Wednesday 12 March 2014 by Alison Wishart. No comments
News, Opinion, views and commentary, Personal Stories, family, liminal, The Monthly, ADF

Day 3 - in the liminal zone

One of the few bits of content I recall from my undergrad degree is the concept of liminality. This refers to being 'betwixt and between' two places, or in transition. I am neither on deployment, nor in the office. I am technically in transit, with a forced stopover in Sydney.

I feel very, very lucky to have been able to spend this liminal period with my brother and his family. I have enjoyed holding the little hands of my nephews as we cross the roads, getting excited about what we can make with lego and reading bedtime stories. Are these the sort of freedoms we are fighting for in Afghanistan? To help North Americans feel free to go about their daily lives without the threat of terrorism? I haven't encountered many Australians who live in fear of a terrorist attack, or feel that their way of life is under threat. Perhaps the Australians who experienced the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 feel differently.

When I spoke to members of the Defence Force, or read their interviews as part of this project, I learnt that, as you would expect, there is a variety of ways in which people see their role in Afghanistan. It ranges from the detached: "it's my job", through to, the committed and engaged: "I am helping to make life better for Afghans, particuarly women and girls". Perhaps the latter helps people make sense of the sacrifices and the loss.

Over the last two days, I have also had time to read some excellent articles, such as Linda Jaivin's article in The Monthly about writing and one by John Cantwell in the same issue, calling on Australia to cut and run from Afghanistan.

I found it very hard to say goodbye to my nephews and brother and sister-in-law after spending just two days with them: it felt like a wrench. How much worse must it be for the men and women who leave their nuclear family for a three to twelve month deployment?


Twelve months ago I went to the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) with the Australian War Memorial. I was working on an oral history-photographic project. The core part of the project was interviewing and photographing 19 currently serving members of the ADF - from the army, navy and airforce - before, during and after their deployment in 2013 to the MEAO.  In another 12 months time, you should be able to see the results of this work in an exhibition which will travel around Australia.

These blog posts were written while I was in the MEAO but were not uploaded to the AWM website at that time.

I am planning to upload one blog post each day, exactly 12 months on from the actual day I was on deployment. We left Canberra on 12 March 2013.