Summary and structure

Here, you can read the summary and structure of “Heart is Where the Home is” by Thea Astley.


When Australian policemen come to Bidgi Mumbler's camp to take away all the Aboriginal children, Bidgi’s daughter-in-law Nelly runs away with her son Charley. While on the run, Nelly remembers how the policemen took the daughter of her cousin, Ruthie, a week before and how other women were tricked a year prior by the authorities, resulting in their children being taken away too.

After crossing a rainforest, Nelly reaches the property of Mag and George Laffey, for whom she and her husband occasionally work. Upon hearing Nelly’s story, the Laffeys come up with a plan and hide Nelly’s boy when the policemen come. When questioned by the policemen, George and Mag protect Nelly and claim she has no children. The policemen do not believe them and search the property but they do not find the boy. After the policemen leave, George and Mag propose to Nelly that she could move into an old shed they have with her boy and her husband but Nelly refuses, claiming she would miss her extended family and her tribal home too much.


Although “Heart is Where the Home is” represents a chapter from the novel It's Raining in Mango, it can also be read as a standalone story due to it being structured along the lines of a traditional complete plot.

The story accounts a single, self-contained event. It follows an Aboriginal mother’s attempt to save her boy from being taken by state authorities and institutionalised, as part of a federal act, enforced between roughly 1905 and 1969 in Australia.


The title of the short story is inspired by the popular proverb “home is where the heart is” but the author changes it to indicate the exact opposite. Instead of home being the place where you long to be or where you feel you belong, the author suggests that people’s idea of home is inevitably linked to their origins.

The title is closely connected to the end of the short story as Nelly refuses to leave her Aboriginal tribe and move in with the L...

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