Every decade I must relinquish my most valuable possession

My most fiercely guarded possession is not, as you might expect, my mother’s engagement ring, which was antique already when my impecunious father had it reset for her in 1954. It’s not the scrap books where I keep all my published articles, the letters from my main man or the photo albums of the babies we produced.

No, the possession I value above all others is my passport, that modest booklet that magically allows me to travel and, more importantly, allows me to return to where I belong. Having a close friend with no passport – and no prospect of being granted one – makes me freshly aware of what a privilege possession of a passport is in a world that is always on the move, by choice or otherwise.

It’s just one little book, but opens up a world of options. Credit:Alamy

Without personal documents, you can be passed from one state to the next, without sanctuary, entitlement to medical care, sometimes without basic human rights. With it, I will always have a home.

I have a UK passport, so I had to send my old one far across the sea. In the mail, if you please. Sure, there is registered post and online tracking and all the rest of it, but there is human error in every field of human endeavour, and the postal service is no exception. What if it was lost along the way? Each time I send my passport off for renewal, I am a little antsy until it is my hot little hand again.

Every decade, when my passport is renewed and the execrable photograph of me is superseded by one even more hideous because 10 years older, I have to complete another arduous bureaucratic process where I have it restamped to ensure that I can always come back. Inside my previous passport was a precious stamp that that read "Holder permitted to remain in Australia INDEFINITELY". These days it is some kind of chip, which I understand has the same effect, but I always treasured that sentence, physical evidence that I can always return to my house and my job, my friends and my beloved Aussie husband and our brood.

In a world with an estimated 68 million refugees, I am one of the lucky ones, with a country from which I cannot be turned away.

Now that I have my favourite possession back, I am a little more relaxed: my place on the globe securely established for another decade.

Clare Boyd-Macrae is a Melbourne writer

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