The audio for this month is of Cambodia emerging from war and starting to get on with life. The Time has Come could be an appropriate header for both the Cambodia of 30+ years ago and Australia now with its own history to resolve.

Archives of Audio Recordings and Photos – click here

Writing for Raksmey Audio and Photos – click here

The Time has Come

A good friend of mine, Joan Hamilton, has stories that I need to hear. Joan lived among First Peoples in Redfern in the ‘old-days’ with Mum Shirl; she then shared in the struggles of the Barkindji people in Wilcannia for many years. She learned what it means to battle against grim odds and later in…

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A friend of Kevin Malone

One of my friends from Cambodia times, sent a message with a request. Kevin Malone is now working with a Karuk tribal man from the redwood forests of northern California; his name is Terry Supahan. Kevin tells us that Terry will travel through Melbourne with a Californian group interested in ecological restoration. Kevin has convinced…

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As the World Tilts

My front window reaches from ceiling to a half metre from the floor. The road beyond my mini garden is narrow and quiet; on the opposite side there is an ancient towering Chinese Elm. Its dark triple-trunk and spreading branches are there in front of me whenever I look to the light. At night the…

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My Country

 My country? Images flicker before me. It is 1943 and we are ‘in the bush’ at our favourite spot on the Yarra River, Veronica and me. We are clinging to a branch close to the water, and jumping in. Our mother says ‘Smell the gum leaves. Look at it all, so beautiful’. She will gather…

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Joseph My Father

They say that every person born can evoke ‘the feel of the times’ from 20 or 30 years before the date of their birth. Conversations overheard meld with memories, or so it seems. It is a summer day in 1908. The place is Brunswick. Charlotte Healy is giving birth to her sixth child, a son.…

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The Life of Irene McCormack

Many who read this will have heard of the death of Irene McCormack. This 52-year-old Australian woman was executed in Peru by Shining Path guerrilla fighters. She was one of a group of five captives who were ordered to lie on the ground in a line, face down. The other four were Peruvian men, respected…

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Joy and Anticipation

I am letting myself hope and treasure the joy of life. Faith leaders representing Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian communities gathered is Sydney to pledge support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart. My friend Sherry Balcombe, a woman of Indigenous Spirituality, was there. My family joyfully celebrated wedding of Michael and Fiona My family…

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Annie O’Neill

There was a baby girl born in a tent in August 1849 in Ararat, rural Victoria. Her name was Annie O’Neill. Why Ararat? Her parents, John and Mary, had landed in Melbourne in 1841 with two young sons after a difficult 4-month voyage on the Ward Chipman.  The Port Philip settlement was only 6 years…

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Women Speak of War

The suffering in Ukraine grabs at my heart. I need to see beyond the gruesome images in the media and to catch a glimpse of life in this place of war. I hear of a Ukrainian woman tending a wounded Russian soldier and phoning his mother in Russia to tell her that her son is…

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Sok Thim Remembered

I heard by ‘snail mail’ from Bob Maat that Sok Thim has died at his home in Phnom Penh. Thim is a Cambodian friend whom I treasure. I met him in the Site 2 Camp. My first memory was of his wide smile and his quirky sense of humour. He laughed about himself. I laughed…

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Nobody who knows me well imagines that I am an avid follower of Aussie Rules Football. Yes, I was born and bred in Melbourne where Aussie Rules is close to being ‘religion’. Yes, I was born into a family of avid Carlton supporters. I can even sing ‘We’re the Mighty Blues’ word for word. As a young…

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Let it heal


In this grim time for planet earth I grasp for signs of hope, seeds of goodness. I recall the healing that gradually, gradually began after the Khmer Rouge horror ended.  Even during this tragic month there have been some sparks of hope. The people whose spirit was nurtured here were plunged into suffering which has…

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Park Hotel Watching the Crowd

Park Hotel

March 28th 2021. This day is Magha Puja for Buddhists and First Night of Passover in Judaism. For Christians it is Palm Sunday, the day of Jesus entering Jerusalem knowing the danger of speaking truth to power. It is a night of full moon. On this night a group of women and men stand in…

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Vera with 3 yo Joan


Sometimes two stories converge, and each gives meaning to the other. Stay with me while I show you. In the time between the two World Wars my mother became a vivacious red-headed young woman working in a factory making silk stockings. On Sunday nights at Jarvie St East Brunswick her family would gather around a…

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Mary Mac Killop Cob and Co Coach

Mary MacKillop and Little Lons

It was a time of world-wide depression. Those who were rich lost their investments, those who were poor lost their work, the poorest were homeless and slept on the streets. First, I need to tell you about inner-city Melbourne in 1891. A short stroll from the edge of Fitzroy where Mary MacKillop was born forty-seven…

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Desmond Tutu

Letter from Desmond Tutu

I once received a handwritten letter from Bishop Desmond Tutu.. This is the situation. Land mines should never, ever be used as a weapon of war. We both agree. Beginning in 1989 I work as a volunteer in a refugee camp. Asylum seekers held in the barbed wire enclosure of Site 2, on the border…

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Sand and sea


One magical part of the Port Philip Bay foreshore begins at the McCrae lighthouse and stretches a few hundred meters towards the head of the bay. This was our campsite, summer after summer, for years. It was bushland then, it became crowded later, now it is restored to its original state. When we camped as…

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Joseph at the Inn

Assisi and Christmas

Once I stayed in the walled town of Assisi for seven days, alone and silent. It wasn’t planned, it was wonderful. On some whim or inspiration, I had taken a tourist bus up the mountain and into this ancient town. I had been busy and would be busy again. There were free days between a…

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And then there was war

Veronica was not yet three months old and I had not turned four when World War 2 was declared on September 1st, 1939. Then Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and took Singapore. It was now the Pacific War. Australia was well and truly involved. In all there were 111 bombing attacks to the north. Gruesome posters…

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On a sunny winter morning, during a brief spell in Melbourne’s lockdowns, there was the chance for an hours-long breakfast at Riverside Spoons-in Swan Hill. The ancient gums, the paddle boat and the mighty Murray River spoke of history. The conversation was of history far, far back. Gathered at the table were Vicki Clarke Mutthi…

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The 1928 Chev

Just before the second little girl was born Joe and Vera had saved enough money to buy a second-hand 1928 Chevrolet. This car, eleven years old when they bought it, was destined to find a place in the heart of family. Vera was in labour when Joe drove her to the city so fast that…

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Melbourne and the World

For 86 years Melbourne has been my familiar ‘home base’. When a Qantas flight plays ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ I think ‘Melbourne’. If you had asked me on New Year’s Day 2019, I might have said, ‘This place is predictable. I could parachute into the inner city, the north, the west, the east or…

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Joe Healy Meets Vera Martin

When Joe Healy met a beautiful red-headed girl at a dance in a parish hall in East Brunswick he knew he was not the only one who had noticed her. The lad from Whitfield was now a young man, a licensed plumber working for an established company on the best building site in Melbourne city,…

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Cambodia’s Better August News

Throughout August 2021 I have followed global statistics charting the spread of Covid 19. There is a saying among foreigners who have lived and worked for decades in Cambodia, and have and forged lasting friendships. We tell each other, ‘You can catch Cambodeitis,. It’s a lasting love of this country’. Many of my Cambodian friends…

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Archie Roach and Nellie Moore

In our country we carry a tragedy and a shame. The First Nations Peoples carry the burden in grief that cannot be quenched. We all call it the Stolen Generations story. Archie Roach knew it, he felt in his own being, felt from within. He searched for family, culture and belonging. In some parts of…

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I was a young adult when Charlotte, the youngest daughter of my great-grandmother Honora was elderly but full of life. She loved to tell stories. She knew that a young granddaughter would want to know what life was like when her grandmother was young. Charlotte was a lively conversationalist who loved life. I thought she…

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Rathdowne Workshop Interior

Love Story on Rathdowne Street

It is one of Melbourne’s crisp sunny winter days. There is a story that I need to re-trace; this is a story that Vera, my mother, told me. I have many details and an important clue. When she was a little girl my mother lived in the family’s King Street café, near the corner of…

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Hands Up For Justice

For Justice And Equity

Today is the day of the Zoom meeting of the Josephite Justice Network. We meet each month. Two years ago there was a face to face meeting twice in the year in Sydney. ‘All is changed, changed utterly’. Here we are now, watching each other’s faces on a screen with a patchwork of 21 small…

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Jaleb and baby

Goodness and Grit in Melbourne’s West

This is a part of Victoria that I know well and love. The postcodes here are not postcodes of wealth. It is better than that. They are postcodes of pride, standing-up for each other, doing it tough, fierce loyalty, enduring friendships, resilience, dignity. If you set out from the city by train you will sense…

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Courage, Conflict and Whistle Blowing

Witness K and Bernard Collaery are in trouble.  They are being prosecuted as whistleblowers but the support for their cause gathers strength. The Australian Government spied on the East Timorese Government during oil and gas negotiations in 2004; this was a breach of trust between Australia and East Timor. Witness K was one of the…

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smiling man wearing red scarf and black beanie

The Albino Buffalo

Picture me. I am a newly arrived volunteer in a camp of Cambodian refugees: awkward, gawky, bamboozled. I wobble on a bike through squelchy red laterite mud and cross a makeshift plank bridge narrowly avoiding slithering into the water. I hear full throated laughter and turn my head for a second to glimpse the man:…

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Abbotsford Street


I am writing this from Abbotsford. This is without doubt a place of beauty. It is also where I had my first close encounter with the exploitation and injustice which so many women suffered and still do. In these months I have cultivated my tiny garden, forged friendships with my neighbours, and harvested good memories…

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They Came on Boats

My ancestors all came to this country on boats. Remarkable! Before the colony of Port Philip was 25 years from first white settlement the forebears of my father and the forbears of my mother had arrived, one by one or a family together, to start a new life. Their sailing ships docked at Williamstown in…

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Indigenous Flag

Nana Kelly and Mungo Man

It was early in 1998, in the glare and heat of a summer afternoon that I was summoned into the living room of Nana Kelly’s small cottage in Balranald. Nana Kelly was a much respected elder of the Mutthi Mutthi people; I crossed the dusty road and entered the darkened interior of this small house…

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