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A fresh take on Lord Howe Island

11-Jan-2015

Lena Thompson on Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island is a quirky modern semi tribal society. It’s part religious, part socialist, part conservative, part green, and a few parts boozy (it’s a holiday destination after all). We look like any 1970s regional community on the mainland – mostly Caucasian with a few Asian and Pacific folk, but looks can be deceiving. The three old families, and their complex network of relatives, tend to stick together and minor grudges can last a long time. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not nasty, and the worst that can happen is an indifferent index finger wave from a passing driver, or a bit of misinformation on the grapevine. But it’s noticeable, and kind of endearing, to all who live here. We wouldn’t have it any other way. A recent guest from Washington DC, who was a senior State Department official during the breakup of the Soviet Union, was so captivated by the Lord Howe community that he’s now seeking funds from the Brookings Institute in the United States to return and study … us.

But it’s not just the old island families. Also in the community mix are the people who marry in, the long term residents, the public servants, the hospitality staff and the regular guests. A lot of people have a stake in the place and most have a take on the place as well. Perhaps the most insightful view of the Lord Howe community comes from insiders who have spent enough time on the outside to get some context. While we think we have a decent take on the place, we’re often wrong about situations, and we’ve been searching for someone who can help us understand ourselves a bit better. And finally we’ve found someone.

Lena Thompson is a sixth generation islander. She is a descendant of Nathan Chase Thompson who arrived on Lord Howe in 1853. Her family have run Blue Lagoon Lodge for more than 50 years. Over the last 10 years, we’ve watched Lena return for school and university holidays and have always thought there was something a bit different about her. Lena’s really smart, and with a degree in media and international business under her belt, and a passion to write, she can switch between “critical discourse analysis” and “women’s surfing” in the same breath. Lena has spent most of her life off the island – at 11 different schools in NSW and QLD – and has a unique perspective on Lord Howe. While she’s very much an ‘islander’, she can see the place for its pros and cons, and best of all, has the ability to write about it.

So for the next few months, we have a guest writer and blogger. Lena will interview and profile some of the island’s characters (and there are plenty!), as well as share some stories about her connection with the place and community. Some days, she’ll tell us about her favourite places, and other days she’ll provide insights – warts and all – that will help our friends in Washington DC understand us a bit better. And it’s not just them, most guests come to see the birds, forest, beaches and reef, but leave with a nagging interest in the island people.

Stay tuned for Lena’s posts and please feel free to ask questions along the way.

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