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Marta Dusseldorp: how I travel

The actor on seeing the world – through the ages, through the eyes of refugees, and with child-like wonder.
Marta Dusseldorp

Marta Dusseldorp.

Karlien Geldenguys

Just back from… Working in LA. I loved it. They’re so positive. You dare to dream again.

Next up… Antarctica. Where do you go after Africa?

My fondest childhood memories are travelling as a family. I must have been about eight when we took a barge through Holland, Belgium and Germany. My sister and I slept in the nose of the barge, and Mum and Dad always had friends with us – it was all flares and fabulous people. That gave me a feeling of freedom, of having no fixed place or culture, of travelling to gather stories and be together.

Returning to Holland to see my grandfather’s home in Utrecht in my twenties was a really important moment in my life. I’d never really identified as being Australian – always a bit too big, a bit too loud – and suddenly I was seeing people who looked like me. I felt an incredible sense of belonging. Then just recently I filmed Who Do You Think You Are? and I got to see my grandmother’s heritage in Germany, Switzerland and Scotland, and I felt the same again. I got to stand inside the Swiss inn my ancestors built 10 generations ago and had held onto for centuries. As important as knowing your story is being able to connect with that place. Indigenous people have taught us that here in Australia.

My favourite travels are linked to history, when I understand the historical context of what I’m experiencing. Going to Hiroshima was another important moment – standing on the bridge with the dome in front, then going through that museum. My husband Ben and I wept at the paper cranes, and the memorial, and the outpouring of such overwhelming sentiment.

When the girls were little we travelled to Japan. It was so embracing of children. If I could work and live there, I would. Sometimes travel needs to be where you step off and you’re in another world, not just another country. That’s what Japan is.

I find it hard to travel without the girls now. We were shooting Jack Irish in Manila and Mumbai, and I was wandering around without the kids [Maggie, 9, and Grace, 12] but seeing the place through their

eyes. I love wearing those goggles.

Wherever we are, we always find local galleries. Art is the way to understand people’s spirits and culture, to understand what they’re fighting for and what they’re talking about.

Is there anything as thrilling as travelling in Africa’s wild places? We took our daughters on an unforgettable safari with Abercrombie & Kent earlier this year, to Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. The country and the wildlife are remarkable – the Okavango Delta has to be the most breathtaking place I’ve ever been. We left with a much deeper understanding of how urgent it is preserve these places for our children’s children, and to support the communities that look after the land.

We went to Nakatindi, a Zambian village where A&K has helped build a classroom at the school, a medical clinic and maternity ward, and started a bike shop that helps local people in all sorts of ways. The kids still talk about it.

From there we went to Uganda, to highlight the work being done by UNHCR in Kyaka II, a settlement for about 90,000 refugees. Australia for UNHCR raised the money to build a vocational training centre for young people, and I was there in my role as a special representative for the organisation.

In 2017 I travelled to Zaatari, a refugee camp on the border of Jordan and Syria, and then into Lebanon to see the incredible, often heartbreaking work of UNHCR. I see it as a real honour to understand it. Part of the problem of living in Australia is we can be blind to it if we choose to be, it just doesn’t hit us. What I can do is turn up, listen, and talk about it.

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