Refuge: Jackie French's project vision
As a child, listening to the stories of my ancestors – we are a long-lived family and all storytellers – I was haunted by images of 60,000 years worth of small boats, facing the waves as they headed towards Australia. My ancestors, from more than seven nations and racial groups came on some of those boats, many generations past. Since that first canoe 60,000 years ago, those arrivals have made our nation.
No nation has the duty to accept all who come to their shores nor can that be done sustainably, either socially and ecologically. We do not necessarily owe those who arrive here the right to live here. But we do owe them kindness, compassion, education and medical help, to the best of our ability to provide it.
As a nation, we must know that the boats will continue to come and work out long-term, realistic, human responses, instead of hoping that somehow, sometime, it will all go away.
I wanted this book to show the reader that dreams and hope can take us to extraordinary places, even if they are not the ones that we expect. That each one of us comes from very different places and cultures but we create a nation together. That while dreams are vital, both for us personally and as a nation, it is not good to linger too long in dreams, as some of the children did on their imaginary beach, but to use them to find the strength to face reality and make the dreams come true or, more likely, let that reality change your dreams, just as your dreams can also help change the real world.
To be kind to each other. To know that one kind act may become a small wave of kindness spreading across the world.
To know that standing together—despite your differences—makes you strong.
To be able to say, when things are bad, 'I can cope with this. And tomorrow—or next year—things will be good.'
To know that as humans we all have far more that binds us together than the things that make us different. I am descended from races and religions that fought each other, tried to exterminate each other, that hated each other with passion and dedication. I wish I could tell those people that, generations later, they'd have descendants in common, who honour them all.
Perhaps just: be kind. Do what is necessary, but also be kind.
Perhaps, if that is all this book can show, that will be enough.