Researching Histories of Child Refugees in Australia

the research team at work

Inside Sarajevo’s Tunnel of Hope

I’ve spent the past month in Bosnia, researching how the war of 1992-1995 is remembered in public places such as museums and memorials. While in many locations throughout the country it remains difficult to remember the war, including the experiences of children, in Sarajevo there are many museums addressing the recent past. One of the more popular tourist attractions is the Tunnel of Hope, on the outskirts of Sarajevo. This museum marks the place where many people began their journeys out of Sarajevo to new countries.

When war broke out in Sarajevo in April 1992, it was not long before the city was surrounded in nearly all directions. This map offers a stark illustration of the situation:

Map from The Tunnel of Hope Museum, Sarajevo, showing how nearly all of the city was surrounded throughout the siege.

Only two months after the siege started, the commercial food market was totally depleted with people relying on cooking wild plants such as dandelions and nettles. Statistics provided by UNICEF to the UNHCR in June 1992 show that 80% of the population had only infrequent access to water and 20% had no access at all to water or electricity. These conditions only worsened throughout the siege and until its end in 1995, as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia summarised, “there was no safe place in Sarajevo; one could be killed or injured anywhere and anytime”.

In 1993, the situation was so dire that the army resorted to building a tunnel, which became known as the Tunnel of Hope (or Tunnel of Life). Construction of the tunnel began on 28 January 1993, with groups of volunteers digging from two neighbourhoods: Dobrinja and Butmir. The two groups first touched hands on 30 July 1993, somewhere under Sarajevo airport, which was at that time controlled by the United Nations.

Close-up of map, showing where the tunnel went under Sarajevo airport.

Throughout the remaining months of the siege, the tunnel allowed humanitarian supplies and army personnel in to Sarajevo. For many civilians the tunnel was the place that marked their departure from Sarajevo and their move towards other countries as refugees. It’s highly likely that some of the people who came to Australia from Sarajevo as refugees, particularly in the final years of the war, would have come through this tunnel.

Edis and Bajro Kolar, under whose house the Butmir entrance to the tunnel was built, estimate the daily average of people going through the tunnel at 4,000. This figure would include a very high percentage of military personnel and people delivering aid, so it’s not known exactly how many civilians left Sarajevo, and then Bosnia, through this tunnel. However, for those who did leave this way there’s no question that it was a last resort.

Video footage at the museum shows how uncomfortable the walk through the tunnel was. It was 800 metres long and around 1.5 metres high, so most people had to stoop. It was also prone to flooding, which was risky given the electrical wires running along the tunnel, and the lack of air circulation was another big problem. Today only a small section of the tunnel is available to tourists, due to safety concerns about the rest of the tunnel.

Inside the section of tunnel which is open to visitors.

The museum, like the tunnel itself, has the continued support of the Kolar family whose house concealed the Butmir entrance to the tunnel. In the museum’s video footage, you can watch one of the Kolars handing people cups of water as they emerged from the tunnel. While the museum highlights the contribution of the Kolar family, visitors are not told of the Kolars’ motivations for enabling the tunnel. Why that house, out of the many in Butmir? Why that family? The Serbian army knew of the tunnel, but couldn’t find its entrances, so instead shelled the general area. You can still see the damage on the house, which is now the front of the museum.

The Kolar family house, the Butmir entrance to the Tunnel of Hope, and now the site of the museum.

This relatively small museum seems to capture so many aspects of the siege in one place: the struggle to get food and humanitarian supplies to the city; the desperation of civilians trying to leave; the UN in the middle, watching from Sarajevo airport. For those trying to understand the anguish of the siege and the determination of those who lived through it, the Tunnel of Hope provides a good starting point.

Vietnamese Here: Contemporary Art & Reflections – by Anh Nguyen

History and Memory offer a space of play and wonder for artists in diaspora. Vietnamese Here exhibits the contemporary works of four visual artists as well as playwrights and authors of Vietnamese heritage, who enjoy that space in Australia.

[Artists-Presenters: Nadia Rhook, Dominic Golding, Hoa Pham, Anh Nguyen, Hoang Nguyen, Naomi Ngo, Chi Vu]

These works engage with the spaces in memory, placing the past in the present, to reflect the myriad of diasporic experiences that sit at odds with what mainstream media represents as just another refugee or boat person story.

Cultural identity politics becomes peripheral in these works, as the artists push upon their relationship with, and conception of, Vietnamese heritage. These cultivations from the ashes in Australia become the soil for a flourishing of art and literature that is to come.

[Anh Nguyen, University of Melbourne, and Nadia Rhook, La Trobe University, co-curators]

We would like to especially thank Joy Damousi for her opening remarks and support of the this exhibition that grew out of Anh Nguyen’s research and oral history interviews, which is a part of the ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellowship.

[ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellowship team: Anh Nguyen, Sarah Green, Niro Kandasamy, Joy Damousi]

The launch was a great celebratory evening of shared stories and conversations about the Vietnamese community and their contribution to the public conversation on Australian immigration.

For more information about the artists and writers, please visit their websites:

Phuong Ngo,
Hoang Tran Nguyen,

Naomi Ngo,!AuziUMRStgpjg5ccpA8sfczAQXjIBA

Dominic Golding,

Hoa Pham,

Chi Vu,

*Special thanks to Jennifer Tran from Dual Identity Leadership Program for modeling Phuong Ngo’s Ao dia and Lulu’s Café and Gallery, North Melbourne.

Histories of Controversy: Food and Migrant Resistance

Below is a short extract from my upcoming book Histories of Controversy: Bonegilla Migrant Centre (available for pre-order now)Each chapter addresses a “controversial” episode or aspect of Bonegilla’s history, and in so doing provides an alternative history of the postwar immigration scheme in Australia.

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The following discussion will demonstrate that, as residents resisted and expressed their desires, and as Australia slowly transformed from a monocultural Anglo-British society in the 1950s into a multi-ethnic one that eventually rejected the doctrine of assimilation by the late 1960s, so too did provisions for meeting difference at Bonegilla evolve. However, in some cases, change was less a matter of progressive ideological change, and more a matter of convenience and administrative ease. The issue of ‘improved’ standards remains debatable—this is not always a progressive, linear narrative. This chapter will first explore why and how food has become so important in memories of Bonegilla. It will then offer an alternative history of Bonegilla’s food controversies, one which places migrant recollections and resistance to established food practices at the fore. Finally, it will try to make sense of responses to migrant resistance and changes to food practices at Bonegilla…

Centres like Bonegilla (and others, like Greta in New South Wales or Northam in Western Australia) were first points of mediation. It was in these spaces that migrants and their needs first came into collision with an unresponsive administration, particularly over food, which could become a matter of cultural resistance on both sides. While Italian protesters in 1952 were not motivated exclusively by the poor quality of food at Bonegilla, but rather by a lack of job allocations, food was nonetheless a catalyst. Food was grounds for resistance and contention for much of Bonegilla’s history, and in countless memories of the centre. There is a reason why historian Catherine Panich’s engaging account of postwar migration, Sanctuary?, included a chapter on ‘Food and Friction’: these are the points at which cultural differences are made tangible…

The bitter conflicts that erupted over food are not only contained in memories that have no long-term economic or philosophical implications: they were not but ‘short-term impositions’.[i] What if we were to consider these recollections, as contentious and contested as they are, for their historical insights into first encounters with the systems of bureaucracy that formed the postwar immigration scheme, and as a means to explore migrant resistance, agency and cultural negotiation?  Not only do these memories provide an image of ‘hostel life’, they also bring to the fore migrants’ complete dependence on the immigration centres for basic sustenance, for these ‘communal systems of food supply’.[ii] This system also had the effect of intervening in and cutting away family and cultural habits of consumption. This food history—at times a sensory history—can therefore be framed as a struggle for control against the intrinsic limitations of centres to meet the needs of residents.


[i] Panich, p. 81.

[ii] ibid., p. 63.

Confronting the past: The fate of asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka

Reconciliation efforts by the Sri Lankan government have made little progress in advancing the rights of the Tamil minority group in a real sense, not least since the change in government in 2015.  Sri Lankan Tamils including children continue to arrive to Australia eight years after the civil war ended in 2009 between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.  Tamils flee their island nation fearing persecution and they struggle to see a future for themselves in a country that has denied them equal rights for decades.  Some Tamils risk their lives and arrive to Australia by boat, while others arrive as migrants.  Many are now Australian citizens, however there remains a group of Tamils in offshore Australian detention centers – their claims for refugee status in many ways reinforcing the massive failure of the Sri Lankan government to confront its past and make meaningful steps towards improving the situation.  Consequently, the asylum seekers face the prospect of returning to a country where their safety is not guaranteed.

The following article written by the author was recently published in The Conversation AU and provides a glimpse into the fate of returned asylum seekers to Sri Lanka:



Incompatible memories?

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Exhibition on Jasenovac concentration camp, Banja Luka


This week I’ve been working on a paper for a workshop on War and Memory. I read back through my writing on memorials I visited last year in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including this one for killed children; I wondered about my friend Amar who lives in Banja Luka, in Republika Srpska, and works so hard for an advocacy organisation that pushes for public recognition of war atrocities; and I thought about the parents of killed children in Prijedor, who are still fighting for a memorial over twenty years after the war ended. And then I was so wrapped up in trying to figure out what I wanted to say about the importance of remembering, that I decided to read David Rieff’s 2016 book In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies.

I’ve not finished Rieff’s book yet, so I can’t tell you if it concludes with an ode to amnesia, but I keep thinking of a particular line:

Historically, it is only when there is no clear winner that both sides may be able to sustain their own incompatible memories. pp.13

Rieff suggests that Bosnia and Herzegovina after the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords is an example of this situation. What’s been bugging me is trying to elucidate the particular incompatibilities of public memory in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s not simply that each “side” has come to different figures for numbers killed, or different explanations for war crimes, though that’s certainly the case. A more striking incompatibility to me lies not in disputing claims, but rather choosing to commemorate particular historic atrocities while ignoring recent events.

For example, there is ample evidence that in 1992 many people were detained in concentration camps in Bosnia. In August that year the International Committee for the Red Cross visited the Banja Luka region and found 3718 prisoners in the Manjaca concentration camp and approximately 1435 at Trnopolje. Last year I went to the Museum of Republika Srpska to see if I could find any mention there of the camps. I did find an exhibition about a concentration camp, but it was about Jasenovac, the Nazi concentration camp that, according to the museum exhibition, killed 700,000 Serbs during World War Two. Ben Lieberman argues that the 1970s and 1980s saw a revival of a narrative of Serb victimhood which included crimes such as Jacenovac.

What was striking to me was not the fact that Jacenovac is held in collective memory, but the way in which the exhibition incorporated the stories of the Nuremburg trials with the word “genocide” used in the descriptions. When I looked around the same museum for an exhibition about war crimes and genocide committed against local residents in the 1990s, there was nothing.

Returning to Rieff’s line about “incompatible memories”, I wonder if the incompatibility here is not between different accounts of events at Jasenovac as such, but rather the jarring contrast between acknowledgement of this camp and the total lack of representation of other more recent camps. It is not that one “side” has chosen to represent Jasenovac in a different way to the other “side”, nor would it have been incompatible to have exhibitions about both Jasenovac and the camps of the 1990s. In this case, the incompatibility lies between the Jasenovac exhibition and the dreadful silence that accompanies it, making the museum look outdated under the most generous of interpretations, and wilfully exclusive under a more realistic one.

Historical Childhoods and Histories of Emotion

Earlier this week, Mary (Tomsic) and I attended the Australasian Society for the History of Children and Youth Conference, called ‘(Re)Examining Historical Childhoods’ at the Australian Catholic University. The opportunity to engage with scholars working in the field of childhood and children’s history—from literary, legal, and arts-based perspectives—provided interesting perspectives from which to consider our own histories of child refugees. In particular, Professor David Pomfret’s keynote ‘Difficult Histories, Dangerous Pasts: Childhood, Disease and Emotion in Colonial Asia’ made me question my own approach to emotion in history. That is, how do we study the emotional in its historical context? The idea of childhood and children can bring up highly emotional and morally-charged topics. Pomfrey was interested in how the emotional could be scaled-up from the level of families to the level of the (colonial) state. In these contexts—in which the sick child performed an emotional function in highlighting the dangers of imperial transmission and transgression between Britain, France and their colonies in Asia—the child is often silenced and contained.

What cannot be silenced from history, however, is the emotion such children incite—or indeed the lack of emotion they incite, in the case of children deemed not worthy of protection due to class or racial prejudices. The latter point was taken up by many papers presented at the conference, including those that addressed the abuse of children in institutional care in Australia in the 20th century. Care Leavers, including Frank Golding and Jacqueline Wilson, were present to testify to, and to historicise, the low level of regard afforded to children in care—and the overwhelming contempt and disdain that colours every emotional inscription on their official records. Understanding the institutional contexts that propped up and perpetuated this abuse is important to understanding the emotionology of Australian childhoods, and the ‘hidden’ stories that the public have only recently begun to hear.

Overall, the conference also helped me to crystallise my own research interests: perhaps what I’m most interested in is the efforts of former child refugees to construct their own family histories, an emotional process for those seeking to understand the violence and displacement their refugee parents faced during and after WWII. As I continue with my research, I hope that I remain conscious of how the emotional can shape both the institutional and intimate (family) contexts of their experiences.

Supporting Refugee Education

Conflict has been an overarching burden in the lives of many refugee children now living in Australia. There are a number of additional barriers, as a result of adjustment into the schooling system, that contribute to the difficulties some children have excelling in the mainstream Australian schooling system.

For many refugee children in Australia, school acts as an important institution that assists in their resettlement and integration into mainstream Australian society. However, there are many barriers that this very institution creates. There is a significant level of responsibility bestowed on the education system to ensure that this system is supportive and inclusive of young refugees and their families.

Learning English is considered one of the first points of integration into Australian mainstream education systems and eventually the labour market for many newly settled refugees. Schools provide an opportunity for this step of integration through facilitating “access to language and social networks” which contributed towards establishing a new sense of belonging in their new community (Christie & Sidhu, 2002). For many refugee children, education is expected to play a dominant role in psychological, cultural and social adjustment.

“Children of refugee parents who are born in Australia can also be affected by generational family trauma, simply by being part of a family that is dislocated, grieving and mourning the loss of loved ones and homeland” says Dr. Monika Krajčovičová and Dr. Erika Novotná.

There are a number of barriers that prevent some children from feeling settled and included within the school environment. It is important that these issues are brought into the public discourse and important for policymakers and educators to acknowledge. Children are often experiencing a number of barriers including racism, exclusion, community attitudes, difficulties in the home as well as the burden of a previously disrupted education of educational associated barriers including attention and learning difficulties. Many children face ongoing challenges with mental health issues due to trauma including survivor’s guilt.

Most children will face particular challenges because of their age and experiences, be that experiences directly related to fleeing their home country or experiences due to ongoing trauma and challenges. Many will carry scars of war and displacement be this direct or indirectly, and almost all of these children will experience some level of physical and psychological effects of trauma. This may manifest in the form of language, literacy difficulties due limited prior education as well as issues associated with identity and belonging.

Psychosocial and emotional needs are important to consider and integrate into programs, both of which were outlined in the Dakar Education for All Framework led by UNESCO. According to the Victorian Multicultural Commission, schools have an integral role to play in supporting the increasing number of refugee families and their integration into the community.

Children who have experience early and intense traumatic events have an increased likelihood of being fearful and may have problems with authority figures, such as teachers and police. This is an important aspect that must be incorporated into the schooling system, and educators to have a in-depth understanding of these complications in that it significantly impacts the relationships formed within the classroom.

An understanding of the reasons for forced migration, and barriers that prevent social cohesion within the community are essential when constructing efforts to facilitated integration and acceptance into the community. It is essential that policymakers and educators are sensitive to these factors and foster a supportive and inclusive environment that aids the settlement of young refugees. It is important to remember that refugees bring with them a wealth of information, skills and resilience that can be highly beneficial for the community.

Creating New Knowledge

The topic of refugees is one of the most significant discussions shaping the world today; we hear about the plight of refugees on the news almost every day, read about the politics of refugee resettlement, witness images of suffering children, and share personal views with friends and family.  Academics in refugee studies have a critical role to play in these discussions because their research contributes to new knowledge, but it also reminds us that there is much more to learn about the topic.

Global Histories of Refugees in the 20th and 21st Centuries Conference and Masterclass, October 2016

Conferences provide academics with the opportunity to share ideas, receive feedback on their own research and make connections with people.  A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference on the Global Histories of Refugees in the 20th and 21st Centuries, held at Melbourne University.  The conference programme was filled with budding scholars and well-known names in the field, including Professor Linda Briskman and Professor Peter Gatrell, as well as refugee advocates from the community.  The variety of research projects presented at the conference was expansive and reinforced the usefulness of history to refugee scholarship.  Some of the themes of the conference were: ‘Children and Youth’, ‘Defining Refugees’, ‘Australian Government and Political Control’, ‘Photographic Representations’, ‘Memory’, ‘Welfare and Settlement’.  Yes – it was information overload and I attempted -not always successfully – to make connections to my own research.  Here are some of the highlights from the three-day conference and masterclass:

  • The keynote lecture was one of the most important talks of Day 1 and while it was at 9am I found myself not falling asleep. Among other topics, Professor Linda Briskman spoke about the role of the academic as an advocate, and her own experiences in this position.  How do academics position themselves as advocates? Is this even an option?
  • Representations of child refugees is critical, and I noted that a number of research projects used the voices of refugees themselves; the emotions, experiences and narratives brought a real face to the research. This humanising aspect is often absent in discussions, and yet so critical to understanding refugees and their histories.
  • History matters. In his masterclass a couple of days after the conference Professor Peter Gatrell got us to think about the most basic and complex question: why does refugee history matter? We were split up into different groups and had to answer this question with a specific audience in mind.  I was in the group that was pitching an idea for a TV show about refugee history.  Our pretend TV show ‘de-familiarised the familiar’ and interrogated taken for granted truths about a rural town in Australia, by touching on notions of space, culture, history, belonging and food.  By the end of the lesson, I was convinced that viewers would watch our show and stay tuned for Episode 2.  Now to pitch our ideas to a TV station….

Overall, the conference and masterclass were useful and provided a much needed meeting point for academics to share their research on the history of refugees.  For me, the three days plus the masterclass were about creativity, and how people from all walks of life, including researchers from different disciplines, can advance discussions about refugees in their own unique way.

Australia’s Long History of Denial

Australia has a history of denial regarding matters of sexual and physical abuse, particularly those involving women and children. The recent release of the Nauru files and the countless pieces of evidence that has been put forward of acts of abuse and harm directed at women and children has been met with denial by the Australian government. Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton’s comments following the release of the files, are in keeping with the history of denial and dismissal of sexual and physical abuse that has long characterised successive Australian governments.

The discourse of denial that has emerged following the release of the documents is reminiscent of those, which have and continue to circulate in response to the long history of physical and sexual abuse of Aboriginal peoples whilst in the care of the Australian government.

The recent leak of more than 2,000 incident reports from Australia’s offshore processing centre on Nauru demands urgent action for the protection of men, women and children from physical and sexual abuse. However, the response from the government is echoed perfectly in Dutton’s recent comments surrounding the reports, referring to them as “false allegations in an attempt to get into Australia”. The blatant denial of the abuse-taking place is part of a wider discourse of undermining and rendering victims as untrustworthy that has characterised Australia’s response.

The Australian government has proven, through the denial and inaction toward institutionalised abuse experienced by Aboriginal children in the hands of government agencies, the disregard of the findings of the Forgotten Children Report and the denial and questioned credibility of the incidents within the Nauru files, that they are unwilling to protect those most vulnerable in their ‘care’. One of Australia’s most senior mental health experts, Dr. Michael Dudley has spoken on the denial of the Australian government, “Public numbing and indifference towards state abuses in Nazi Germany resembles that enabling Australia’s immigration detention centres”.



Photo credit:

The response from the government regarding the reports that were put forward fuels a dangerous notion that only some victims are deserving of our belief, trust and protection, and the government is to determine whom these individuals are. In what capacity can a government deny extensive accounts of children documenting the abuse they experience, both sexual and physical, and be labelled as untrustworthy?

The leaks paint a painful picture of widespread systemic child abuse at the hands of those employed to ‘protect’ them. The reports have affirmed what has been known for a long time, yet denied by the Australian government. Whilst there is widespread denial of the abuses at the hands of Government agencies, how can we progress as a nation to alternatives to offshore processing?



Australian picture books: Humanising and thoughtful depictions of displaced children
Illustration from Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro’s Ships in the Field (Ford Street Publishing) from Susanne Gervay’s website

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald & Freya Blackwood was selected for the ‘Read for Australia’ event on Friday 2 September 2016 where school students around the country read the same book as part of National Literacy and Numeracy Week. My Two Blankets tells the story of a young girl who is making a new home in Australia and focuses on her experiences of learning an additional language.

Through this wonderfully written and illustrated book that is both for children and about children, we are prompted to think carefully about critical issues that dominate the world globally and locally. Taking the time to read this picture book provides an excellent opportunity to consider impacts of war, forced movement of people and experiences of resettlement from a child’s perspective.

My Two Blankets is not the only picture book that should be read by children and adults alike – there are many others by Australian authors that focus on the impacts of war and displacement on children’s lives. They include: The Little Refugee (2011) by Anh Do, Suzanne Do & Bruce Whatley, Ships in the Field (2012) by Susanne Gervay & Anna Pignataro, My Dog (2000) by John Heffernan & Andrew McLean; Ziba Came on a Boat (2007) by Liz Lofthouse & Robert Ingpen, Dancing the Boom-Cha-Cha Boogie (2005) by Narelle Oliver; A Safe Place to Live (2011) by Bic Walker, The Treasure Box (2013) by Margaret Wild & Freya Blackwood, Home and Away (2008) by John Marsden & Matt Ottley; and Teacup (2015) by Rebecca Young & Matt Ottley.

In terms of public debate about people seeking asylum – images are often used in newspapers in a straightforward illustrative manner – for example to ‘prove’ people threw their children overboard (as discussed by scholars including Jane Lydon). In picture books, it’s the interplay between words and images where meaning is made. The significance of telling stories about refugees and displaced children though the genre of picture books is that they entice readers of all ages to look carefully at the images and text, to have conversations about them and consider stories and experiences that are often publicly presented in an antagonistic manner.

Researchers at the University of Queensland have examined national newspaper front pages that depict asylum seekers and found dehumanising patterns which they argue define the possibilities of any political discussion. The images and stories in picture books are created for difference audiences than newspaper front pages, but they are significant public representations too. In picture books we see greater possibilities for discussion and humanising patterns which are vital for us to have and share.

One case which demonstrate this possibility in detail can be seen in Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro’s Ships in the Field. It is a prime example that conveys the effects of war, displacement and dislocation on a little girl and her family by drawing on the family histories and experiences of both the author and illustrator.

The story is of a little girl who now lives with her mother and father in what could be Australia. The little girl navigates life with her toy dog Brownie. She wants a real dog too. She draws a picture of a dog and shows her Papa. He says ‘One day you will have a real dog’. We learn her Ma ‘had a dog. In the old country. Before there was war.’ A little white dog appears in an almost ghost like-presence on this page. Anna Pignataro has written about her parents being expelled from their home in Egypt and having to leave a pet dog in Italy before migrating to Australia.

In the story, a double page without any written text follows, we see people heading towards a ship in the war-torn ‘old country’ and a dog, moving through the images. The image of ships continues in the text, with additional layers of written language.

The story carries on, on Sundays the girl and her parents go picnicking in the country. On a trip there is the following exchange: “‘Look at the ships in the field,’ Papa says.” The image accompanying the written text is of sheep in the field, and is merged with people leaving the war-torn ‘old country’ by train and boat. The girl’s parents are in the foreground.

The dialogue continues on the next page.

Brownie and I giggle. ‘Papa, you mean sheep.’

‘Yes, the ships.’ Papa wiggles his moustache.
Brownie looks at me sadly. He hates it when other people laugh at the way Papa talks.
I hate it too. Ma says nothing.
I hug Brownie and then start to sing.
‘Baa, baa, black ships. Have you any wool?’
The four of them sing the song together.

The interplay here between the written language and the illustrations is layered with meaning of ships and sheep. A complex story is told in which the girl and Brownie can giggle at her father’s language but also understand it as making his difference and something that is derided by others. Susanne Gervay has spoken about this occurring and her father’s ‘Hunglish’ (The Sun-Herald, 26 February 2012, p6).. In the story, the girl and her dog choose ship, rather than sheep when singing the nursery rhyme. They refuse linguistic assimilation of the new world and choose, in this moment, to be like Papa. With this example, and others too, the words and images in picture books convey lived histories of displacement and loss.

Reading and sharing stories matters for all of us, as stories are an important way in which collectively we can think about issues, ideas and values that are important. The key significance of having My Two Blankets as part of a shared nationwide reading experience is that it creates opportunities for us all to think carefully about the impact of war and displacement on children’s lives as well as how we publicly talk about these issues.

Number of posts found: 17