Of course our visit to Australia was amazing, to conduct our son’s wedding and meet our new grandson and to have a holiday of a lifetime. But, oh dear, the journey seems interminable – 23 hours on flights with all the waiting around at airports added on. You’ve watched the fourth film you wouldn’t have watched at home, and still there are hours to go, you’ve accepted the disappointment that they had run out of alternative meals, and though we had the neck cushions, and we did keep walking about, how do you cope with cramp in the bum! But what am I saying? We were travelling in luxury – what of the refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean today? And what of the men and women who risked the migration to Australia in the past.
An early wooden ship and modern military vessel
We visited “Captain Cook’s Cottage”in Melbourne, and were so impressed how these early explorers had soon built homes with so many modern facilities of their day! But we were conned! This is actually the home of James Cook’s parents in North Yorkshire. The family moved into it after James left home so he never actually lived there. How did it end up in Melbourne? When it came up for sale in the 1970’s, it was bought by an Australian businessman and shipped stone by stone to Melbourne.
(Yes, that’s us with Captain Cook!)
We thought about the life of migrants going out to Australia. Those early explorers like Cook were brave folk, travelling in such small wooden vessels, the journey must have been terrifying and certainly dangerous. Followed then by the early migrants, they were headed for a land, unknown virgin territory, without the support of centuries of infrastructure. How did the 164,000 criminals feel, when sentenced to be deported to Australia? Did the settlers have the same suspicions as we see towards migrants today? Meanwhile, no one seems to have cared about the aboriginal peoples displaced or even massacred.
Our son was marrying Natalie Geros from the Greek community. We were surprised to discover that there are more Greek people in Melbourne than any city in the world other than Athens! We enjoyed the generosity of Greek hospitality, the sumptuous meals of Greek food, and the exuberance of a Greek wedding reception! But we also experienced the solemnity and dignity of Orthodox worship, and witnessed the 40 day blessing of our grandson Ted (to be christened Theodore, following tradition of naming after the maternal grandfather, and in this case, the name of one of the Greek patriots who fought alongside Lord Byron for independence from the Ottoman Empire! This is so important to a migrant community – to remember their story, and celebrate their culture, and keep alive that which binds them together. For many years they have worked hard to gain a good life, and to be accepted through the prejudice and bias. Remember this when we relate to our migrant communities today.
And yet, there was openness – when one old Greek gent said to us – “You are home with us” So we weren’t so far from home after all. We too might discover being at home among the new arrivals in our country.