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We Are Here: Stories of Home, Place and Belonging
Homelessness can take many guises – sleeping rough, yes, but also couch-surfing, squatting, or staying in a refuge, boarding house or caravan park. The same can be said of the people who experience homelessness. Not defined simply by their predicament, they’re a diverse group. They may be siblings, parents, grandparents; people who study or work; people who’ve moved or migrated, yet to find their feet. People with full lives, and much to offer.
A new profit-for-purpose book from Affirm Press, We Are Here: Stories of Home, Place and Belonging, is a testament to the unique insights of people who’ve known homelessness in Australia. Edited by novelist, homelessness researcher and former Big Issue deputy editor Meg Mundell, it offers a bounty of extraordinary true stories from a wide range of writers – prominent names, emerging voices and first-timers – who have themselves experienced homelessness. Behrouz Boochani, Krissy Kneen and Claire G. Coleman appear alongside undiscovered talents, exploring the idea of place – and how our sense of it changes when homeless.
Hosted by Mundell, and presented in partnership with Writers Victoria, hear from contributors Claire G. Coleman, Roderick Waller, Ayub Abdi-Barre and Jody Letts about their stories, their places and their writing. Hear readings from the book – and learn about the process of putting it together – at this celebration of survival, place and belonging.
'It’d be near-impossible to read this rich and humane mosaic of stories and not have how you conceive of homelessness completely reframed. A beautiful testament to survival, resilience and hope.' – Benjamin Law
Prefer to watch? Catch up on our live-streamed video below. Includes Auslan interpretation.
Meg Mundell’s second novel, The Trespassers (UQP), is out in August 2019. Her first novel, Black Glass (Scribe), was shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award, the Norma K. Hemming Award and two Aurealis Awards. Meg's also the editor of We Are Here: Stories of Home, Place & Belonging (Affirm Press, 2019), a collection of writings by people who have experienced homelessness.
Claire G. Coleman is a writer from Western Australia. She identifies with the South Coast Noongar people. Her family are associated with the area around Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun. Claire grew up in a Forestry settlement in the middle of a tree plantation, where her dad worked, not far out of Perth.
She wrote her black&write! fellowship-winning manuscript Terra Nullius while travelling around Australia in a caravan. Terra Nullius was published by Hachette Australia and will be available in North America in 2018 with Small Beer Press. Terra Nullius won the Norma K Hemming Award, and was shortlisted for the 2018 Stella Prize and for Best Sci-Fi Novel in the 2017 Aurealis Awards. The Old Lie, coming in September 2019, is her second novel.
Roderick Waller was born in Yorkshire in 1948 to a working-class family of ship builders. In 1971 he immigrated to Australia. He has worked as a jackaroo, a UN economist and a consultant in developing Asia–Pacific countries. Two passions are nature and creative writing. Rod has read his writing publicly at The Wheeler Centre, Yorkshire Winter, Apollo Bay Writers Festival, and Roomers magazine events. Founder of the Port Vila Poetry Society (Vanuatu), he is gregarious by nature and inherited from his father the dry wit of Yorkshire humour. A staunch AA member, he’s had four years of happy sobriety.
Ayub Abdi-Barre came to Australia as a six-year-old refugee from Somalia. Placed in foster care, he later became homeless. Now living in a share house in Carlton North, he’s happy to call Melbourne home. Passionate about social justice, he works as a political advisor on topics such as the Australian–African community and the environment, and assists people from low socioeconomic situations to find safe housing. He’s obsessed with sports (watching or playing) and will strike up a conversation about climate change if the chance arises.
Jody Letts is a former defence force worker who found herself living out of a van in the Melbourne CBD while suffering from work-related injuries, illnesses and mental health issues. Jody is committed to sharing her lived experiences through the Peer Education and Support Program (PESP), run by the Council to Homeless Persons. Working with PESP, she educates the public around homelessness and advocates for positive change. She also contributes to consumer participation with Dental Health Services Victoria and the Department of Veterans Affairs.