This novel explores the conflicts an immigrant has to endure through the examination of the various challenges faced by Bojan and Sonja, his daughter, as they seek to start new lives in Australia having fled a terrifying past in Europe. This novel makes it clear that an immigrant has to face many challenges, and that one of the most difficult challenges is actually their own past and dealing with this. Both Bojan and Sonja have terrible memories of brutality they have either witnessed or experienced, and Bojan's violence towards his daughter can be seen as a direct result of this as he seeks to process the tremendous acts of human barbarity he has witnessed himself.
One way in which the novel points towards this conflict faced by new immigrants is through the symbol of the dam where Bojan finds work. Note how the dam project is described by the official at Bohan's naturalisation ceremony:
The path to the new Australia is lit not only by the electricity that will come forth from your labours here at Butlers Gorge, but by your conviction that the new world can be better than the old.
However, ironically, the dam is far from being a new example of cutting edge technology that will bring Tasmania into the future. It is a dilapidated structure and Bojan only narrowly misses being killed when the dam collapses in a deluge. The dam thus becomes a symbol for the Buloh family and all other refugees. In spite of rhetoric talking about a "new start" and "hope for the future," refugees, like the dam itself, are intensely fragile and breakable individuals, that break easily and are not easily repaired. Such symbols help to evoke the true situation of immigrants as they try to adapt to their new country and cope with their past.