Temporary island home

Rosalea Ryan | Bendigo Weekly | 17-Nov-2017

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Gevaar Island, 40 kilometres due west of tiny Shoalhaven on the West Australian coast, is an isolated, largely inhospitable place at the best of times. 

In the off season, when the fishermen whose huts are the only sign of civilisation among the rocks rarely leave port on the mainland, it’s entirely deserted.

Suddenly, the unplanned arrival of an Indonesian dinghy bearing nine battered, malnourished and dehydrated passengers breathes life into Gevaar’s cluster of colourful timber shacks with their neglected kitchen gardens and sparsely stocked cupboards.

The group comprises three couples, two single travellers and an energetic and resilient three-year-old boy for whom scrambling ashore on this remote outpost is the start of an exciting adventure.

One woman looks and sounds British; to those who aren’t familiar with the region, the rest could be from anywhere in the Middle East.

In fact, they are citizens of five separate countries – Egypt, Iran, Syria, Kurdish Iraq and Afghanistan – with three religions and communicate in a mix of local languages linked together loosely by a blend of classical Arabic and somewhat rusty English.

All eight adults are hiding something: the triggers that prompted them to flee their homelands, their fears, their ambitions, their true identities.

At first glance the island is a haven for the bedraggled survivors, yet even as they settle into their makeshift community they begin to question what Australia’s reaction will be once their presence is discovered. 

Will this reportedly open and laid-back nation half a world away from their points of origin really welcome their impromptu appearance, as they’ve been assured it will, or will their uninvited occupation of Gevaar draw the ire of yet another set of hostile government officials?

Sanctuary’s author, actor-turned-bestselling-writer Judy Nunn, will be in Victoria to deliver a series of readings from her new novel in Gippsland next week. 

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