by Teneale Lavender

West Yorkshire. Boy. 25 years.
He was called by the far south land. By adventure. By dreams. By freedom.

Wollongong. Aboriginal girl. 28 years.
Birthed on the stolen lands of the Dharawal. Called by city. By aspiration. By freedom.

Both displaced somehow.

The tiddas, a night. Intoxication and renewal
sweetness of freedom and insecurity, how she wanted to be, not knowing the way.

The sails of ‘Australia’

A bar, a night.
Working for his dreams. His future.
Sweet sweat
exchanged for freedom.

She saw him, body bent, through the broken strap on her Kmart heels which were all she could afford. Almost couldn’t afford. But they carried her like she knew where she was heading. His smile was intoxicating. He was intoxicated by her and his face, intoxication on his face for longer than his birth years. His sound was foreign and fresh, but his voice was known within her. She had been hearing it call for a time.

He said,
away from the lights.
Leave for a little while.

Show me this country’s song.

Not it’s ‘national narrative’, but how it sings, to you. Real story. Real song.

Ngunnawal country.
War memorial.

She felt warmth in the cold museum of war. She sensed mateship amongst the human waste, even when the English sent them to slaughter in Anzac Cove. She looked for the monuments for the Kooris, Murris and Nyoongahs. She needed to see their sacrifices too.

Celebrated. Respected.

Acknowledged? Sung.

He found it for her, not listed on the map. Far down a path, out the back which was worn and tired. Unkept. Unkempt.

A small plaque. He didn’t even read the words.

In that moment, he realised the narrative of ‘fair go’, wasn’t for all and he saw a piece of her crumble and decided to sing for her, scream for her. Intoxicated. He wrote a letter of outrage and claimed of the injustice and the love. For her.

She heard him. And she loved him. Fiercely.

But she was damaged then. Unsure. Lost.
Country was speaking softly to her. She couldn’t hear.

Too much noise. Not,
enough silence.

She was looking in him, to him for the things she needed.
To be seen.
Love without conditions.

A lost child, from the stolen lands of the Dharawal.
35 years now.
A softness in her.

Two little humans born of her. Boys.

She could never have dreamed of their perfection and voice. They have her smile and their father’s patience. Her unconditional love flows to them now and she is home on the lands of the Biripi. She finally heard country’s cry for her, louder. Sweet silence. Mothers embrace. 


Safe at last.

Healing begins.

Then the boy from West Yorkshire. He now has home in her land. His dreams of freedom, found.

True, has come for both of us.

Small town girl. Small town boy.
Connected, carried on the shoulders of ancestors, near and far. Found each other. Under the sails, in the house that Jorn Utzon built.


Teneale Lavender was born on the lands of the Dharawal, south of Wollongong. Her ancestors come from Yuin Country. She is an Indigenous Health and Culture Lecturer in Medicine at the University of New South Wales. She has worked in Indigenous health for many years, both in government and education roles and is passionate about changing the deficit narrative of Indigenous health. She is an advocate for holistic health and cultural humility in medical education. She currently lives and cares for a patch of sacred ground on the lands of the Biripi with her family.