[Inspired by: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-11/abbott-defends-indigenous-communities-lifestyle-choice/6300218 – particularly the comment thread]

I was born in Western Australia, and I lived most of my life until I was about 27 in the south-eastern suburbs of Perth.  I then moved to Canberra, in the ACT, and lived there until about mid-2006, when my partner and I moved back to Perth.

I hated it in Canberra.  The land wasn’t right.  The way the sun rose wasn’t right.  The way the sun set wasn’t right.  The water wasn’t the same.  The seasons were all wrong.  The city was put together strangely.  I never felt settled, never felt “at home”.  I felt displaced.

I went to London for a month in August 2002, on holiday.  I felt more “at home” in London during that one month than I had in three years living in the ACT, despite the different hemisphere, different latitudes, different everything.

I went back to the ACT, and lived for another four years in exile, before returning to Perth, Western Australia.  Since then, I have come to wonder whether the profound feeling of “home” I feel living here is akin to the Indigenous notion of “country”.  Whether that horrible feeling of being displaced, of being exiled, is what they feel when they’re forced by circumstance or government policy to move away from their country.  I know that for me, songs like “My Island Home” now have a whole new meaning, because I hear them through the filter of my experience living in Canberra.

This is part of why I feel angry and upset about the WA state government’s decision to close a number of remote communities.  I would not want to push that feeling of displacement, of always being in the wrong place, on anyone else.  It would be a wrongness, an evil, a wicked thing to do.  I am angry the government of Western Australia is doing this in my name.  I am upset the Premier, Colin Barnett, is implicitly claiming he has the support of white Western Australians to do this.  His government does not have my support, or my consent.

These days I’m living in the south-western corridor of suburban Perth.  The sun rises in the correct way, over the right hills.  The sun sets properly, over the ocean.  The ocean is there, within reach – I’m about twenty minutes drive from the beach, if that.  The seasons flow correctly, from dry heat, to stormy heat, to gradually cooling dry, to cold and wet, to gradually warming and drying, to dry heat again.  The city is the way it should be, the right mix of architectural styles and geographic features.  I’m home.  I would say I’m in my country, and I would challenge anyone to uproot me from it.

(This post also appears on my Dreamwidth blog)

Categories: Miscellaneous

2 replies

  1. Most of my life in England I lived quite close to Watling St. This (for those who don’t know) was originally a Roman Road. It remained in use after the Romans left, and parts of it are still in use today (as in a modern road follows the route of the old road, with the modern road surface overlying the remains of the old one). My mother’s family live quitr close to York, which is a city where the layers of history are, in many places, still quite visible.

    When we moved away (initially to NZ), this was something I missed a surprising amount. The ability to walk the same road your ancestors have been walking on for thousands of years, the sense of deep roots in a place, the marks that habitation have left on the landscape. There is nothing like that here for Europeans. But I have always assumed that this is what Aboriginal Australian’s connection to the land felt like (magnified by about 20x).

  2. I’ve had sort of the opposite experience. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia (USA), which was the capital of the Confederacy back during the USA civil war 150 years ago. I _never_ felt at home there. I always felt like I was from the wrong side of the tracks, even when I was around people from the wrong side of the tracks.

    When I went off to college in New Jersey, about 50 miles from New York City, all of a sudden I felt like I was with “my people.” You could actually say something that hadn’t been already talked to death back in Robert E. Lee’s day and not have people look at you like you were a space alien. Who my relatives were or what school I went to or what country club or church I belonged to or how I dressed or how I was or wasn’t exactly like everybody else weren’t the only things about me that mattered.

    Ever since then, I’ve felt like the Northeastern USA is really the only place I can feel at home. I’ve had to spend time in places like Ohio or Tennessee or Missouri (yeah, not far from Ferguson), and I feel like I’ve been dropped in Siberia. And every time I go back to Virginia to see relatives, I feel like I’m on a set for Gone With The Wind or Cold Mountain.

    I lived in Germany for three years, and while it was an adventure, there was no shortage of things (and people) that told me I was a foreigner and only a guest. Spent three weeks in Cambridge (UK); the same thing.

    It’s like I had to leave home to find my home.

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