The last few weeks has been as disheartening as any in my relationship with Australia. The reasons for my despondency, and therefore the catalysts for writing this piece, are twofold: first, the re-imposition of severe lockdowns in multiple states; and second, a change in regulations requiring returning travelers to apply for an exemption to leave Australia for their overseas homes. These developments, and the sense I’m getting from friends and family at home, give the strong impression that Australia has entered a new phase of COVID purgatory.
I am an Australian currently living overseas, and intend on coming home for a visit in a few weeks’ time.
I am also a proud citizen of a country I've watched descend into a state of despair over the last 12 months. Australia needs a refreshed COVID-strategy; I'm sure this is evident to many people. Australia also needs new leaders; I'd suggest this may be clear to some people. But most of all, Australia needs a new social contract. We need a wholesale reset of what our country represents, and we need to consider whether the current crop of politicians is fit to lead it.
Much has been written inside the country about COVID and the government; I do not wish to add too much to that chorus. But I do believe that through watching from afar, and seeing my own personal contract with the country wither away, I can add something constructive to the conversation. This is an emotive piece with strong opinions, and one I write as a concerned Australian. What's at stake is nothing less than our future, because with our current approach and mentality, our prosperity and treasured way of life are far from assured.
An Australian abroad; my story
I've lived with my fiancé in New York for over three years. We moved here for our careers and to experience one of the world's great cities. We are not alone here. We are surrounded by a lively and ambitious group of Australians, many of whom we call good friends.
Pre-COVID, and even until a few months ago, most conversations with Australians over a beer or dinner would inevitably turn to "so how much longer do you think you'll be here?"
For many of us, our overseas homes are only temporary, with the gravity of family and our Australian roots too hard to resist forever. So until recently, most of us considered it a given that we'd return home in the near future. But in the last few months, instead of discussing timelines about moving home, the first question at that same beer or dinner has become "can you believe what's going on at home?" As time has gone on, our feelings have shifted from bewilderment, to abandonment, to anger, and our relationships with our home country have changed dramatically. I'll explain why.