Monday, November 25, 2013

Community Dinner

I reckon there is 100 people easy. Kids, trendies, refugees, locals, staff.
I'm 5th on the schedule sheet.
We eat dinner, sit through a lady who talks about community gardening, a bunch of kids get drama awards, a lady sings the blues, a young girl sings some pop.
Then it's me. On the stage, spotlights in my eyes, microphone in my face.
I read it beautifully. Less than a minute in my gorgeous Maggie joins me on stage and spends the entire performance wiggling around my legs, enjoying the extra attention. She centres me, makes it more natural for me to tell this Mummy story.
I had been nervous people would get distracted and would talk amongst themselves. They didn't. They listened, and laughed, some even cried.
I get a huge round of applause. I walk off stage and a lady reaches out to me, tears running down her face. This very day she had put her own teenage daughter on a plane to go overseas for a month. My words had meant so much to her, today. Strangers stop me, compliment me, I even get some cuddles. My kids and my Josh look so proud. I am so very proud.
If I could bottle this, I'd make a million bucks. More.
I was scared, but I did it anyway. It feels bloody marvellous.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I've been terrifically busy being an adult lately, so much so I haven't had much time for blogging.
First things first, I've gone slightly mad and decided I don't like public speaking so much that I should do more of it! So I wrote (more) about my time working in Immigration Detention and then read my piece, Mummy, in front of about 20 people at a 'Feast of Stories' evening last week. I was terribly nervous, and barely glanced up from my paper as I read, but nobody booed and I didn't wee my pants, so SUCCESS!
Now somehow I've volunteered to read the same piece at a Community Dinner tonight, where there is usually about 100 people. I'm still nervous, but confidently so. I will have friends and my family there, so I'm planning on both looking up from my paper AND being amazing.
I've posted 'Mummy' on here, if you have been reading this blog for a while you will be familiar already with much of the story but....too bad. Read it anyway ;)
I read a great book last week and I would like to recommend it. It's called 'The Fields' and was written by Kevin Maher. It's set in Ireland in the early 80's and the central character is 14 year old Jim Finnegan, the youngest of 6 kids and the only boy. It was funny, terrible and had an ending you will either love or hate. I loved it.
My next recommendation is a film called Enough Said. It stars Julia Lewis Dreyfuss AKA Elaine from Seinfeld and James Gandolfini AKA Tony Soprano. It was a lovely film and I was blown away with the acting by the 2 leads. I did not know they had it in them to be so soft and warm. I laughed and I cried and that is such a winning combination.
That's all for now. I'm off to visualise my award winning performance of my spoken word piece. Peace.


It started as just a job but it ends as a beautiful goodbye.
I worked as a support worker, for children in immigration detention. We called them UAMs. Un Accompanied Minors. Any person under the age of 18 who had come to Australia by boat, seeking asylum, without a parent or guardian.
I worked in a small house, full of teenage boys, it had a big yard, and was surrounded by 3 razor wire fences. The boys came from many different countries, spoke many languages and believed in many different things. Some spoke English fluently, others, none at all.
As the weeks passed, we got to know one another. We learnt to communicate, most often with smiles and laughter, but soon enough we could speak small amounts of one anothers languages. 
I'm taught to swear in several languages. Occassionally I would shock them with an insult – I'd say - come on goosalah – get to English class. Goosalah is a Persian word for baby cow and the boys thought it hysterical. We laughed a lot. It became my favourite language.
They called us by our roles. Officer. Driver. Teacher. My job was to support them and guide them in place of their parent. So I was called Mummy. It took some getting used to, but before long, I relished it.
I would cajole boys out of bed in the morning. I'd humbug them to eat their vegetables and to have less sugar on their breakfast.
The days passed slowly. They went to afternoon school for 4 hours each week day. They received English and ‘about australia’ lessons each morning.  We played pool, we drew, we painted, they would play soccer, or watch movies. We played cards, did jigsaws. They had very limited access to the internet or to phones. I would have to lock mine away each morning before entering the secure facility. The days passed slowly.
We learnt about one another. We spent a lot of time just talking, the boys would translate for one another when necessary. I heard some stories that were desperately sad.  I pat their backs, I sat quietly with them. I tell them about my own children and they delight in my stories and ask me every morning – how is your family mummy?
We spend a lot of time playing ping pong. I often win and for a time I think that possibly I’m quite good at this sport. Soon enough it dawns on me the boys are too polite to let me lose. I’m annoyed, but also touched.
Everyday I look forward to work, always, I am sad to leave them.
They have many things. Just not family. Just not freedom.
There are constant goodbyes. Boys turn 18 and are moved quickly to ‘big camp’. Sometimes they are just transferred to another centre. A few lucky ones get released to community detention. Everybody is just waiting, for news, for visas, for freedom.
3 months in, one Friday afternoon the boys are called to a meeting. They will be transferred the next day to a larger centre, in Tasmania. They have time to pack, to call their families & let them know.
My colleague, the wonderful Ibu, an Indonesian grandma who has worked this job for much longer than me calls to tell me the news.
Ibu, I say, I am too sad. I don’t want to say goodbye. I know I will cry and I don’t want to upset them.
She growls me. What do you think will upset them more? Mummy Clare crying to say goodbye, or Mummy Clare not there at all?
I am ashamed.I tell her -  I’ll see you tomorrow Ibu.
We walked in together a few hours before they are due to leave. They look shell shocked, confused, vulnerable. But so very happy to see us. We speak mostly with our eyes, our gestures. I am free to touch more than ever before, so I rub backs, ruffle hair, hold onto forearms. My stomach is hollow and I feel a deep sense of loss – we were just starting to know one another. We were just beginning to trust.
One boy won’t leave his bed and another sits forlornly on a chair, with tears rolling down his face. I am finally, legitimately a bleeding heart, wounded by these feelings.. We help the boys to fill in exit surveys. Age. Language. Best thing/worst thing about our service. One of my favourites sits with me. Age -16. Language – Farsi. Best thing? You are Mummy, he says and I am overwhelmed, my chin quivers and my tears spill out. No cry Mummy, he says. I smile through my tears. Mummy is a baby today, I say, and as always, we laugh together. Delam Barat Tang Mishe Pesaram, I tell him. He knows the English words. I will miss you my son.
All too soon the bus is ready and we say our final goodbyes. Finally I am able to wrap these boys up in my Mummy arms, to comfort them like their own Mothers would. Everywhere people are hugging, crying, showing love. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Athiests. We are people who connected and who are now so sad to say goodbye. I am heavy hearted,, but oh so humbled to be a part of this.
 My heart breaks, for myself, for these boys, but most of all for the parents of these kids, who were brave enough to let them go. I cannot imagine, but can only hope that if one day, my own children are far from me, may they always have someone who will care for them, who will cry with them and who of course, will laugh with them.