Film and Book Reviews

Hospitality-driven response to need

BookTales from the Table: Stories from the Indigenous Hospitality House, edited by Matt Bell and Samara Pitt (Independently published, 2017)

By Glenn Loughrey

December 13 2018Grab a cuppa, kick off your shoes, snuggle down into your comfy chair, and open this little book of love and enjoy. It is warm, welcoming, comforting and may, from time to time, remind you of the kitchen table in your own memories. Oh, and beware, there may be tears as people hold their cuppa tight and deal with grief and loss. 

Like all great primers on hospitality and justice, this little book puts legs on love in response to the love shown by God through the example of Jesus. It tells the story of a small group of people who wanted to do something of value in a world that seemed to have lost its way. It grew out of a searching for purpose, of sitting together and studying not only the Scriptures but the experiences of others, and most importantly, of themselves.

Like all good things it took a while (a couple of years) for the idea to find its legs in the form of the Indigenous Hospitality House, a volunteer-run household in Carlton North which provides a safe and welcoming place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people to stay while they are visiting family members in Melbourne’s hospitals.

It is appropriate that its gestation came in a traditional aboriginal manner — sitting together, sharing truth, exploring ideas and listening. It is appropriate because that became its life as an authentic justice and hospitality-driven response to people’s needs.

The book is a collection of stories, experiences, drawings and poetry. It reveals that mission is as much, if not more, about the changes that occur in those who open their hearts to others. People change as they step into others’ spaces and leave themselves open to hear, feel and touch the humanity of the other.

It is also a book about the experiences of the families and individuals who joined them as they sat around the rustic wooden table in a house in North Carlton, sipping coffee and sharing their pain and loss, hopes and aspirations, the essence of their humanity. In that sharing people changed and became new creations.

I won’t spoil your joy by relating any of the stories. You need to read them for yourself. When you do you will, as I was, be challenged to reflect on the message(s) within for you. It will not leave you untouched.

A highly recommended read.

P.S. In 1975 I was involved in a similar project in Wollongong with three friends, sharing houses with homeless people. Memories came flooding back.


The Revd Glenn Loughrey is vicar of St Oswald’s Glen Iris and a member of the Wiradjuri people.