“Indigenous

Hitching With Tanya Plibersek

Summer Lea had an unconventional ride home.

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A few years ago I was walking home to Camperdown from Redfern late at night. As I headed towards Redfern Station, a woman emerged from a black four-wheel drive. She was white and blonde and smartly dressed.

“Would you like a lift home?” she asked.

I didn’t. I was safe on my own, and her approach frightened me.

“I don’t accept lifts from strangers.”

“It’s not safe walking home at night,” she said,  “especially as a young woman. I just want to make sure you’re safe.”

I walked away, wondering what kind of person would genuinely, generously want to give me a lift.

It wasn’t over yet.

“If my young daughter was walking alone at night, I’d like to know she was safe. I’d like to know someone was giving her a lift and I want the same for you. Look, I’m not going to kidnap you, I’ve got my own kids!”

She gestured to her young daughter. The girl got out of the car.

“Come on, you’ll be safe with us, you can trust my mum.”

I looked into the car and her brother was playing with a video game.

The children made me feel safe, so I got in.

I got in and chatted to the couple, they seemed happy. I thought shit, I’m gonna get kidnapped, they’re definitely acting, to reel me in.

I told them I was a University student, unsure of what to do in my life. The man said he worked for DOCS. I was intrigued as I’d spent some time in foster care when I was younger, but I didn’t ask any more questions.

The woman said that she worked in politics and I asked if it paid well. She said that it “paid the bills”.

A month ago, walking past Broadway I saw a shop-front sign: “Tanya Plibersek, Member for Sydney”. The Member for Sydney looked familiar. I Googled “Tanya Plibersek family”, and recognised them instantly. I’d hitched a lift with Tanya Plibersek.

I emailed her shortly afterwards to thank her. She responded:

Dear Summer Lea,

We picked you up because I didn’t like to think of a young woman walking alone late at night. I would have worried about you otherwise. Many years ago a friend of mine was assaulted walking home not so far from where you were that night, and I wish someone had helped her get home safely. Essentially, I believe the world works better if we each feel a responsibility to others.

You’re right about Michael and Iwe do enjoy each other’s company.

I hope things are going well for you.

All the best,

Tanya

Image Credit: Angela Collins