The worst welcome I’ve received on this journey was from an electric fence, and that’s because I had no business trying to climb over it. I was just a city girl who didn’t know any better!
The towns I’ve passed so far should be proud. In every one I have experienced such genuine acts of kindness and I’ve felt welcome.
Day 1 – Epping: The first place I had to knock on a door and ask to use a toilet. Both Catherine (my walking companion for the day) and I were welcomed in with friendly smiles and no questions asked.
Day 2 – Wallan: I was welcomed into Anwar’s home. His wife had made yummy cakes. She put a whole heap of them in a bag to keep me nourished on my journey.
Day 3 – Kilmore: My host family, having me stay for 3 nights. They welcomed me as if I was part of their family. I felt right at home.
Day 4 – Kilmore: St Patrick’s. This sign is posted right out the front of the church. The three emblems down the bottom are: Assumption College, St Patrick’s Parish and School. They each wanted to put in the money to buy this sign. In the end it was donated to the parish. It arrived right when a family from the Broadmeadows detention centre came to stay in the rooms above the parish office. Grant, the Parish Priest, fixed the rooms up to help those in need. The refugee family stayed there for 10 months, while they found their feet. Can you imagine how they felt when they saw this sign?!
Day 5 – Kilmore: Ratana from Kilmore Bakery gave me and my support crew a complimentary lunch and took some sheets of the petition.
From right: Karen and her son Connor who were my amazing support crew for a few days. Karen made me Fructose friendly museli bars! Peter and Steve in the Blue came to walk with me this day. Ratana is in the red. Thanks Ratana!
Day 6 – Seymour: Cynthia and Nick heard about my walk on the radio and offered me a place to stay at their Bluetongue Berries B&B where I could get a good rest and some lovely, wholesome meals.
Day 7 – Avenel: It rained and I got wet, actually drenched on the road. While Cynthia and Jacquie, another wonderful helper, rushed to move the caravan and find my waterproof gear, I shivered out the front of a shop, WB Gadd in Avenel. The shopkeeper came out: “How are you going waiting there love? Would you like a hot chocolate? I’ll get you a hot chocolate, that will make you feel better!”
Cynthia and Jacquie delivered the goods and I was dry again and ready to keep walking. Then Maree, my friend from school, and her daughter Janey joined me! They kept me company for about 5kms! I was tickled pink by this!
Even though this day started off bad, I had nothing to complain about in the end, especially when my sister and her family pulled up to give me a hug on their way to Shepparton and my cousin picked me up at the end of the day, with the promise of a delicious, hearty meal.
And I hadn’t even got to Euroa yet.
All these wonderful acts of kindness and welcome have made my heart feel so full. It’s daunting walking around on your own in unfamiliar territory. Obviously I know nothing about farms or fences! It’s daunting and this is still my home country! I speak the language and I know the rules. I can only imagine what it would be like for others who have to flee on foot. Deng Thiak Adut, now an Australian Citizen who had to flee his country on foot, had no shoes and barely the clothes on his back. He also didn’t know what kind of welcome he would receive, if any.
I want those people who are on a journey now to feel the way I feel: welcome and loved. It spurs me on and puts a spring in my step. I’ve found that this doesn’t take much, a smile here, a hot chocolate there. Coming up to Australia Day, I’m feeling a sense of pride and hope that I haven’t felt in a long time, because I know we can help people feel welcome.
We still need signatures for the petition. Please go to the petitions page, download the petition and print out a sheet. Then collect some signatures from your friends and work colleagues and post it to me: J.Hackett c/o Killester College, 433 Springvale Rd, Springvale 3171. Every signature counts.