'This photo from my childhood reveals so much more than it seems.'

It wasn’t until my mum died that I was able to let myself ‘feel’ my little girl again, to recognise my childhood, my younger self.

So much of my adult life, teenage-hood and the latter years of my childhood were steeped in the business of being brave, paving the way and forging ahead.

But I find myself now a little perturbed, extremely delighted and greatly relieved to welcome back this little girl.

I want to say: ‘Hello. It’s been a while. How are you? I’ve missed you. Thank you for waiting for me, you’ve been very patient.’

LIKE Debrief Daily on Facebook. 

I love this photo of me, aged 3, in front of our ‘first’ family home. It was deep in one of Melbourne’s newly-minted bayside suburbs, which flourished in the late 1960s. The streets were paved with the hopes and dreams of young couples emerging from families scarred by two generations of war and going without.

Brick by solitary brick, optimism was slowly built into each two-bedroom residence and back into our national psyche. That’s what I see oozing from this Kodachrome slide taken by my dad, who is still a suburban snapshot photographer and my greatest photography teacher.

I love this photo of me at three in front of our ‘first’ family home.

Stone fruit trees punctuated our backyard. ‘The beach’ was just up the road. My yellow-bricked ‘kindy’ was just around the corner and the shops, including the revered milk bar, was conveniently located at the end of our street.

Friends lived in the neighbourhood. We could play on our trikes and scooters out the front with other kids who lived along the avenue. ‘Aunty Marge’ with the purple hair lived next door and other older ladies, 'Jean' and 'Ruth', were in the court across the road. They were part of our suburban neighbourhood family, and Mum’s nexus of older role models and support.


The 'holy' golf course was over our back fence. My parents spent a lot of time there, developing their social lives with the parents of other kids in our street. They couldn’t believe their luck.

It wasn’t perfect; it was the start of the 70s and very soon marriages started dropping like flies. Some of those kids would grow up to be ‘delinquents’ and after a few years we moved away: Mum was convinced we’d end up joining the teenage gangs that had started pouring out of the local high school. She was probably right.

Regardless of what this image looks like (shamelessly nostalgic? A photographic ‘insect set in amber’) I feel such kinship with it; that’s what makes it powerful. These are my origins writ large on glorious reversal film, vividly distilled in a single still image, snapped innocently on a Sunday afternoon.

I’ve spent a good deal of my life pushing these origins away, editing them out of my psyche, forgetting details and paying them a criminal lack of attention. But here they are, so simple and bold and colourful. I welcome them back now. I crave them and need them, truth be told.

A group of men walk down Suburban street in Melbourne, 1975. Image:

Thank you, Dad, for taking this photo; for making this record of my early life; for preserving me as only a parent could (and in a way only a child could discard with such abandon.) You knew I’d need this one day, as certainly as you have needed early photos of yourself, all small and vulnerable and new to the world. You knew.

It does my heart good to be given the chance to see where I am from, through the eyes of another - the perfect photographer’s eyes, working with the dual might of intimacy and distance.

I’m so happy to see her again, this little girl - so happy in fact, it makes me weep and smile in powerful unison, like listening to a cherished song from long ago.

Like this? Why not try...

Helen Mirren: "Why I can't look back at the 70's fondly."

‘Why boys of my youth promised so much – but delivered so little.’

The best words we never use today. And should.