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September 7, 2017

Finding a voice in a country that’s not your own

CityMag editor Farrin Foster tells the stories of her home in Australia, but recent international travel has her thinking about the stories this country refuses to hear.

  • Words: Farrin Foster

In the last three months, I have spent an unusual amount of time in airports.

Travelling through countries where I don’t know the language and am ignorant of the culture, blind to the problems and preoccupations of the people I walk among, is a dislocating experience.

Farrin Foster is CityMag’s editor

And being in airports, where you are largely viewed as a problem to be navigated around, or processed through, only compounds the feeling.

While in Adelaide, I don’t feel dislocated.  But, like all white Australians, I am an immigrant to Australia. I have learnt a little about the land on which my family have rested for the past two generations, but I’m still distanced from this country by my short history with it.

Often, people ask me why I have stayed in Adelaide and not been lured away by opportunity. I find it hard to answer (beyond saying that a vast array of opportunities probably aren’t extended to journalists, like me, with completely average and uninspiring resumés).

But, sitting in international airports recently, I had some insight into the question.

When I’m overseas, I feel silent. I have little other than a readiness to listen to contribute to the conversation in a place where I know nothing.

Sometimes I feel silent in Adelaide as well. After all, I am ignorant here, too, of this land’s full history, purposes, and languages. Still, in this city there are little pockets where I do find my voice.

Often, it’s when telling other peoples’ stories.

My own story only forms in my mind on particular occasions. Rising up over a hill at dawn, driving at 100km/hour near my Mum’s house, watching the landscape reveal itself in new light, is one of those times. Tracking home from work on a network of city side streets is another.

The stories of these moments feel like they are mine to tell, and in finding my own stories I have made a home here. I am aware, though, that my home is built on stolen land and that Australia’s Indigenous people – those who truly belong here – have many stories to tell, yet too often go unheard.

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