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177 Nations of Tasmania : A personal journey of discovery

After my most recent interview with Ali, who grew up in Beirut, Lebanon I started to reflect on how much I've learned from all these interviews - 84 to date.

When I started thinking about doing this three years ago, it sprung out of having my life an career turned upside down by the dramatic changes that were caused by COVID-19. After overcoming the initial anxiety and then depression as it seemed all the my options were closed off, I started to think about retraining to transition into a new field. But when it got down to it, I couldn't see myself doing another 2-3 years of study at university. The expense was off-putting by itself. But I didn't want to grass to grow under my feet, I wanted to learn, develop myself, get no skills. I thought maybe another way to do this was to undertake some mission or large project.

Starting the podcast wasn't like starting something entirely new. I could build on skills from my journalist training and documentary-making experience. I could afford to make mistakes, and I knew where to find resources and people to help fix my mistakes.

Of course, I have acquired new skills, especially technically ones, and developed existing ones, such as interviewing skills. Other things I could still do a lot better, particularly in chasing people up and marketing the podcast, but all in all I've got a lot of practical skills and experience doing this big project.

However, perhaps the most satisfying thing has been having my interest in the wider world re-awoken. Listening to so many different stories from such diverse parts of the world. In the process of preparing for these interviews, of course I've done a lot of reading, especially about countries of which I knew next to nothing such as Honduras . Often the geography and history of a place can give you that broader context that helps you to understand the issues that have contributed to migration out of the country. On the way, I have learnt interesting little facts about cultures and traditions. The purpose is usually to get some ideas for some insightful questions to ask, but in the process I feel like I've expanded my knowledge of the history and cultures of many places and humanity in general.

Ever since I was a child I've been fascinated by other countries and cultures, and I always found my own family background, which is very homogenous and almost exclusively from the British Isles, to be rather staid and boring. So I've always just loved the journey of learning and hearing stories and with this podcast there are always new people to meet and new stories to hear from a different part of the world or different perspective.

In many cases also, you can see the impact of larger historical events on the lives of individuals and families. For example, an elderly German man I interviewed, John, spoke of his experiences of WW2 as a child and the destitution and hunger immediately after the war ended, and then of course the impact of the Soviet occupation and the Berlin War. Then there was, Anna, a 94-year-old Hungarian lady, who recalls the German annexation of Austria when she was at high school and a particularly harrowing story of a little Jewish boy who was taken away on a truck. When you hear the personal stories the events you read about in history books take on a much greater significance and meaning. They cease to be mere abstract actions or dates on a page, but events of real consequence and though they may have happened a long way away, the ripples are still felt as far away as Tasmania.

I knew much of the history of the Pinochet military dictatorship in Chile and the coup in 1973. But hearing Nancy's memories of it from when she

was at school really brought home the impact on ordinary people. She described how they used to get free milk at school, and then the day after the coup happened, it stopped. This seemed to represent in simple but bleak terms, what the coup meant for many Chileans.

But these are just a few examples amongst many, and I hope that people who listen will get as much out of these as I did.

It's also been a chance to hear about how other cultures see life, and how their environment shapes many of their traditions and way of life. I think

particularly about those who come from island cultures such as Samoa, Mauritius or Barbados. On islands, people are very dependent on each other and in earlier times they were truly isolated with little technology. As a result, I've found they all share very common characteristics, in particular a very strong sense of community and family. In fact there is little distinction between family and community, because "family" includes everyone in the neighbourhood or village. For some, Tasmania is a more comfortable environment than a big place like Sydney or Melbourne, while others still miss that sense of community from their homeland.

Also, living on an island myself, I'm just inherently fascinated about hearing from people who were brough up on other islands ( though mostly much smaller than Tasmania ! ). Having interviewed quite a few "islanders" now and read even more, I can definitely seem some similarities between them all.

So, to sum up, I've listened a lot, read a lot, and learnt a lot about some of the many peoples who have come to these shores for a new life, and it's been enormously stimulating and rewarding, and I hope many others will listen and get something from these interviews, even if it's just to awaken a little bit of curiosity.

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