Table talk

tales from the tableReview by Tom Allen

Book | Tales from the Table: Stories from the Indigenous Hospitality House | Various Authors

Hospitality is a rich word. It is a concept, it is a practice, it’s complex and simple, profound and mundane. Tales from the Table: Stories from the Indigenous Hospitality House makes this rich, big, slippery word come alive through poetry, storytelling, reflections and essays. Its various contributors are all current and former residents or partners in the Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH), a settler/non-Indigenous household in Carlton North that opens its doors to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people visiting Melbourne hospitals.

While the house serves as a place to stay for guests, its other equally important purpose is to make space for settler/non-Indigenous people to explore issues of identity on stolen land.

The book traverses topics from getting enough personal space in what can be quite a large and changeable household, to reflections on feminism and the didgeridoo. A common thread through the entire book is the way it tackles topics familiar within academic and policy circles in a down-to-earth and personal manner. We non-Indigenous people have unfinished business.

While the term ‘unfinished business’ can sound menacing, threatening or uncomfortable, the heart of the Indigenous Hospitality House, as this book illustrates, is to make reckoning with that business personal. It involves sitting with grief and seeing our own need for healing. Ultimately, this enriches us and informs our discipleship in this time (post-colonisation, post-apology, pre-Treaty) and this place (Australia, Narrm, Melbourne).

Tales from the Table is gentle, relaxed and sometimes humorous. It demands to be read alongside a good cuppa and offers insights big and small. It is not a book to pore over like a textbook, but to soak up like a rich conversation.

Its stories will prompt people to think about their identity on this land, in this society. As well as encouraging personal reflection and entertainment, the book is a valuable starting point for enriching and vital conversations.

Independently published in Melbourne; RRP: $35. Available at IHH on

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