw out – still containing the previous owners…

My favourite story was “The Contest” in which the men of Elk Tooth sign up for a beard growing contest over the Winter. At first the contest is just a bit of light-hearted fun, but it soon becomes “cruelly competitive” and some competitors resort to desperate lengths to promote beard growth, even consulting a book, of all things. While the residents of Elk Tooth would have been astounded that “there were shops devoted entirely to books”, they soon discover the mystery of “sideways leaning words” (italics) and ponder whether Umberto Eco, in fact,  resides in a “home for old cowboys”. I particularly enjoyed the beard-growing efforts of Kevin, aged 14,  whose father told him he “didn’t have the chance of a pancake in a pigsty” however, in time his “few whiskers made up in length what they lacked in profusion”. Sounds just like the hairs on Dan’s chin!

The photo was taken out at our new place which is not in Wyoming, but the drought in eastern Australia is certainly making it look rather dry and barren.

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

Waiting for the Train

 

Australians have a pretty good sense of humour. It is somewhat dry, irreverent, ironic and a little quirky. We love to take the mickey out of people, especially our not so illustrious leaders, and ourselves, but it may be a little puzzling for those outside our borders. I  once heard someone describe Australians as “earthy”. Perhaps it’s because we don’t beat about the bush. So how did we come to be this way?  Some say the answer lies in our convict past. Convicts had a reputation for being rebellious, unruly and unsurprisingly, rather anti-authoritarian. You would be too if you were shipped to the end of the world for stealing a loaf of bread. Our ANZACs too,  had a reputation for possessing an irreverent streak and displaying a dark sense of humour as they faced the prospect of death in battle. Many ANZACs originated from the bush so they would have been quite used to facing the dangers of venomous snakes and inhospitable terrain, not to mention drought, bushfire and flood. And it’s in the bush that we still see this ironic sense of humour displayed. Here are a few things we came across that tickled our funny bones on our trip to South Australia in July. 

The Eba Railway Siding

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Once upon a time railway lines connected small rural towns with larger centres and the ports. In those days, travelling was a leisurely activity where the journey was more important than the actual destination. But now travelling long distances by train is a by-gone thing. In our fast paced 21st century, everyone wants to get to their destination by yesterday.  Abandoned railway sidings like this one at Eba, are a common sight, but I fear these people are waiting for the train in vain. The siding and the sign may be still there, but the rails are long gone.

Eba was a small settlement not far from Morgan in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia. The railway siding was built in 1878 and the township had its own post office, school, blacksmith, grocery store and even a cricket team! I believe that the scene at the siding is a bit of a community effort with people adding bits and pieces as time goes on. It’s a very humourous way of marking a time gone past.

The Balaklava Boots and Bras Tree

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Just outside of Balaklava, in the Mid North region of South Australia, we came across this display of boots and bras hanging from the branches . No explanation was provided, except for a sign that says “Boots and Bras”. There are all sorts of theories about how something like this might start – hanging boots out to dry while camping, displaying lost items found on the road, some kind of strange Australian ritual….or maybe just another case of Aussie humour spicing up the drive on a long stretch of road. I believe there are other examples around Australia, such as a fence hung with boots in NSW titled “Lost Souls” and apparently quite a few trees across the Nullabor are also hung with boots, bras, thongs and anything else you care to think of – anything to relieve the boredom of a long barren stretch. If you are passing by, feel free to donate!

Balaklava is located approximately 90km north of Adelaide, on the Wakefield River, and was named after the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War in 1854. One of the  interesting things to come out of this battle was…The Charge of the Light Brigade. It is a grain growing area, with a great passion for the arts, holding it’s own Eisteddfod every year and my family’s home town for a number of generations.

The Frogs of Balranald

Balranald is in the Riverina district of New South Wales, close to the Victorian border. During the late 1800s it was attracting attention and a reputation for its unruly and rowdy nature, like many inland towns of that time. Considering that in 1881 the pubs outnumbered the grocery stores, it is probably little wonder. Today Balranald has a far more positive reputation on account of its frogs. If you keep your eyes open, and follow the trail, you will discover at least 18 frog sculptures around the town, with more probably destined to appear. What’s with the frogs?

Balranald is home to the Southern Bell frog, which is unfortunately on the endangered species list as a result of disease, habitat loss and the introduction of exotic species. The frog sculptures started as a bit of a novelty but the idea of using the sculptures to both highlight the cause of the frogs and promote the town took hold. Visitors can even purchase their own frog sculpture. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to follow the trail but we did spot these two beauties in the main street. I think it’s great to see a whole town come together to promote the conservation of one of its own native species and with a dash of that old Aussie humour, has found a delightful and amusing way to promote their town as well. 

#Book Snap Sunday – Leap

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Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame they fearful symmetry?

(William Blake 1794)

 

 

From the striking cover, tigers have a presence in Myfanwy Jones’ novel Leap, shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Every week, on the same day, at the same time, Elise visits the zoo. Escaping a faltering marriage and the pain of grief, she is drawn to the tiger enclosure, where she sits, watches and draws. 

Joe works shifts in cafes and bars, mentors the troubled Deck and spends his spare time training in parkour, a discipline that involves moving within a complex environment without the use of any assistive equipment. He runs, climbs, jumps and rolls, all in preparation to make the leap. Joe is also consumed by grief and guilt.

As the story moves between Joe and Elise, the tragic death of Jen is slowly revealed, piece by piece. Jen is vibrant, intense, passionate.

she would come for him, stealthily then full throttle, ready to tear out his heart…But he couldn’t stay away from her, and she couldn’t leave him be. 

 LEAP is a beautiful urban fairytale about human and animal nature, and the transformative power of grief. While at its heart is a searing absence, this haunting and addictive novel is propelled by an exhilarating life force, and the eternally hopeful promise of redemptive love.

Like Elise, I am drawn to tigers. Of all the animals in the zoo, it is the tigers I love best – huge, solitary, deadly. Their curved canines are the longest of any of the big cats, reaching up to 90mm.  Males can measure up to almost 4 metres in length and weigh up to 306 kilograms, depending on species.  While one of the most popular and charismatic of the mega fauna, tigers have been listed as endangered since 1986, with a current global population of between 3,000 – 4,000. 

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We have a long history of being fascinated with the beauty and power of the tiger. They are featured in mythology and folklore, claimed as national animals and team mascots, and can take pride of place among the stuffed toy collection of many a child. My own tiger, pictured with Leap, has traversed this country, accompanying me as I have moved from place to place and has survived in one piece. It would indeed be a most terrible shame if future generations only knew tigers from the pages of a book.      

I really enjoyed reading Leap and I look forward to reading more from Myfanwy Jones. I think tigers must be close to her heart too, for she has dedicated proceeds from the sale of Leap to the WWF Save Tigers Now campaign.

Happy Reading 

#Book Snap Sunday – The Accidental Tourist

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“Just put your hand here. I’m scarred, too. We’re all scarred. You are not the only one.” 

How does a man addicted to routine – a man who flosses his teeth before love-making – cope with the chaos of everyday life? Blending glorious comedy with aching sadness, Anne Tyler’s novel maps out the landscape of a man’s hesitant heart with tenderness, sharpness and unputdownable truth.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler was published in 1985, won a National Book Critics Circle award for the most distinguished work of fiction for that year and was made into a film starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Geena Davis.  

Macon Leary writes travel guides for the business man who would rather be at home. After the murder of their son Ethan, Macon’s marriage to Sarah falls apart and he moves back home to live with his sister Rose and brothers, Charles and Porter. Macon and his siblings are a somewhat eccentric bunch who like their routines and arrange the pantry alphabetically (a nifty idea!). And then he meets Muriel, who is as different to Macon as night is to day.

Muriel’s entry into Macon’s life brings about a change from which he can never return. Despite the pain of grief, life is still fresh and beautiful, wonderfully chaotic and very full. While Macon’s siblings have concerns about this “Muriel person”, Macon discovers that he is becoming more himself than he has ever been in his whole life. As he slowly opens himself up to love again, he learns that life is messy, no one escapes unscathed but that there is always hope and love. 

This was a delightful read. Funny and sad, full of witty and accurate observations about people, grief, love and life.

Queensland Symphony Orchestra – Sounds from the Deep

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On the weekend Bec and I went to see the Queensland Symphony Orchestra at the Empire Theatre for their performance of Sounds from the Deep. It has been many years since I have seen an orchestra perform live. As a very young child, I can remember  going to see an orchestra at the Festival Theatre in Adelaide as part of the Performing Arts Program for Primary Schools. It was Peter and the Wolf and I can remember each instrument being introduced as they played the theme for each of the characters in the story. Of course, there have been orchestras when I have seen some musical productions but they are always hidden down in the pit.

I have always enjoyed listening to classical music but seeing an orchestra perform live is quite a different experience from listening to the CDs at home. I really enjoyed watching  the facial expressions and body language of the musicians as they were playing. I especially enjoyed the double bass players. The double bass is such a large instrument so I can imagine it might take a fair bit of effort to play in the rousing energetic parts. It was such a joy to see how much fun the musicians were having and how much they enjoyed playing for an audience.

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The Queensland Symphony Orchestra is one of the largest performing arts companies in Queensland and is Queensland’s only professional symphony orchestra. The orchestra dates back to 1897 but was only established as Queensland’s first full-time orchestra in 1947. And if you are wondering whether there is a difference between a symphony orchestra and just an orchestra – there is! A symphony orchestra has the instruments which enables it to play a symphony.

The Sounds from the Deep is a program that spans a range of eras, composers and musical forms. All the pieces are connected by their common theme of water, in all of its different forms – oceans, rivers and lakes. It was good to hear a performance of a variety of different composers, from a classical composer such as Mendelssohn to quite contemporary composers such as Australian Nigel Westlake.

The Repertoire… 

  • The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave), Op. 26 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
  • Scheherazade, (1. The Sea and Sindbad’s Ship) Op. 35  by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
  • Excerpts from Antarctica: Suite for Orchestra and Guitar (1. The Last Place on Earth & 3. Penguin Ballet) by Nigel Westlake (b1958)
  • Cavatina from The Deer Hunter by Stanley Myers (1930-1993) orch. Jessica Wells (b. 1974)
  • The Moldau from Má vlast (My Country) by Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884)
  • Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes (III. Moonlight) by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
  • On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314 by Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899)
  • Finale Act IV from Swan Lake, (Dance of the Cygnets, Odette Offended & Finale) Op. 20 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

The Conductor, Guy Noble, was very entertaining, cracking jokes with the audience and having some light hearted fun with the musicians.  After what we thought was the last piece – Swan Lake – he suddenly disappeared off the stage only to return sporting a pirate patch. I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but we knew exactly what to expect next and we weren’t disappointed – Pirates of the Caribbean by Hans Zimmer! Such a terrific piece to end the evening.

Some people may think classical music is old-fashioned or even on its way out, but nothing could be further from the truth. Classical music is not just Mozart, Beethoven or Tchaikovsky. Many film scores comprise of music that would be described as classical music. Just try to imagine Lord of the Rings or Star wars or Pirates of the Caribbean without the music score. And the Empire Theatre was packed which just goes to show that classical music never really goes out of fashion and that we really appreciate seeing a symphony orchestra out here in the regions.

And thankfully we will have another opportunity to see the Queensland Symphony Orchestra very soon in another live simulcast from QPAC featuring the music of Grieg, Ravel and Beethoven. We’ve already got it marked on our calendar, but if like us you live in regional Queensland and enjoy good music, you might like to check if it is coming to a venue near you.

 

 

Dali at d’Arenberg

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Whenever we are on holiday we like to check out the local wineries. On our recent trip to Adelaide we called in at the d’Arenberg winery in the McClaren Vale wine district, south of Adelaide. South Australia has a long history of winemaking. Some of the McClaren Vale vines were planted back in the 1850s, making them some of the oldest vines in Australia. I prefer the small family run wineries where you get to talk to the people who actually make the wine. I am always fascinated by the way that a particular wine will vary from year to year depending on the conditions – wet or dry, hot or cold – it all  makes a difference to the taste. And the same wine will taste different depending on where the grapes have been grown.

This was our first visit to d’Arenberg and I expect it will not be our one and only. It is not just for the wine lover but also for the art lover too. D’Arenberg was established in 1912 by the Osborn family and is still in the family today. One of the most unusual things about d’Arenberg though, is The Cube – a five story surrealist cube surrounded by vineyards. It was apparently inspired by the “complexities and puzzles of winemaking” and was opened in Dec 2017. Each of the five levels have been designed to arouse and tempt the senses. There is a wine sensory room, a 360° video room and a contemporary art gallery.

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The Cube is also hosting a Salvador Dali exhibition as part of the Australian exhibition that marks the 30th anniversary of Dali’s death.  I don’t know a lot about art but I do know the name Salvador Dali. He is considered to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century and his work encompassed a wide range of art forms including paintings and sculpture of course, but also film, fashion and architecture. 23 authentic Salvador Dali sculptures and artworks are on display at d’Arenberg. The exhibition was due to end at the end of May, however it has been so popular that it has been extended to May next year.

Unfortunately we arrived a little late in the day to be able to enjoy the full Salvador Dali experience at The Cube, however we were able to see the sculptures on display in the grounds and the gallery that exhibits work by local artists. I really loved the clocks. I think they reflect the reality of time, passing quickly when you are having fun and slowly when you are not. There is no sense to it at all.

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I think it is a wonderful venture to see work of this calibre exhibited outside of the usual art gallery setting, especially in a rural setting, “out in the sticks!” I also really appreciate the relationship between art and wine – there is an art to winemaking too. Besides, we have all seen those images of exhibition openings where patrons wander around the artworks with a glass of wine in hand. Art and wine go together.

If you are planning a trip to South Australia before May 2020, put Dali at d’Arenberg on your list. There is a small fee to see the exhibition so make sure you allow plenty of time and not arrive too late in the day as we did. As an extra incentive, there is to be a special arrival at d’Arenberg in October – a seven metre tall monumental “Triumphant Elephant”. Now that would be a sight to see! 

Oh, and the wines were quite nice too. 

 

 

#Book Snap Sunday – Home

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Home by Larissa Behrendt is about the loss of identity, connection and belonging experienced by the stolen generation and their descendants. We all want somewhere to belong, somewhere where we can put down roots, somewhere to feel connected, somewhere to call home. For the stolen generation, their identity, connection and belonging is bound to land, family and culture. It is also about memory – knowing where you belong,  your history,  your culture and your home.

This photo of Home by Larissa Behrendt is taken out at our new house. After four years of renting in Toowoomba in three different houses, we will finally have a place to put roots down, a place to call home and a place in which we are not the only ones coming home. The book is sitting on what looks like a very ordinary bookshelf. I have a number of bookshelves, but this one is special. It was made by Rob, my first husband, who died suddenly when Dan and Bec were young. So it is special to us. It is more than just a bookshelf – it is about memory. For the last four years it has remained out west. It is big and heavy. Too big and heavy to move from place to place while renting. But now finally we are reconciled. It has come home. 

Like many people, we have moved around from place to place, from home to home and while we may not experience the same kind of connection with land as our Indigenous Australians, we still have the need to call somewhere home and to know where we belong.

Happy Reading