by Anne Collins
Huddling under the doona on a six-below-average night, I think of people sleeping rough like those camping on the domain or the woman in the doorway of the empty shop. My educated guess about her – mental illness, domestic violence – makes no difference to her pain. What right do I have to label the experience of one who has every right to own her story? The season is turning to winter and luxury is a hot drink. I wonder who might be feeling the warmth of my Antarctic-grade sleeping bag. It’s not enough just to be donating sleeping bags or money. It’s not enough to be buying the Big Issue or discussing things on Radio National. What is enough? Covid-19 has moved homeless people into hotels. When they first wake up in the morning who do they think they are with their long-lived sense of social distance? There are Romany people in Slovakia who have lived out winters in tree-houses, like birds in a nest above the snow-covered ground. Survivors of history’s traumas some with tattooed numbers on their arms, they are resilient beyond our imaginings, defy any pity. The woman in the doorway looks at me eye to eye shakes her head ‘no’ to my offer of coffee and cake. ‘I’m all right,’ she says.
I worked for over thirty years in the non-government sector on a range of social justice projects, including those projects that helped improve access to housing for people who were struggling and helped relieve homelessness. My ongoing concern about injustice continues to inform my writing. My family has also lived with the struggles of mental illness.
Anne Collins’ four poetry collections are: How to Belong (Ginninderra Press, 2019); The Language of Water (Walleah Press 2014); Seasoned with Honey (with three other poets, Walleah Press 2008); and The Season of Chance (Walleah Press, 2005). She has also published a collection of prose and poetry: My Friends This Landscape, (Ginninderra Press 2011.) Further information about these books, as well as a full list of individual published works, awards, grants, residencies, collaborations and some sample poems can be found on her website at www.annecollins.com.au