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Hospitality in a Prison

When I arrived into Glenrowan I was to walk another 5kms up the road to my accommodation that night. This worked well, as it would give me a 5km head start the next day. It was stinking hot when I walked past the huge Ned Kelly statue and into a little café with an ice-cream sign out the front.

I was greeted by an air-conditioner and felt instant relief I closed my eyes and held out my arms, unaware of the lady who had come out from behind the counter.

“Here sweetheart,” she said, her hands on my backpack as she positioned me into place. “It’s the best from here, that way you get both the fan and the air-con. Now there are toilets that way and you just take your time getting settled. I’m open for another few hours yet!”

A few moments later, I was sitting at a table with big glass of cold water, a Bubble O Bill ice-cream, a plate with a doyley on it and a napkin. The lady then brought over a guidebook to Glenrowan and pointed out her favourite sites.

I had said a grand total of 8 words: “Can I get a Bubble O Bill please?”

What a thoughtful person!


My night in Glenrowan was with Jacquie and Mikki. I limped into Jacquie’s place with a bad case of shin splints. The day had been a long with many hills to contend with. I watched as Mikki mortared a handful of comfrey leaves together with aloe vera. He wrapped the goey mixture into a thin cloth and let it cool in the fridge.

After a tasty bowl of stir-fry with whole grain rice, veggies and fish, and the delicious rhubarb cheesecake for desert I was well and truly ready for bed. Mikki bandaged the cold poultice to my shin and pulled a special sock over it to keep it in place. As soon as the soggy cloth touched my skin I felt instant relief! My shin was so tight and I’d been limping for the past few hours and unsuccessfully trying to stretch it out. In the morning my leg was as good as new and I was ready to tackle another 20kms!

Jacquie, Miles, Judy and Freida, my fellow walkers for the day, when we arrived in Wangaratta. We had a very fun time walking together from Glenrowan!

Mikki and me walking through Wang via the fish and chip shop.

Jacquie’s house. We came back here to empty the various buckets and pots after the rain. They were all strategically placed to collect every drop so that the precious water could be saved for the abundant garden. The alternative tank solution gave the place an added charm!

Staying with Jacquie, I learned that she cares a lot about the welfare of others. She often visits the detention centre in Broadmeadows and has made many friends there. We shared some stories about the asylum seekers we have met and gotten to know. We talked about their families, especially the children who can bring joy to the visitor’s room in Broadmeadows. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about them because the conversation always heads towards that area of longing. I find myself and others saying things like, “If only”, or “I wish they could see what it’s really like here”, or “but what can you do?” This is followed by sighs of hopelessness and groans of frustration.

The first few times I visited Broadmeadows I found it very difficult. I walked into the visitor’s room with Sr Brigid and she introduced me to some of her friends there. They greeted me warmly and pulled out a chair for me. Sr Brigid and I had brought some food to share so they set out some plastic plates and napkins. They gave us water in the plastic cups and made sure that we were comfortable. I was treated like a guest coming to visit in someone’s house, only this wasn’t their house, it was like a prison! I wanted to do this for them, welcome them into my home, show them the country I live in and make them feel comfortable in their new home! I had paid for this place they were in. In a sense they should’ve been my guests but it’s such twisted and wrong setting and not at all like the Australia I had grown up with. When this is all over, and one day it will be, I wonder if places like MITA in Broadmeadows will be kept open as museums to show the next generations of our dark past.

Oh dear, now I’m getting negative and sad! Well the photos below might cheer us all up! It’s my Wangaratta Welcome and it was wonderful to see all of these people come together to show their support for this worthy cause. Thank you to Wangaratta for having this gathering, it brought many support groups and people together. The local community had collected hundreds of signatures, with the help of RAR, some Grandmothers (GADRC), St John’s Uniting Church and its members, Adrian and Helen, Galen Catholic College, who came out to the welcome gathering with their Principal, REC and School Captains. There were many more local members of the community who played their part and I want to say a big thanks! Next time I visit Broadmeadows, I’ll show some photos and let the people there know that we’re thinking of them and that as long as we keep going as we are, they can’t give up hope.

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