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Sometimes it’s hard to pay attention to the news. The litany of bad stories never seems to end and it’s easy to let compassion fatigue set in. Or sometimes it’s just more convenient to watch MasterChef. But other times, there’s a story that is so compelling it jumps out at you and sucks you in, forcing you to mix your metaphors in the process.

Just like late on Friday night when I came home and jumped online and the headline of the lead story on the SMH website caught my attention: ‘Sydney’s ‘Dickensian’ scandal: six dead’. Clicking through, I found that the article was about a boarding house in Marrickville where six people had died in shocking conditions between 2009 and 2010. The state coroner had told reporters that her investigations had uncovered a culture of neglect in the home, resulting in widespread malnourishment, oversedation and inadequate medical care.
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A sandstone wall on the F3. (Photo: RMS)

It’s now almost two months since I arrived back in Australia. One thing I’ve continually been reminded of in this time is that it is people, more than places, that give me a sense of belonging. There have been lots of opportunities to share special moments with family, catch up with old friends, meet new babies and resume long-running conversations with close friends and mentors. These ‘people moments’ are easily the best part of being back home.

At the same time though, places can be important too. One such place for me is the small stretch of Parramatta River near my apartment, where I go to jog, walk and lap up the view on a shady park bench. There’s a lot to like about it – the smell of salt water mixed with mangroves, the gentle breezes, the acres of green parkland and the playful sea gulls. It’s a highlight of my neighbourhood and, after walking along the muddy, brown trickle of Santiago’s only river, the Mapocho, it seems even better.

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