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I have a home. Have you?

I remember on my first tramp around Europe, back around 1980, standing on the foreshore at Brindisi, waiting for the ferry to take me across the Adriatic Sea to Greece. I was getting somewhat jaded by this time of the sights and unfamiliar languages of Europe and starting to hunger for those familiar places and voices that anchor one to a time and place with neither thought of threat nor alienation. I was getting homesick.

I remember feeling this way whilst standing near a bobbing boat with the smell of the sea in my nostrils and looking along the shoreline to another figure a fair way away standing, much like myself, looking like how I suppose I looked in that oh-so-familiar back-packers garb (though this was before the age of the backpacker … more like an amateur tourist) and he was turned, in kind, staring at me. And in that momentary hiatus of mute connection, I felt a melancholic wave of sadness sweep over me – a hunger for home – and I can’t help but think that the other fellow there on the Brindisi shore was experiencing exactly the same feeling as myself.

To so many of us, the comforting security of home is taken for granted. Even My mother, born and raised in the deepest, most poverty enriched days of the great depression, in makeshift tent after makeshift camp on the banks of the River Murray … up and down and into the mallee scrub and out, from ruin to hut, many times sans shoes, sans education, sans town-friendships … through it all, she said she never felt like she had no feeling of a homeland or what we consider a home. She always felt she “belonged” with the other itinerants and the district of the Riverland.

Proverb: “What the eye doesn’t see, The heart doesn’t grieve.”

Parable: “I laugh now when I think of it”. The old lady chuckled, “But I was young then, about fourteen, or sixteen, but I was a ‘young’ sixteen, you know? And I had gone to the millinery store in the town and bought a dress for the fair. The dress was pink floral with a blouse all in one and it had two pieces of material, like braces, with big buttons on the waistline and those two braces went over the shoulders down the back.”

“Ah, I was young then. Anyway at the fair there was the excitement of  a merry-go-round and bucking horses and shearing contests and … and tug-of-war … an’ … an’ … horse races. You know, that sort of thing and everybody from the district and from beyond the bend of the river, and they’re dressed up to the nines, oh dear,ha! The big day of the year for us then, ha!”

“Well, there was this Aboriginal girl there about the same age as me and she had on exactly the same dress that I had. Exactly! And we ran up to each other and laughed and became great friends that day. She worked, like me, at another station on the Murray – cooking, cleaning, looking after the children that sort of thing. Anyway, we were great friends that day an’ we walked all around that fair together arm in arm, laughing and having great fun and we’d tell everyone we met that we were twins! Twins! You’d laugh now, but we didn’t even think of her being black and me white then..some people smiled or rolled their eyes and others threw their heads back and laughed and we just thought they were as happy as we were, ha!”

“Oh, a jolly good time we had that day. I can’t even remember her name now. Ah well … twins … twins!”

Minister Dutton’s slighting of the status of those refugees as they were taken away to America, was a low act, a mongrel comment that I wouldn’t consider worthy of an Australian citizen. A despicable slander from one so comfortably well off (thank you, people of Australia for endowing him with much wealth and the comfort of a home). But it is an all too familiar carp from many of the right-wing already basking in a wealth of contentment and a degree of luxury neither hard-earned, nor deserving, but at the same time casting aspersion and slander upon those less fortunate or driven by desperation to flee their own homes and try their fate to a cruel sea and unforgiving foreign countries.

What sort of people can gaze with cruel intent on those wracked and wrecked by responsibility for family while smashed on the rocks of a foreign land? How many of us as parents cringe in horror at sight or thought of our loved ones maimed or destroyed by events we cannot, through powerlessness or circumstance control? How many times have we turned our gaze from the television screen at news pictures of drowning refugees or that one little child washed up upon the beach in Turkey? I still shudder at the thought of the moment imagined of that child struggling alone in a tossing sea as he slowly lost hold on life. Ask not for whom the bell tolls …

But still, I am home, I am settled, I have carved out my “temple of seven pillars of comfort”. I have no threats upon my doorstep, no wild beasts howling at my fence-line, no marauding militants armed and dangerous seeking for opportunity to attack. No, I am safe (as can be expected), secure (as can be financially managed) and sound (as aged health will allow). I am one of the lucky people living in a fortunate land. But never, never am I so smugly insular and self-satisfied that I cannot feel the deepest sympathy for those who seek such a home … for those men, women and children in loose assembly drifting in a tide of callous disregard from this cruel and heartless right-wing demonic government.

Here is a piece by Richard Church, from the third volume of his biography:

Chapter One

By way of a prologue

SOONER or later we all turn homeward. A man who dies on foreign soil is judged to have had a sad end. To escape the possibility of such a fate, every human being is possessed by an instinctive urge to hurry home. I noticed this when I was a boy, working in the laboratory in the Custom House, beside Billingsgate Market. I walked over London Bridge twice a day, morning and evening, wedged in the solid phalanx of humanity moving into London City, and out of it again.

I noticed how that tide of trousered or skirted legs was sluggish in the morning, as it trickled towards offices and ware-houses; how it rushed like the Severn Bore into London Bridge Station after the day’s work, blown by a gale of furious purpose, the desire to get home.

I felt the impulse in my own blood. What was this urge, this primitive anxiety? Are men and women infected by some racial fear of the jungle, that drives them to seek the safety of the cave, even after several thousand years of the assurances of civilization ? I remember now, half a century since the routine of those years in the laboratory, more vividly than I remember all other moods and events, this eagerness to get home to my rooms on Denmark Hill. The urge often made me break into a jog-trot over London Bridge, risking my life by edging out of the crush from the pavement to the gutter. Sometimes, I even had the illusion of rising above the heads of the crowd, and gliding like a seagull, levitated by my own frenzy.

It was as though I were expecting a visitor, some fabulous person, a dream-spirit, or a lover …

Home indeed is where the heart is. Peace is also where a secure home is. And I would request us all and most particularly those in power of the desperate refugee, to acknowledge that the hunger of the heart for that elusive, secure “home” is a fire that burns fierce and undiminished in every human’s breast.


  1. helvityni

    “Home indeed is where the heart is”

    So according to my way of thinking: “The heartless will stay forever homeless.” Nasty, envious, indeed heartless people, never settle feeling at home, no matter how big their castle is. They are too busy preventing others, especially the poor having one, or constantly looking for something even bigger and better…for themselves.

    (Of course the above does not mean that the homeless are heartless) 🙂

    Dutton did not let NZ take any of OUR asylum seekers, now he is at it again ,almost spoiling the agreement with America; if they can buy two-dollar shop ‘Armani’ T- shirts, they don’t need any of our help to find a home…

    Heartless, indeed.

  2. vivienne29

    Spot on there Helvi. Dutton thinks we should provide them with rags to wear – clearly cheap, clean and smart t-shirts is just too much for him to bear. Turnbull making him a powerful Minister has gone to his head, in a very bad way. Our government is full of despicable bastards of the worst order ever.

  3. helvityni

    Dearest Vivienne ,as always I agree with your fearless and succinct posts: I too despise this lot of heartless bastards, I would not like run into any of them late at night on my way home after Pilates…( actually ,not all that late 🙂 )

  4. Jacinta

    Please someone investigate Peter Dutton’s past, someone that evil must have a dirty past. He is a heartless, cold blood bastard. Malcolm Turnbull is a gutless bastard and how these men sleep at night is beyond me.

  5. Max Gross

    Wow, Joseph. I mean, wow, what a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you.

  6. Barry Thompson.

    Lovely piece of writing Joseph.Thank you.
    I agree Jacinta.

  7. Terry2

    Thank you Joseph Carli.

    At least some of those leaving or being abandoned on Manus will benefit from the distribution of the $70 million of damages awarded by the Supreme Court of Victoria in the class action taken by 1923 refugees and asylum seekers against the Australian government for false imprisonment, torture and deprivation of liberty . An action that the Australian government declined to defend as there was no defence or excuse for the treatment we had inflicted on these homeless people.

    Victorian Supreme Court Justice Cameron Macaulay recently declared the $70 million payout “a fair and reasonable sum”, which should be distributed urgently given the Manus Island centre is due to close by the end of October.

    There are 1923 asylum seekers making up the class who mounted the action so that should mean at least $35,000 each on an even distribution and that should give them the foundation for a new start in life, particularly for those going to the USA but still there is no strategy for what to do with those remaining in PNG and of course those abandoned on Nauru do not share in these damages.

    In addition to the $70 million damages there are costs of around $20 million to be paid by the Australian government.

    So Dutton’s recalcitrance is costing us over $100 million (taking into account our costs) in this latest dummy spit but it could have been a lot worse for the Australian taxpayer and our international reputation had the matter actually gone before the court as it would have exposed the cruelty, illegality, neglect and maladministration under Dutton’s stewardship of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection : a litany of vindictive bungling by a man so clearly unsuited to the office he occupies.

    And, let us not forget that it was this bungler who gifted $50 million to the corrupt Hun Sen regime in Cambodia to resettle six refugees who have since moved on.

    As Helvityni mentioned, the New Zealand government attempted to assist Dutton out of the mess he had got himself into but, for reasons never clearly explained, he refused to accept their gesture and so the impasse continues.

    The question has to be asked : can Australia afford Peter Dutton in public office ?

  8. john ocallaghan

    Is it not ironic that the bastard,formerley known as Peter Dutton owns 7 homes! That is 7, you know,that number that comes before 8 and after 6.
    Dirty Dutton is denying these poor buggers 1 home, while he and his family have the luxury of choosing between 7…… Oh the choices some of us have to make in life Hey?

    Go the North Queensland Cowboys, and i say that in the hope that everybody including Refugees will be afforded the simple pleasure of barracking for their favourite footy team, just like you and i can!

  9. Rhonda

    I am in heartfelt agreement Joseph. Thank you

  10. Lynne Chinnery

    On a policeman’s then politicians salary…7 homes……wonder how many in Police Force come near to achieving that?????

  11. Vikingduk

    Bastard is too good a word for this thing called dutton. The honourable monster dutton, the animated slime trail oozing through life. The thing that was once human has no right to be considered human or man. Yet this thing is an elected representative of an electorate, appears in parliament and decides the fate of humans in need.

    For fck sake, how? Why? This shameful, disgusting affair reflects on all of us as will allowing these fcking shit stains called government to continue to deny the ever increasing effects of climate change and impede any positive actions.

    Wake the f*ck up, Australia, we are betrayed, the hope of a future for the young is betrayed as is our humanity.

    Inflicting pain and suffering, as performed so well by these LNP scum suckers in so many different ways on so many must end.

  12. mick loughlin.

    Vanstone, Ruddock, Morrison and now Dutton; only the committed fascists get the job.

  13. Christina Heath

    You are a beautiful wordsmith Joseph. It is a joy to read your writings.

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