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Around The Sun: A Boomerang Always Comes Back

After a seemingly endless bureaucratic delay, Steve Harrison manages to return to Australia.

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What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back when you throw it? Answer: a stick.


I worked in America for five years. From Lubbock and Valley Mills, Texas, then Columbus, Ohio. I drove from the west coast to the east, from the southern tip of Florida to northern Nebraska. I visited around thirty states in the USA, but I never felt that I belonged there. I longed to return to Australia. I wanted to settle down there, buy a house, get married, have kids. My homeland, England, was dull and dreary, and it always seemed to be raining there. It was sunny in Australia, and my ambition was never to wear long trousers or shoes again.

I had kept in touch with good friends in Australia. It would be easy for them to conjure up a preaching job for me. Some of them had moved to the Blue Mountains and started a new church there. They guaranteed a job and accommodation for a year in a little mountain town called Springwood.

Little did I know that it was going to be tough to get back to Australia. What I did not realise was that if you had been an Australian resident but had moved out of the country and stayed overseas for more than three years you had automatically forfeited your right to residency. Now it would be harder to get admittance. Instead of the 80 points required on the first occasion, I now needed 95.

I went to the Australian embassy in Dallas. On one wall there was a huge photograph of Cremorne Point. It actually showed the house in which I used to live. I pointed this out to the guy who interviewed me. He told me that I could forget about living there again; that I should have known better than to stay overseas for so long.

Bureaucracy is designed to deter the faint-hearted. I went to the Australian embassy in Chicago, and then their embassy in New York. I was told the same story. I could only apply for residency in Australia from the country of my birth, England, and even then it could take up to a year before I was re-admitted.

So I returned to England and lived with my sister Elisabeth for almost a year. When I announced to my congregation in Columbus, Ohio, that I was leaving they had a collection and bought me a new Macintosh computer. Desktop publishing was the wave to catch that year. I was able to earn quite a sizeable amount of money as a freelance designer, traveling the length and breadth of England, helping people to set up desktop publishing systems. My reputation spread and my phone hardly ever stopped ringing.

Finally in 1988 I managed to get back to good old Sydney town, Australia. During my year in England I’d almost frozen to death. I did however meet my future wife whilst in Manchester.

As soon as I was back in Sydney I began to figure out how to get an Australian passport. I was determined never again to be locked out.

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