Tales Of A City

WRITINGWhy you should always act on inspirations

Why you should always act on inspirations

I can be a bit weird about my past big works. Maybe it’s because every piece is a chronicle of a personal life lesson. I change and grow with each. Looking back at them feels like visiting a past me that I no longer resemble. Especially things I’ve done decades ago. That’s why when Erin suggest I start re-releasing my old books, I felt a bit cringey. Well, thank goodness she had that thought. This is why you should always act on inspiration.

We just recently self-published a new, edited version of my 2003 book, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean.

This special anniversary edition marks twenty years since the 2001 ‘Tampa crisis’ (it took two years from me going to Christmas Island to research the book to it being published for the first time.) The Tampa was a Norwegian freighter that rescued hundreds of asylum seekers from a sinking Indonesian fishing boat and whose attempts to deliver them safely to Christmas Island were thwarted by the Australian government, sparking outrage amongst humanitarians and attracting global media attention for all the wrong reasons.

Originally published in paperback form by ABC Books, I did a substantial edit for this eBook version, and during the lengthy editing process, found that the questions and issues raised at that time are every bit as relevant and important today as they were then.

And the reception to it has been amazing! The wonderful Sirine Demachkie called it “unputdownable” when she interviewed me on ABC Radio about it. Others have said it is very moving.
And just from the person point of view, I now realise how special it was to be there at that time and how privileged I was to be able to travel like that. May we all be travelling freely again soon.

Anyway,  this book came about when, one morning in the latter stages of 2001, I heard an ABC Radio interview with Captain Don O’Donnell, the harbour master of Christmas Island. He was describing the moving send-off the islanders had given the Tampa when she finally sailed away, her human cargo having been taken off her deck by the SAS and delivered to the Australian war ship, the Manoora, to eventually be taken to Nauru. As a journalist, an avid hobbyist on matters of the human condition and from the point of view of my own confusion about this and many other things in my life, I decided to go to the island and see what was going on for myself. 

As I set off, Australian public debate on the ‘Tampa crisis’ and the government’s ensuing ‘Pacific Solution’ to ‘stopping the boats’ was passionate, polarised and front-page news, which almost feels quaint in 2021, given how normalised and widely accepted strong-arm tactics – some might say cruelties – towards asylum seekers have become. 

Editing this book for the twentieth anniversary of the Tampa crisis, as I revisited my reflections of and at the time, it seemed like the questions I’d asked twenty years earlier had barely touched the sides of what was to come. Moreover, the answers I thought I had found had been dashed against the jagged rocks of hardened hearts and minds.








“But I believe it is valuable to look at where we came from, in order to understand how we got here. At the very least, the remarkable humanity the Christmas Islanders showed in the latter part of 2001 might serve as a reminder of the humanity in us all.”

You can find it on your favourite e-reader app, ISBN 978-0-6451128-7-0


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