Calling me home

This weekend Dave and I have been lucky enough to stay at ‘Somerset Cottage’ in Daylesford.  A refurbished and restored miners cottage that is just 100% perfect.  Even as I am typing this I have had to check that we weren’t just living in a home beautiful or country living magazine photoshoot, but that this beautiful little place is real.  It is cozy and picturesque and exactly what we needed, so thank you to the wonderful friends that made this happen.

But this blog isn’t about the cottage, or the lovely people in my life, but actually about a feeling I had as Dave and I drove up the western hwy on our way to our little escape.

For a really long time I considered myself a ‘city’ girl, the thought of being out in the country without the shops, the lights and the hustle and bustle was something that did not appeal to me at all.  That was until I moved to Castlemaine in 2009, where I discovered deep down I love the country.  It turns out I can live without the lights, the 24hour shops and the pressure that comes with everyone being ‘on and available’ all the time.  I love the relaxed pace, the friendliness of the people and the beautiful, beautiful scenery… in fact I really just love it all.  This transition probably actually started on that fateful uni placement to Bourke and was just confirmed in Castlemaine, but either way, it is something that has never changed back since moving back to Melbourne.  In fact my love for all things country has just become stronger since leaving… particularly my obsession with country music.

This change of attitude towards country living is something that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about.  I do often think back to my time in Castlemaine fondly, and will talk to anyone about how much I love it if I get just a hint of them being interested… but it’s not as though I have been desperate to return, or to pack up my life here and move straight back.  I think I have just fallen right back into my city default mode and have my country life as a little memory that I love to take a minute to reflect on, but not something that soaks up my time anymore.  Yet as we drove towards Daylesford something strange happened.  The closer we got, the bigger the farms were, the taller the trees, the lighter I felt.  I don’t often take much notice of things like this, I mean, sure I notice if I am happy or sad, but I don’t often notice the process of this happening.  But on Friday night as we drove… I got happier, the stress of the week (although it hadn’t been any more stressful than normal), the business of life seemed to disappear and it was replaced with a nostalgic feeling of hope, safety and goodness.  This ‘longing’ for home was also noted by my phone, which highlighted the area as ‘home’ on the map, using an old addressed still saved in the depths of my data.

I am not really sure what this means because I love my Melbourne life… and I don’t get the same feeling on my way to a weekend away down at Inverloch, which I love just as much… but it just felt so good… it felt like home and freedom all packaged beautifully.  Maybe it was the country… or more specifically the goldfields region calling me home.  Maybe I was just under more stress than I realised and my mind was just excited about a weekend away from obligation… who knows, but l liked it and I need some more country living in my life.

P.S… this is out little Cottage and some pictures from our time away where I also got to cross no. 26 off the list

Australia Day Makes Me Feel Uncomfortable

I have umm and ahh’d about writing this blog all morning… but I can’t seem to stop thinking about it, so I have decided to stop and put my thoughts down on virtual paper…  Over the last 5 years my thoughts on Australia Day have started to shift and as I sit here and write this, I am feeling really uncomfortable with what today, Australia Day, represents.

5 years ago I wrote a blog called ‘3 Reasons I love this Sunburnt Country‘ and reading it back today has made me cringe… In the blog the only thing that upset me about Australia Day was the assumption that copious amounts of alcohol had to be consumed in order to truly celebrate.   Today, there are lots of things that upset be about the day… and ironically, I hadn’t even thought about the alcohol that will be consumed until I read the blog back.  I still love this Sunburnt Country and the reasons I gave in the blog still ring true, I just feel like they are now much less important.

My love for my country is also something I have had to wrestle with, and it is something that I have continued to write about, particularly over the past 12 months.  I have longed for our history to be different, to be able to start again and I have learned just a fraction of how truly unique and wonderful our long heritage is and that it should be savoured and treasured.   I want to be able to celebrate all things Australian, but I no longer feel like I can just blindly buy into the celebrations of the day without the darkness it also represents being felt.

Today my social media and news feeds are flooded with 2 things… both about the same issue… but not at all the same.  Half are what I would call ‘traditional’ Australia day posts… pictures of BBQs, flags, hottest 100 votes and general celebration of what it means to be Australian in 2017.  There were even some fairy bread lamingtons… what’s more Australian than that?  But the other half are calls to change the date of Australia Day, acknowledgements of the dreadful events of January 26 in years gone by and attempts to respectfully acknowledge the pain and suffering many Indigenous people feel on this day, which many of them consider a day of mourning.

So how do I as a ‘privileged white Australian’ work through this… I love a good public holiday and I would hate to see this one disappear, but I think we do need to seriously stop and consider celebrating being Australian on another day of the year.  I have watched a number of videos suggesting all kinds of dates and I have been surprised to learn how little history the date, the 26th of January, as a nationally recognised and celebrated holiday has.  I am not a miserable person who should crawl under a rock as some of our politicians might think, I am just one Australian who doesn’t think it is too much to ask, to have a national day that truly unites us, rather than one that continues to divide us and hurt so many.  I am not just trying to be politically correct, I am just trying to be human, compassionate, understanding and hopeful of reconciliation for all.  I don’t think this push to change the date should just go away, as I am beginning to think that many people would want.  It is not something we shouldn’t expect any one to just ‘get over’ and while it is certainly not a part of our history that we should forget, it is also not a day of national celebration.  I think it is time to stop and consider it.  If we can start a new public holiday for a football parade which benefits no one but the economy, surely we can alter one to bring people together.

Today I am uncomfortable, because I still want things to be different.  I want to be able to celebrate all of Australia, I want to be ok with being a white Australian, because I can live in harmony with all of those who also call this great land their own.  I also want to be able celebrate on a day where the Bunurong peoples who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which I live can also celebrate because they are not reminded of the pain and suffering that has been brought to their people over the last 200 years.  I want to be able to feel comfortable and confident in the fact that we are moving forward together.  I want unity, harmony and peace… and if changing a date, shifting some celebration is what needs to happen to do that, then I support it.

I am proud to be an Australian, I am proud of where we have come from and mostly who we are becoming… (we still have a lot of things to work on) and I want to be able to celebrate with everyone… not just the selected few… who also happen to be the powerful majority.  It’s time to stand together and celebrate who we are…

Here’s to a less uncomfortable Australia Day in the future.

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Listing in the Outback

UluruSo apart from finding my inner Aussie again while we were in Uluru I also had a lot of fun.  When I wrote my list for 2016 there were lots of things I included knowing we were going to do/I really wanted to do in Europe, but I also snuck a view central Australia goodies in as well, knowing that we were also planning on coming here with Dave’s family.  The good news is all of these got crossed off… The better news is I also got to cross off some surprise ones… And I really love an impromptu list crossing!

Just entering the Northern Territory crossed off no. 44 as it was the first time I had ever traveled there, which is a pretty impressive start to a trip.  While we were up there Dave and I went on a 3 day camping trip with Dave’s sister Ness and her partner Hugh, where we spent our days getting up before sunrise to watch it rise in spectacular style and then go bush walking (no. 30) around Uluru, through Kata Tjuta and up and over the Kings Canyon rim, covering about 25km all up in 30+ degrees.  At night we watched the sunset beautifully and then slept under the stars in our own swags (no. 25), and let me tell you there is nothing like the central Australian stars, they are truly mind blowing.  At the top of Kings Canyon I also found my first geocache (no. 13) signed in and left behind my own gift and hid it again for the next geocacher (no. 14).  This was not planned, I had no idea it was up there, but our tour guide asked if anyone wanted to see one and I was in.

While we were out in the bush, I also got to see my first wild dingo.. And a few of its mates, and as we traveled between sites, I saw an emu at Curtain Springs Station (no. 66) and took a little selfie with Nibbles the camel at Kings Creek Station (no. 81).

I love being out in the bush, but I have also really loved the time I have had to hang out with our family, dinners, swims, walks… Sharing, talking and experiencing this together.  On our first night we went and experienced the ‘field of light’ an art installation only opened that week that has 50,000+ lights placed at the foot of Uluru, which was pretty incredible and last night, as our last night together, we enjoyed the sounds of silence, a four course meal out in the open watching the sunset over Uluru and Kata Tjuta and then being guided through the central Australian stars.  It was the perfect way to finish a wonderful week.  Great food, laughter and a perfect location… I sat with empty shoes off, feet covered in red sand and soaked it all in… I am so blessed to have had this week, in fact this incredible year but even more, to have wonderful family to share it with… And I’m already dreaming of when I can return to experience the outback again.

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From the Back of Bourke to Uluru via the world

This time 8 years ago I was in Bourke, I was young, naive, and a long way from home.  I was out there for a final year uni placement after expressing some interest in indigenous Australian health and closing the gap that exists between indigenous communities and non-indigenous ones.  At the time I had no idea how life changing this trip to the outback would be.  How much it would shape my life, ideas and opinions.  How much I would appreciate the experience and insight I gained while I was there.  Or how much the red dirt would get in my heart, and the hole that it would leave forever after that.

Fast forward to now, and as sad as it is to admit when I came home from Europe I was a little underwhelmed about being Australian, I was ashamed of my history and feeling a little lost, but this week, I have had my feet back in the red dirt and it feels like home.

Last week Dave and I spent our time exploring Uluru on a family holiday with Dave’s family, a trip unlike any we have been on before and my first trip to the Northern Territory.  But this trip to heart of Australia has refreshed my soul. There is still a lot of my identity as a white Australian I am uncomfortable with, but I have been reminded of so much that we can be proud of.

The outback is magical and majestic and I have never experienced anything like it.  The vastness of the desert, the size and scale of Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon, the simple beauty of our beautiful country and the incredible ability for life and culture to last even in the toughest and most extreme circumstances.  I have found a new appreciation for our Aboriginal forefathers, and renewed my passion for bridging the gap between Australia’s two currently separated communities.

It is humbling to walk around the rim of Uluru and parts of Kata Tjuta, their overwhelming presence a reminder of how small man really is.  It is incredible to think of the time they have stood and endured, almost as long as Australia has been Australia, these amazing structures have been here.   As we walked through and along the rim of Kings Canyon it is impossible not to be impressed, where else in the desert can you find ferns and permanent waterhole? Or frogs and tadpoles who have waited for rain just for this chance to survive on the top of a desert rock.  I was reminded that while Australia may not have the ‘white’ history of Europe, with buildings and statues from a long heritage that is familiar and , Australia’s history is rich in a completely different way.  It has been around for a lot longer, as has its people.

So while there is still a lot to be done to reconcile all that is Australian, I am proud of this land, it’s people and to be Australian.

Uluru Sunrise

Kings Canyon Sunrise

Kata Tjuta

Kings Canyon

Uluru Sunset

Kata Tjuta Sunset

It’s more than a Game

Despite the fact that two of my last three blogs have been about other Cities in Australia, there are some moments that make me realise why I love Melbourne.

Yesterday was grand final day for the AFL, a day which I really think should be a public holiday for Melbournians.  But this whole week, grand final week has been packed full of everything I love about Melbourne.  On Monday night, while in Sydney Dave and I met up with my brother to watch the Brownlow together, a grand final week must.  Then on Friday for the first time in my life I went to the grand final parade, and even though I was surrounded by Freo supporters I loved being there cheering on my Hawks and wearing my colours proud.

Despite the fact that Hawthorn has been in a few grand finals during my lifetime, Friday was the first time I had been to  the parade… I found out that the grand final parade was somewhat of a tradition for Dave who used to go in every year and then headed to the Melbourne show with his Dad and sister.  But this was the first time for me and I loved it.  There is something really exciting about the grand final week in Melbourne, the atmosphere, the sound, the unity.  Simply wearing my hawthorn jumper into the city started conversations with random strangers… it was actually a bizarre feeling.

20131007-115233.jpgLike Dave’s family tradition we also headed to the show, which brings out the best and worst in everything – but I still love that it’s all there in one place.  We have some incredible talent in Victoria and some really strange things as well, but it is incredible to be able to experience all of this at once, whether you are ready for it or not.

And then there is grand final day… which, is an experience all of its own… with its own songs, own excitement and own standard dishes – after all what’s grand final day with out a pie?

The city has this magic way of coming alive during things like the show and the grand final, it oozes character and fun and it’s just a great place to be.  There is excitement and anticipation in the air and i just really really love it!

Oh and as much as I love Melbourne I also just wanted an opportunity to brag about the fact that the Hawks won – which makes me very very happy… but it did remind me just why I love Melbourne and the AFL… bring on season 2014 and go Hawks!