The boy stood on the burning deck – only it wasn’t exactly burning, just a little hot in the sunshine. Initially, bad weather had plagued their journey but now there was plenty of sunshine with hardly a cloud in the sky - the ocean was a deep intense blue except for the occasional white tips on the waves.
He was young – would have been about four years old at the most, but the sight of that sea would haunt him forever – not as some horror from the past but rather as a magical memory with the promise of things to come.
His mother stood close, holding tight to him; his father slightly to one side. They all gazed out at the ocean – spying for land but seeing only blue that seemed to go on forever.
“Will we be welcome?” his mother asked. “In Australia, will we be welcome?”
His father put one arm round her and rested the other on the shoulder of the boy. “Yes” he said, “I think so. They are a friendly people, the Australians, and it’s a land full of promise. Yes,” he said again, “I think they’ll welcome us. It will be a new life for us all.”
The boy was too young to understand all of his parents’ conversation. He was just happy to be there; to smell the salt; to feel the motion of the ship on the waves. It was all just a wonderful adventure to him - he didn’t understand concepts such as ‘new life’ or ‘land of promise’, as long as he had his parents with him, he was happy.
“But maybe they won’t welcome boat people” said his mother. “Maybe they’ll think that we’re a threat – to their culture, to their jobs.”
“Perhaps” said the boy’s father. “But it’s a big land and a land of opportunity. It has a big heart and it’s a place where dreamers can make their dreams come true.” He patted his son’s head. “Who knows,” he said, “this one might even make Prime Minister” he said and laughed.
“My son, Anthony Abbott – Prime Minister of Australia” said the boy’s mother with a laugh. “I’d like to see that.”