I’m on holiday. I’ve gone away. To Broome, as it happens. A very long way away. Well over 2300 kilometres. On the plane it took 2½ hours to fly from Perth. This a journey within one state and not even from one extremity to the other. Like I said, a long way away.

Why do we do this? Why travel great distances to some other place from where we normally live? Many reasons. Often more than one applies to a particular situation. As it does this time. I’ve come away to have some respite, a change from the usual. To relax without the burden of the everyday urgency of living which always seems so present in our normal biding. In addition, spending time with loved relations, my brother-in-law and his wife. So, definitely a complexity of reasons.

Being away implies some notion of a base, somewhere that isn’t away. Although I’ve spent around two thirds of my life mostly in various locations around the city of Perth, it doesn’t yet feel like my home. But if you ask me where that would be, I would still be hard up for an answer.  Most people unhesitatingly ascribe a city, a town, a suburb, as their home. Not me. I was born in Sydney. I lived in the city for the first three years of my life and then the next eleven within a radius of less than 100 kms. That was a long time ago.  Since then I’ve only visited the city for brief periods. Those early years and the collection of short subsequent visits are not enough for Sydney to qualify as my home. And if that doesn’t count, nowhere else is going to fare any better.

But I’m not stateless. I’m still in the country in which I was born. I have an unequivocal right to go on  living here, in Australia. Whether I can specify somewhere in the country as my home town or not is irrelevant to the political fact that Australia counts officially as my home. I have somewhere to live. I’m not threatened by anything more than politicians who want me to believe they’re always acting in my best interests, and business people who assure me “your call is important to us”.

According to an item on SBS News this evening, there are 15 million refugees in the world right now. People who are away. People who are not at home. People who no longer have a home. Or if they can identify a place which they call home, they cannot live there, cannot go back there. These are people who are away not from choice but because they’ve been driven from their homes by war, murder, rape, torture, starvation, terrorism, or some other hideous provocation from a long list of possibilities.

In the meantime I live in a country in which I can freely choose to go away. I also live in a country whose politicians — there’s no distinction in this case between government and opposition members — pretend that we are somehow seriously threatened by a few hundred refugees , virtually all of them bona fide, who arrive on our shores, or at least in our territories, by boat. These illegal immigrants, so-called boat people, who have come away in order to save their lives, are apparently a dire danger whereas the thousands who come by air and overstay their visitor visas pose no problem.

I would like to extend the hospitality of my home, my country Australia, to these homeless people, these people who have come away from their forbidding homelands . But my government, those politicians elected to represent my wishes and to act on them, has chosen to ignore me and deny any welcome to this particular category of refugees. And I cannot get away from this despicable policy and its inhumane application. Even if I go away from the country, which, as I’ve already said,  I can freely choose to do, I cannot get away from the shame. There is nowhere away from this.




The boat rides on, over the harbour,

Pushing beyond the headland,

Soon it will sail over the horizon;

Soon it will lie beyond memory.


I came here on that vagrant boat,

Though I would as gladly come

On the back of a great bird in the sky,

Or carried in a chariot of the gods.


On this voyage there was no fantasy,

Only a mundane and miserable passage,

Dragged across wilful currents and tides;

I should not have hoped for more.


Yet I dreamt of a different journey,

And for a time the dream was real,

Fragments remain, vaguely calling me;

I still hope, long for them to be true.


The boat rides on, over the harbour,

Pushing beyond the headland,

Soon it will sail over the horizon;

But I have come to stay.

Ruari Jack Hughes


I’m sure you’ve had those days. The ones when you plan what you’re going to do with the next 24 hours and then the whole lot goes to crap in one easy move. Sometimes it’s me; sometimes I just can’t get myself into gear; sometimes I have so many things on my ‘to do’ list that I get overwhelmed and can’t see where to start first.

But sometimes, quite a lot in fact, it’s other people who muck it up. Sometimes that’s a nice thing (like a friend phoning or calling in); sometimes it’s just plain bloodyminded. Business people trying to flog you something you don’t want are just a nuisance — time-wasting but soon dismissed.  Worse are those whose  incompetence requires you going over matters already supposedly complete but you have to spell it out all over again in words of one syllable. Even more worser is when they still can’t comprehend what they should be doing in return for the typically serious amounts of money they are charging to do it.

Why is it, I wonder, that sometimes we can see things so stunningly obvious yet to others they are apparently more opaque than stygian darkness? This morning it was a financial company unable to see that a new contract to extend a situation in operation for the past five years — and in which there will be no change in the next five years — should be able to be maintained as status quo.

And while I was grumpily reflecting on this piece of nonsense which had occupied an hour on the phone, I checked on one of the news-feeds on my computer and read a number of postings related to the imminent withdrawal of armed forces from Afghanistan. Now, with the wonderful advantage of 20/20 hindsight vision, all the pundits are pointing out the utter senseless waste of more than ten years warfare in that sad country and the most likely outcome being an immediate descent into tribal violence and destabilisation as soon as the withdrawal of the USA, Australia and all the other gung-ho military adventurers is complete.

Sometimes your own problems become rather insignificant when you lift your eyes and re-focus on the broader scenario.

Here’s a couplet which may be worth pondering.

The biding is done, there will be satisfaction for the longing;

The night comes down, and the sun ascends in the dawning.

Ruari Jack Hughes