So you’re thinking of moving to/visiting Australia? Don’t.
The international media has largely depicted Australia’s COVID response as something to be envied. You could be forgiven for being in awe of a country with low cases of COVID (if you can put aside the fact that they are geographically isolated, which already gave them a leg up in their ability to manage the pandemic). But are you aware of the costs of this response?
Do a quick search on Google, Facebook, or Twitter for #strandedaussies and you will find that this country that prides itself on ‘mateship’, on not turning their backs on their friends, on looking out for each other when times are at their absolute roughest, was the first and only country in the world (now recently joined by New Zealand) to abandon their citizens overseas for 19 months (and counting), blocking off their ability to return home and rendering them jobless, homeless, without visas and healthcare, still having to pay taxes in Australia, and for some, even leading to death and suicide. All the while, non-citizen celebrities, sports people, and politicians moved in and out of the country freely.
So what does this have to do with future tourists and migrants to Australia?
Thinking of moving to Australia? Don’t. Unless you enjoy the idea of never seeing your overseas family again, or enjoy saying your last goodbyes as they die via Zoom. While it was always harder for people to enter Australia than it was to leave, Australia recently increased the requirements needed to leave - effectively trapping people within Australia. There were many stories of people being who, upon being told that their family overseas had suffered tragic events and had weeks (at most) to live, had their exemptions to leave Australia denied. Even though it was brought up time and time again that people leaving Australia does not impact COVID rates within Australia. Or they were unable to get their parents and family members into Australia for important events - births, sicknesses, deaths. You can search for #parentsareimmediatefamily to see the advocacy work of thousands of Australians within Australia who could not bring their parents into the country because the government did not consider parents close enough family to be allowed into the country (although, mind you, Natalie Portman was able to bring her parents into Australia). Many Australians took for granted that they could see their family and have their support networks throughout the pandemic. This was an unprecedented event that was taxing in every way possible; support networks were more important than ever. And so many migrant families were cut-off from this vital source of support when they needed it the most.
Thinking of studying in Australia? Don’t. You can also look up #internationalstudentsaustralia to see the thousands of students left in limbo overseas for 19+ months as they continue to pay educational fees, have their studies forcibly terminated by Universities, and pay rent on student housing they can’t live in. Several students have died by suicide as they cannot see a way back into Australia. Universities rely a LOT on international students to make them what they are, to add to their prestige and their global standings. They have been forgotten and ignored during Australia’s COVID response. You are brilliant, and you deserve better than Australia.
Thinking of visiting Australia? Don’t. From a moral standpoint - why financially support a country that treats its own citizens like trash? But it didn’t just treat citizens like trash, it treated anyone living outside of Australia as a COVID-carrying biohazard. The government, the media, and the public dehumanised them, vilified them, abused them, actively told them to “die overseas”. They called for the international borders to slam shut entirely, to cut themselves off from the world. Until, of course, their small business and tourism started to falter and they necessarily needed to open up international borders and suddenly beg tourists (the exact same people they had abused not a moment ago) to come and revive them. Demand better from Australia and vote with your money. I have hope that, one day, Australia will be a more ethical country, one that you would be proud to visit and financially support. But its current behaviour should not be condoned.
So yes, they kept their COVID cases low. But their response was an extreme end on the opposite spectrum to those governments that had incredibly high COVID cases and a lot of deaths. There is a middle ground needed. However, the majority of the Australian government and public did not think a middle ground existed - they believed it was better to sacrifice their overseas citizens, their migrant families, their overseas workers, and their international students for an indeterminable amount of time, while onshore Australians soaked in the glory of being considered globally to have ‘the best COVID response’. They hosted the Australian Open, countless American/British/global celebrities, packed stadiums full of sporting spectators the entire way through the pandemic, and held comedy and music festivals - all things they considered were worth more than the lives and wellbeing of others. They called said people who had family overseas weren’t “true Australians”, they called stranded Australians “traitorous mutts” for having the audacity to leave the country, and they actively wished death on all those outside of Australia’s borders - all while ignoring the fact that these overseas connections are what makes Australia what it is.
The key theme running through this post is: if it happened once, it can happen again. At any time in the future, Australia may ignore and infringe upon your human rights. The government and public decided that their freedoms and their frivolity were worth more than human life. Now they want your tourism dollars, your brightest students, your highly skilled migrant workers back. Australia does not deserve your money, your skills, your love; it does not know how to love in return. The relationship with Australia is one-sided. I hope one day it will change but for now, I implore you to #boycottAustralia.
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The Covid19 pandemic truly is a microcosm for the banal stupidity and shortsightedness of capitalism. Let’s break it down.
Rich countries are buying & manufacturing vaccines while developing countries cannot manufacture their own due to patent law, this prolongs the pandemic
While pandemic is prolonged, new virus mutations risk emerging and making existing vaccine protection (including in rich countries) obsolete
Pharma companies that own and produce the vaccine continue to refuse to make the vaccines patent-free, for profit
Profit that will be dwarfed by the economic costs (both short-term and long-term) should the above mutation scenarios occur
You can disregard the ethical/humane side of this entirely and just look at the business side and it's still so utterly fucking stupid.
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