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Book review – The Lucky Ones by Melinda Ham




The narrative of Australia is often woven from different threads, taking different stories of how we belong.


The typical approach is to reference three ways that people belong here: the initial presence of First Peoples, the arrival of Europeans following colonisation, and the advent of immigration following World War Two and the beginning of the modern, multicultural country.


This is a common narrative of Australia: that different people belong here in different ways, that we’re lucky to be here, that this is a lucky country.

While this narrative can be meaningful to many and their own experiences of belonging on these lands, it can also be problematic, dismissing the sovereignty of First Peoples or the difficulty many immigrant families faced upon arrival. It ultimately ignores those who don’t find a home on these lands, those asylum seekers who are turned away, for whom Australia is not a lucky country.


The Lucky Ones by Melinda Ham is a collection of refugee experiences that weave together the stories of six different families who found their way to Australia, the lucky ones, so to speak.


Author Melinda Ham brings a journalist’s eye for research and detail.

These asylum seekers come from places like Tibet, Iraq, and Vietnam, spanning the period from World War Two to the present day. As such, the book covers refugee experiences as diverse as those leaving 1940s Poland to those fleeing the Middle East to make a home in modern-day Australia.


Award-winning journalist and foreign correspondent Melinda Ham is an immigrant herself, originating from Canada and working in South Africa, India and Singapore and now living on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.


Having worked for decades with the Associated Press, Daily Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald, she brings a journalist’s eye for research and detail. This handling of the refugee’s stories has the ability to portray the plight of those seeking asylum, including experiences of poverty, terrorism, incarceration and assault. The book’s tone is a balancing act of empathy and objectivity as a result.


Australian policies continue to utilise detention and deterrence against many asylum seekers. The Salvation Army has long recognised that the ability to seek asylum is a basic human right. The debate about asylum seekers, and specifically those arriving by boat, has had a polarising impact on the Australian community. Some find a place to belong here, but many aren’t so lucky.


While there are no easy answers, The Lucky Ones takes threads of refugee experience across generations to make a better story of Australia, one that serves as an example for the future.









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