I set off on a similar journey to a somewhat larger island.
I was just eighteen years old in August 1969 when I set sail from Melbourne on the Sitmar liner Fairstar to England via the Panama Canal.
I was only six months out of high school but already I had been arrested three times and been technically convicted once for daring in one way or another to protest against the brutal war in Vietnam.
And now I was also a draft dodger choosing exile over commitment because really I was just a kid with a passion for poetry.
On that early Spring evening as my ship manoevred through the waters of the Bay I watched the skyline of Melbourne recede into the distance and knew with all the certainty of youth that my life was only just beginning.
My father had seen me off at the docks but would not stay to see the ship slowly pull away festooned with streamers which one by one would snap and sever that last link between the adventurer and those they left behind.
For my birthday he had given me a watch engraved with my name and had also invited me to choose from his collection of old wallets one which would suit me now that I had become a man.
Within that sheaf of leather I kept the folded photo of my father and mother on their wedding day which he had also just bequeathed to me for what purpose I could not then quite fathom.
They stand there in a semi-formal pose: my father in his best suit, the fingers of his right hand at his side nervously clenched, those of his left completely surrounding my mother's right hand which he holds stiffly at a point just below his left rib cage.
My mother is petite and glowing. Her high cheek bones shine above her smile. She wears a wide bonnet framing her hair which must have been permed for the occasion into large thick curls which extend almost to the collar of the tunic embellished with a sea star-like pattern which she wears atop her plain knee-length skirt.
Behind them in the photographer's studio a set of floor to ceiling curtains have been slightly pulled apart to reveal a bare white wall.
It is as if they are about to bid farewell to turn around and step into that naked whiteness, to begin to colour it, to animate it with shared experience.
But there is something troubling and tawdry about the faded mock Persian rug on which they stand, not least of which is the kink which has been left to rise quite mountainously between their two sets of feet.
On the back of the photo my mother had inscribed in her flowery hand: With our Love ~ Betty & Arthur. Beneath her dedication my father has now printed for me...
WALKER 22 MEADOWCROFT AVENUE OFF SKIPPERS LANE ESTON
This is my mother's new surname and her address.
My father tells me he does not mind if I set out to find her to return to her at last...
I watch the lights of the city twinkling now on the dark horizon.
The few books remaining in my father's collection which he had carried halfway around the world to Australia were mostly novels about navies and the sea.
Some of the first adult books I read, therefore, were the works of Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny) and C.S. Forester (Brown on Resolution), and those of a man with the most intriguing of names, Nicholas Monsarrat (HMS Marlborough Will Enter Harbour and The Ship that Died of Shame).
I am not quite sure why but it was that latter title, itself, that resonated most with me at the time. Perhaps it was something to do with the incongruity to my adolescent mind that a thing composed of metal and wood and bristling with weaponry could actually be so anthropomorphised as to feel the very human emotion of shame and that it might actually die as a consequence.
I cannot now recall anything at all about the details of that tale but what I do remember is that the endpaper of the book was curiously somewhat thicker than any of the other pages.
I think I must have let that mystery lie for many months or so but one day I could resist my curiosity no longer and carefully prised the endpaper apart from the frontispiece to which it had in fact been glued around the edges and discovered my father's secret.
Written there in a beautifully curling and obviously feminine script was a dedication to my father on the occasion of his birthday and that this present was a gift of love from Betty.
How I used to linger over every line and every word of that lovingly inscribed message from the past.
For a long time it was my only concrete link to my mother. Her presence was palpable there.
For one short space in time, she had concentrated her energy transforming that empty page into what had now become her memorial.
I have only just received your letter today. I don't understand why, but for some reason the hospital has delayed more than a week in passing it on to me.
I am writing you this necessarily hasty reply so I can mail it tonight as I am leaving for Sydney in the morning.
First, I must say how thrilled and honoured I felt in finding out quite by chance that you were seeking me.
So I, too, must therefore thank you in return for the diligence and persistence you have shown in your quest such that I now have the welcome opportunity of connecting with yourself and your brother.
For, I must stress, I have no qualms at all about meeting you - if you so wish - if only that you might satisfy your curiosity about what I look like!
However, I can tell you right now that when I saw your photograph in the paper I had no doubt at all that you were my daughter: you look very much like I did at your age - my hair was even the same length as yours.
Since time is running very short I think I will quickly parallel what you have written to me.
So, a brief biography: I was born in 1951 (28th June) in the North Riding of Yorkshire, England, into an upwardly mobile working class family (well, my mother, at least, had higher aspirations).
I have one brother, John, who is two years older than me. In 1958 my parents divorced and my father emigrated to Australia with myself and my brother in 1959 (although we came separately via a child migrant scheme).
I never saw my mother again until Easter this year. My father never re-married and raised us completely on his own in Melbourne in the 1960s.
At high school I matriculated in Science but narrowly saved myself from doing a BSc at Monash University in 1969.
In the end it didn't seem right for me, besides the 60s was a pretty exciting time and I decided instead to go back to England on my own and take a look at 'swinging London'.
A year later I returned to Melbourne and shortly afterwards met, and later married, the mother of my three daughters.
From '74 to '78 I studied for an honours degree in English Language and Literature at Melbourne University, during which time my first two daughters were born and I became a sperm donor.
Subsequently, I have also completed in 1997 a post-graduate honours degree in Linguistics and English Language Studies.
Now, however, I am self-employed as a baker in the vegan bakery I operate with my new partner, Lia, and her son, Liam.
To answer your questions: Yes, I too am left-handed and the only one in my immediate family.
As for the artistic streak: Well, I belong to that endangered species known as 'Poet' although, like yourself, I have also had more than a passing interest in photography and architecture. Not surprisingly, all three of my daughters have a similar bent.
To tell you the truth I can't recall whether I was offered the choice of anonymity.
I am certain, however, that I was not availed of any formal nor even informal discussion of my rights or responsibilities as a donor.
In fact I was never completely sure, subsequently, whether the sperm was used purely for research or for donor insemination itself.
I entered the donor program because a friend of mine was already in it and I guess it seemed like a socially useful thing to do.
Although, I must admit, I never seriously considered the ramifications of what I was involving myself in at the time. But now here I am and...so are you.
I hope this hasn't been too perfunctory. It is now five to six and I must print this out and dash to the mail box.
I really hope you receive this letter without any further delay.
Please feel free to bypass the hospital and write to me directly if you wish or, even better, phone.
There's a lot I would like to say to you but the first word I think should be thankyou. Thankyou for the gift of life but thankyou also for coming forward.
I honestly did not expect to receive a response to my article. I had come to terms with the fact that I might never know your name.
My only wish is to know a little more about myself. Please understand that you do not have to meet me or correspond further than letters if you don't feel comfortable. Though I am very curious to know what you look like.
I guess that you might like to know a bit about me. I was born in 1981 at the Royal Women's Hospital.
I have been very lucky. I grew up in West Gippsland on a 20 acre property overlooking the Toomuc Valley, where I still live.
From the age of two I had my own horse and rode competitively until I was 17. I dreamed of going to the Olympics like every little pony clubber.
I went to the local primary school and then a private school nearby. I completed my VCE in 1998.
I have always been very artistic. I did ballet and then children's theatre for a while.
I dreamed of being an architect and then an interior designer but I excelled in illustration and design and this is what I went on to study.
I graduated this year as a graphic designer and in between my two jobs as a bartender and child care worker I am looking for a full time job.
As you would know from the article I also have a full brother. He will be 18 in December.
He has blond hair and blue eyes like me but is a little taller and skinnier, like a rake.
He has ADHD. He has a lot of trouble reading and writing and dealing with complex issues such as DI. You may have got the impression from the article that we don't know where he inherited this from. But we know for sure that he got it from mum.
He loves his motorbike(his freedom machine) and is naturally athletic unlike me. He left school in year nine and now works as a blacksmith.
He knows how he was conceived but does not yet know that I have your name. Mum will tell him tonight perhaps.
You may be interested to know that his name is Michael.
I have just a few questions for you to start with. Please don't feel pressured to answer them.
Is anyone in your family left-handed? (I'm a leftie but my brother, my mum and all her family are righthanded)
Are you, or is anyone in your family artistic?
What did you study?
Where you given a choice as to whether you wanted to be an anonymous donor?
Why did you donate?
Where are your family from?
I hope this is not too hard for you. I only found out in March how I was conceived so I too am still coming to terms with the fact that you exist.
Please know that I am not looking for another father only information. But I think of you now as a friend.
From my brother and I: thankyou again for coming forward.
By the time I was ten years old the memory of my mother had been almost obliterated. Apart from the indisputable fact that both my brother and myself walked upon this world and therefore must once have been born it was if the woman who had given us life had never existed.
My father ran his own Ministry of Propaganda: any reference to our mother was expunged from our past and present lives. No photographs or documents existed which might serve to remind us that once we had enjoyed the comfort of a mother's love. And implicitly we knew that we must not mention her in any way.
At the end of 1959, my brother and I embarked from the port of Tilbury in Kent to sail for Australia aboard the SS Strathaird of the Peninsular and Oriental Line.
Within the space of less than two years our feeling of family had been whittled away until finally we had become child migrants: ostensibly orphans under the temporary care and protection of the Fairbridge Society.
Just before Christmas the small group of children with whom we were travelling arrived in Melbourne and were then transported overland to the Fairbridge Farm School near Molong in New South Wales.
We only spent six months there but for two young boys aged ten and eight it might as well have been six years.
Decades later when the tragedy of child migration had been rightly exposed for the abuse that it was I was informed by a social worker assigned to the task of counselling former child migrants that my my brother's and my own case did not qualify for assistance because unlike others less fortunate we had only spent a short period of time in the hell that was Fairbridge.
I wanted to tell her that after the first month of systematic neglect, exploitation and endemic bullying it no longer mattered how long it persisted for by then the damage was already done after which it became merely a matter of endurance and the counting off of the months and years remaining before the long-term inmates could legally claim the right to leave.
And I also wanted to tell her that although I wasn't quite certain what damage the experience had wrought on me, I knew that within two years of our departure from that wretched place my brother began exhibiting the first symptoms of the mental illness that would see him spend the rest of his life in institutions suffering the ravages of ECT and chronic medication.
I am sure they would all say they were only doing their job: the well-remunerated professionals, the middle-class men and women who counselled my father that he was doing right by us in giving us a better life than we could ever hope to have if we were to stay in England: they who would make decisions on our behalf that would affect us for the rest of our lives.
And my father who likewise convinced himself he was doing the best for us but who also somewhere unacknowledged inside himself saw our migration as a way of punishing my mother for her transgressions and her crime forever.
By the time I was ten years old the memory of my mother had been almost obliterated.
But I still remembered the day in 1957 when they took my brother and I to say goodbye.