Phew! After five intense weeks on the road promoting my recently published memoir Hippy Days, Arabian Nights I've finally come home. Home - where I can kick off my shoes and rip off my bra; raid the fridge and watch whatever I want on the tele - safe, secure and privileged to be living in a first world country like Australia. But like millions of Australians, I didn't always call Australia home. When I was four years old and my little sister just two, fed up with the English weather and craving a better life in the sun, my parents made a momentous decision. Leaving the dolphin-grey skies and incessant rain in the north of England behind, they immigrated to Australia.
The Fairsky, formerly known as HMS Attacker during her commission with the British Royal Navy in World War II, valiantly bore its working class passengers across nine thousand nautical miles of roiling ocean. They called us Ten Pound Poms. Under the provisions of the Assisted Migration Scheme, the Australian government required migrant workers to breed and build the economy, and introduced a nominal fare of only ten English pounds to entice thousands of Brits half way around the world.
We were welcomed with open arms. After disembarking on a chilly night in October we were met on docks in Port Melbourne by a small and friendly congregation from the Bring Out a Briton Committee; members of the Methodist Church in Malvern who bundled us and our luggage into an FB Holden station sedan and whisked us off to a three-bedroom weatherboard house in quaintly named Wattletree Road. We were ushered into our brightly lit new home; ours rent-free for three months until we got ourselves established - our only obligation to attend church every Sunday despite my parent's lack of religion. A log fire blazed in the fire place in the living room; the kitchen cupboards were stocked with Sao biscuits, Vegemite and Cornflakes; our beds made up with fluffy flannelette sheets and thick quilted eiderdowns. How grateful we were to receive such a warm and hospitable welcome to such a generous and Lucky Country. The memory still brings a tear to my mother's eyes.
Click here to see my family's story in Museum Victoria's archive.
It's Refugee Week in Australia and I can't help but think back to how we were treated on arriving in this country compared to how many new arrivals are treated today - people who have faced persecution because of who they are (their race, nationality or membership of a persecuted group) or what they believe (their religion or political opinion); people escaping warring and war ravaged countries in search of a safe place for themselves and their children; human beings with universal needs and wants, hopes and dreams, who didn't choose to be refugees.
The Refugee Council of Australia has chosen 'With courage let us all combine' as the theme for Refugee Week in Australia for 2015 to 2017. Taken from the second verse of the national anthem, the theme celebrates the courage of refugees and of people who speak out against persecution and injustice. It serves as a call for unity and for positive action, encouraging Australians to improve our nation’s welcome for refugees and to acknowledge the skills and energy refugees bring to their new home.
'For those who’ve come across the seas,
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.'
-The Australian National Anthem
World Refugee Day: Quick Facts About Global Refugee Crisis
This week I attended a fundraiser for Ondru, 'a non-profit humanitarian organisation run exclusively by volunteers. Ondru utilises the powerful medium of art to provoke thought; to raise awareness and to inspire positive social change. Through its large scale projects Ondru looks to create art that provides a voice to the tenderness of the human condition and gives light to issues that exist in the dark.' A refugee from war-torn Sierra Leone, a survivor of female genital mutilation and a victim of intense racism, cultural consultant, activist and all-out dynamo Khadija Gbla spoke about her experiences as a refugee.
'Home is where you feel safe,' Khadija said at the conclusion of her keynote speech.
And I'm sure each and everyone of us, no matter what our class, religion, profession, nationality, education, gender, sexuality, race, address or age would agree.
I may be safe at home but I'll continue my journey as both an artist and an author and I hope you'll continue to follow my adventures.
Your intrepid little Aussie author,
Follow Katherine on Twitter @katherineboland
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View her artwork at http://www.katherineboland.com
Find out more about Hippy Days, Arabian Nights at http://www.katherineboland-author.com