In the late 1990s, while working as a broadcast engineer a small regional TV studio in Sarawak, Malaysia, I realised that I would rather be writing stories than broadcasting them. I therefore said an eager ‘yes’ when Borneo Post invited me to write a monthly parenting column in 2007.
By this time, I was living in Australia and took full advantage of the resources available for my column. I interviewed experts to answer my own parenting dilemmas. Interviewing people and writing became my way of trying to understand the world.
And that is how I began a book project on refugee resettlement. Around 2012, when boat arrivals spiked and the public debate around asylum seekers descended to nasty lows, I was teaching English at TAFE Port Adelaide. Many of my students were former refugees, and they were nothing like the opportunistic and dangerous asylum seekers described in some opinion pieces and Letters-to-the-Editor.
Trouble by this, I decided to start interviewing and writing refugee stories to try to understand why people fled and what life was like for them now. In 2015, I won an Arts South Australia Emerging Artist Mentorship grant for this book, which I have since titled ‘Australia: Island of Refuge’.
I’ve decided to release my book serially online here. Every Friday, starting on 1 March 2019, I will publish an episode of ‘Australia: Island of Refuge’. I hope you enjoy meeting the people I interviewed as much as I did.