The Kate Diaries, yes, may be for the most part merely a dancer ranting on about Feminist issues, but at its essence- it is a platform to talk about inequality and social justice. Today’s topic is something so dear to my heart, and if you are an Australian who either lives overseas or has close friends or family who do– very few words can describe how hard this last year has been in light of Australia’s travel policy.
I have been like many for the past 14 months, accepting my fate and waiting patiently for the borders to open so that I may see my family again. However- something snapped in me when I heard the news (the Federal budget proposal for 2021/22) that Australian borders will remain closed until end of 2022. Characteristic of a few previous policies of an unthinking, uncreative, and uncritical nanny state, the Australian government has this time served me a blow that I can no longer take lying down.
Thus, comes the important- albeit arguably futile- task of exercising my democratic right as a citizen to petition my government. The hard-line stance of Australian border policy in curbing the spread of COVID has been an admirable effort for protecting its citizens- and to that I am grateful.
However with the rest of the world rapidly and aggressively moving forward with vaccination programs, international vaccine passports, plans of herd immunity and life back to normal- we see the current government hell-bent on this uncompromising stance. Policies which I would argue- in light of these developments- read now as discriminatory and exclusionary to the exercise of my citizenship rights. Let me explain…
The reality of the situation for myself (and I would argue many others) is that the current arrangement of overpriced chartered flights, quarantine, domestic flights and extra time away from work means that coming home in the current situation determined by DFAT is not an option. I am not an Expat who has a lavish life overseas contrary to the simple political narrative, but rather am a professional dancer who moved to Europe to make a living, having very few available options in the Creative and Cultural industries in Australia. The almost 10,000AUD price tag proportionate to my income, or to any average earner, thus boils down to a matter of higher income-bracket privilege. To pay or borrow that amount of money commensurate to median earnings, feels as a form of classist discrimination that effectively limits the rights I have as a citizen to my own country. This level of responsibilization and cost cast on the individual citizen by the Australian government feels exorbitant and cruelly unimaginative, particularly in light of vaccinations and predicted incidence rates for certain overseas regions by the end of year.
I understand the threat of COVID- probably far more than most Australians- however, as someone who is awaiting my second vaccination, and on the road to returning to normal life, it pains me to see Australia lagging so far behind still. Multiple researchers globally have now confirmed that fully vaccinated people are dramatically less likely to pass on the virus, in fact much less than those who have a negative anti-gen rapid test result. Predictions cast upon Europe- in my particular case- are said to achieve herd immunity and an incidence rate similar to that of Australia, by the end of the year. As such, the continuation of such severe limitations of citizens rights until the end of 2022 seems baffling not only from a rational and scientific standpoint, but also as an affront to the legal Citizenship I hold.
For these reasons, I have decided to voice my concerns to the elected officials we have chosen to represent our interests and defend our rights as citizens. If the above resonates with you, and you feel similar levels of hopelessness, frustration and sadness, please take the template letters below, filling in the small gaps of personal details and send them off to
1) Your local representative of you, or your family in Australia –if you don’t know who that is you can find it here.
2) Alex Hawke – the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship at email@example.com
If you have family overseas, you can also pass on these templates or ask them to write their own letters of concern to these representatives.
It is a privilege to live in a democratic country- and with that comes the ensuing rights, that those elected officials listen to and shape policy on our behalf. Policy which is required to be creative and nuanced- yes to protect its citizens, but also to provide for their needs and answer to their rights in a just and equitable way. In short, a government which responds equally to those Australian citizens outside its borders, as those within them.
It may feel fruitless, like shouting in to the wind, but these elected officials must in the very least, read these concerns. And like any protest or demo, it is the culmination of voices, it is the effort of individual citizens together to be heard that creates the winds of change. And I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for the moment to finally run into the arms of my family, to give my parents a massive tear-filled hug, to get to know my new niece who I am yet to meet and a nephew who has mostly only known me over FaceTime, to go have a beer with my sister and brother-in-law and drink away all the COVID lockdowns, loss and sadness that has happened in the previous year.
 Hardline refers to the quotas set by the Australian government for Nationals who can enter the country. These quotas lead to a radical inflation in flight prices. This is coupled with an unconditional 14 day quarantine, unlike other examples, which a person can not test their way out of. . Please see The Robert Koch Insitut in Germany, the federal government agency and research institute on infectious diseases and control, to see a wide range of globally published data and studies to date for reference.