Tag Archives: Go Back To Where You Came From

Returning to country

I was born in red gum country, not far south of the Murray River. Flat, irrigation country with long straight roads. We moved away when I was two but I remember ibis, herons and artificially carved channels lined by bullrushes. Not to mention the curdled smell of the milk factory and the ever-present whiff of manure.

The nature of my father’s work meant changing towns semi-regularly and I lived in the north, south and central parts of rural Victoria. I call myself a Bendigo boy, mainly because the formative years from age 10 to 16 were spent in the goldfields district. But despite an ancestral connection to the region, it’s not where I hail from. Bendigo is ironbark country, not red gum.

Last week I had the honour of touring regional Victoria for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival with three other fantastic authors and an uber-efficient tour co-ordinator. One of the towns we spoke at was Echuca, only a couple of stone throws from where I entered the world. I found a spare hour or two to wander along the Murray banks listening to the corellas squabble and watching the sun set. It felt familiar. Like home.

It made me think of Australia’s indigenous people and their all important connection to country. I couldn’t recall whether Echuca was Yorta Yorta or Bangerang country and did some quick googling. Apparently there’s still some contention as to where the traditional tribal boundaries lie.

At our public (non-schools) session at the spectacular new Echuca library, I found myself speaking with a local resident who had participated in cultural training with Bangerang elders in Shepparton. One of the activities included creating ‘family’ groups of trainees and then breaking these up, separating ‘children’ from ‘parents’ and people from country. My informant said the sense of dislocation was palpable.

What a powerful way of getting people to understand the Stolen Generations and issues spawned by these policies. It sounds to me like training every Australian should experience. While we’re at it, we should all be made to watch the SBS series, Go Back To Where You Came From. Watch this show and you’ll understand that leaving country is not something most people choose to do lightly. Or voluntarily.

Flash Fiction

As noted in my previous post, writing time has been rare for me this year. Perhaps that’s why I’m so attracted to the flash fiction site, Melbourne by Dusk.

That and I’ve always liked looking for the unspoken stories in photographs and images. MbD feels like a place where those stories are whispered for the first time.

It’s also a place where anyone can submit a story or photograph and potentially be published. Those opportunities aren’t as common as they should be.

Here’s another of my submissions.

And here are some of the combinations I’ve particularly enjoyed since the site launched.

He kissed me…

It’s probably just the angle…

The wind fell oddly still.

One of the things I notice from authors I follow on Twitter is how important it is to be ‘writing fit’. Just as you can’t expect to get on a bike for the first time in months and ride at your best, I can’t expect to cut myself off from creative writing and then just fall back into it when the moment arises. I need to keep practising, even if only in short bursts. I need to be trying things. Letting ideas emerge to see how resilient they are. Flash fiction is a great way to flex the creative muscles.

As to other stuff going down,

– As we had to cancel our planned Japan trip, my mob is heading to the Top End soonish instead. Bring on the sun and fun.
– Not many sleeps to the Tour de France. Kind of wish I hadn’t read this book on the eve of my favourite sporting event. For those of you who may consider reading it, the writing/translation/editing is lack lustre. But the contents are mind-boggling.
– I now have a window beside my desk at work. OK, it mostly overlooks air conditioning units and a massive Ikea sign but it’s still a window onto the world. It’s through watching the world that we find the stories we want to tell.
– Speaking of which, if you didn’t catch Go Back To Where You Came From on SBS last week, please check it out online. Many stories. Many tears. Great TV.
– Last but not least, I’m aware that this blog is broken – randomly vanishing and reappearing. Maybe it’s a metaphor for my year. Either way, we’re looking into it.