By Katie Scott
When I left Aotearoa (New Zealand) in late 2018 after a whirlwind Christmas visit, I wish I’d known it would be a few years before I’d be allowed to see my family again. I’ve spent this long without them before, but I’ll never take the proximity of Australia and Aotearoa for granted again.
Lockdown exacerbated the homesickness of all the Kiwis I know here in Australia. The feeling in the past year (amid all the other heartache of a planet reeling from a lack of any sense of security) of a snatched away promise at the hint of any announcement about a travel bubble has been excruciating for anyone who has come to call Australia home.
The nostalgia is thick and every refrain of every song, phrase, recipe, memory, glues to you and drags you down a little, when normally it would be a cheerful reminder of the place that built you up and gave you the privilege and bravery to try and settle wherever you dared dream.
My partner and I moved to Naarm (the Indigenous name for Melbourne) in early 2005. We love this city and everything we have been able to achieve and enjoy here. We arrived dreaming of starting bands and playing loads of shows at every pub on every corner that we had heard about from returning friends.
We fancied the idea of using the city as a launch pad for further international adventures, but ultimately this place became home too. I’m so pleased to hear a firm date has been set for the start of the travel bubble. I want to hug my loved ones so much it can make my eyes prick just to think of it.
There is a concept in Maori culture called Tūrangawaewae. A close literal translation is “a place to stand”– Tūranga meaning standing place and waewae meaning feet.
When I think about going home, I think of tūrangawaewae. I think of the landscapes where I grew, made mistakes, found imagination, creativity and love.
I think of standing in the bush and that intense smell of humus, picking and chewing kawakawa leaves as I muddle my way through and delight in the canopy (as unique as Australia’s).
And the sky. One of the first things I noticed flying into Tullamarine all those years ago was how enormous and endless the sky seemed. In Aotearoa, the clouds stack close and silvered like you can imagine being inside a glass globe.
When I return, I want to embrace the land just as I want to embrace my family. To stand and once again absorb my tūrangawaewae as a woman who has grown and ultimately found herself in Naarm. The experience will be many more times potent because of all the yearning of 2020.
Katie Scott is musician, writer and public servant hailing from Te Moana-a-Toi - Bay of Plenty, Aotearoa.