Sunday, March 24, 2019

I would have loved a sunburnt country...

A bit of context.

One of Australia's favourite poems is My Country by Dorothea McKellar.  In fact the whole poem is barely known; but most of us can recite verse two which goes

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of rugged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

For so many of us it captures the vastness and the wild variations of living in this country, the love we have for its glorious expanses and the way in which Nature determines so much of it.

This book is about something different.  In preparation for the Compassion exhibition at Nambour in June, I worked on this gathering of twelve small books.

I recently collected the perspex book case for them, and am hoping the work is now complete.

In case it isn't, I have three more covers ready.  I really hope that it is finished.

The book covers are rusted luggage tags. Symbolic of travelling, of moving between places and there rusty worn-ness looks to me like 'this sunburnt country'.

Hand stitched and held, they are simple. Each one is numbered.

Each book has one page and honours one person.

Australia has a difficult contemporary history of treating asylum seekers in the most inhumane manner. I can't at times believe this is my country. So in small ways, we ask for compassion. We ask for humane treatment. We are for decency. We ask for care. We ask for kindness. We ask that we remember.

Each book honours one of the asylum seekers or refugees (all men) who have died in detention on either Manus or Nauru islands.

I name them. I tell you their age, where they came from, where they died, how they died and when.
The paper on which I do this is light. It is fragile, and like these lives, can be easily damaged and destroyed.

The small books stand as individuals, or are gathered together in their case.

Since 2014, twelve men have died in detention. Some because our government failed to provide them with safety. Some because our government failed to provide them with medical attention. Some because they became so despairing and so hopeless that they took their own lives.

I hope I don't need to make any more books.

The title reflects that I feel sure that these men would have loved our sunburnt country, if they had ever made it here, reached safety, and been granted asylum.

We shall speak their names.

A note - I had made these books a few weeks ago, and had the title and the subtitle "we shall speak their names" documented. In the wake of the horror the Christchurch killings, it becomes more important I think to repeatedly speak their names; to speak the names of victims and to give the perpetrator not one word of recognition. Jacinda Arden is a remarkable woman and an exceptional leader.


  1. To express so simply something this powerful must have taken a lot of thought and preparation

    1. Thank you Jac. Getting the balance right, the layout right, the materials right; the simplicity and almost starkness of it right, all did take time, but it also came together in a flow of sorts...go well.

  2. Replies
    1. this is Mo, I think I've worked out how to get blogger to recognize me again!

    2. Thanks Mo and I am glad you have found a work around to whatever madness Blogger was doing to you. It is a simple, yet powerful work I agree. Go gently.

  3. sad stories captured beautifully

  4. Simple but powerful. Beautiful work Fiona.


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