This book took five years to research and write; but in many ways, it’s been two decades in the making.
You see, I grew up on the Mornington Peninsula, out Frankston way. Throughout my childhood I visited the beaches of Portsea and Sorrento, Mount Martha and Mornington, attended high school in Mt Eliza and rode the Arthurs Seat chairlift (back before the 2003 collapse).
In 1999 I was also in Year Six; the same as my protagonist Fred is in the book. And I do have only the vaguest memories of ‘Operation Safe Haven’ – the biggest humanitarian exercise undertaken by the Australian government, when they welcomed some 6000 Kosovar refugees into ‘safe havens’ around the country, including to an abandoned Quarantine Station on Point Nepean.
I wish I could say I drew on my own memories of this time for Winifred – Fred’s – story, but since I’ve been digging into these historic events, I am no longer certain where my own remembering ends and researching begins.
There are still parts of myself that I gave to Winifred though – like a grandparent who lived out the back of the main house, and a father in the police force; which my own was, retiring after 17 years.
The old writers advice is to ‘write what you know’… I didn’t do that, exactly. I wrote instead what I wanted to know. I wanted to remember this time from the depths of my childhood; when the outside world came to my back door, it seemed. And in writing and researching, I found it to be a turning point in Australia’s policies, and the blueprint for how our government and society still treats asylum seekers today.
Six inspiring YA women to read about this International Women's Day.