Mandatory Detention


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Oceania » Australia
April 13th 2020
Published: April 13th 2020
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Tuesday 7 April - Detention

We touched down in Melbourne and there is applause from the cabin. Dwayne and I refrain. We are know what is coming with the Federal and Victorian Governments. Within 10 seconds of exiting the plane, police and Federal agents are telling us to keep 1.5m and in frustration I say “We’ve just been crammed shoulder-to-shoulder for 16 hours. You do realise that spacing now is of no consequence, right?” Of course, they don’t care. They have arbitrary rules to follow, whether they are reasonable or not.

And given the amount of people they see coming through the airport, they are way more of a threat to my health than I am to them!

We move through the factory line – first the health check, then the passports, then the hotel details, then biosecurity. We are squirreled away, again packed next to each other, on a bus to Four Points Sheraton Docklands. We have to sign a “Notice of Detention” form, that ironically says we are voluntarily agreeing to this. Expletives come to mind as I read. There is nothing voluntary about this, but we are forced to make the false declaration nonetheless. We are also told that we’re not being released until 22 April, which is actually 15 days, not 14. LIARS!!

We are shown to our room. Quite snazzy and comfortable if you are only here at night. Not practical for 2 people to spend 360 continuous hours here. 1 chair, so someone is always on the bed 24/7. 1 work desk, so only one of us can work remotely. No exercise or fresh air. No laundry, unless you want to pay for hotel laundry with a surcharge. No towel racks or hooks to hang towels and hand washing. At least with a 4-star property, the food should have been good.

I spoke too soon. Lunch was two salad sandwiches on frozen or stale gluten free white bread, a muesli bar and apple. I said I was vegetarian and Dwayne was a meat eater, but it didn’t stop them from giving us vegan.

Dinner is 150g of stir fry and a can of soft drink. No water. Highlighted the incorrect vegan meal to the Government support line, so hopefully that will be amended from now on and I’ll get vegetarian.

The fact that today isn’t even counted as part of our detention, is depressing. We slip deeper into despondency.

Wednesday 8 April - Detention

Slept through until 7am. Breakfast was 1 cup of Nutrigrain, milk, a muffin and apple. Sugar up the wazoo.

Had my first mental melt down this morning, crying uncontrollably for 10 minutes. The overwhelming lack of anticipation and hope associated with 15 days in this room, was all too much. I looked at the walls and all I wanted to do was bang my forehead repeatedly against them, until I was in a bloodied coma. Anything to get out of this padded prison. What’s it going to take to survive?

Facebook comments and text messages try to cheer us up with “Look on the bright side, it could be worse, what an adventure, enjoy the holiday, you’re in the best place in the world.” This only makes me more aware of our imprisoned state and sends us spiralling down even further into despair. This is worse than prison, after all. They, at least, get access to fresh air and an exercise yard, as well as decent meals and conversations with other inmates.

These are platitudes said when people do not comprehend the situation and don’t know how to respond. We can look at those suffering through worse, but it doesn’t enlighten our situation or make it any easier to bear. It’s like saying to someone who is drowning in a pool, that at least they’re not like the person drowning in the ocean. Either way, they’re drowning. The level of water is irrelevant.

Our cruise ship friends, who we have grown quite close to, have been saying every day “This is s@#$. Let’s not pretend it’s not.” The honesty of those words on a daily basis provides comfort. We don’t have to fake positivity or pretend we’re ok. It’s ok to wallow for a time, to be miserable, unhappy, frustrated, full of rage, overwhelmed, teary, discouraged. As long as we don’t take them with us when we get out.

It is clear that the people who makes these rules, have never lived them. The frustration of illogical government decisions made in the name of Covid, but have absolutely nothing to do with stopping its spread. How does denying me cheese or iced coffee help stop the spread?

It’s a bad day. I wonder how we’ll mentally cope with another 14 days of this. More vegan meals.

Thursday 9 April – Detention

Dwayne woke at 3.30am this morning, as this confinement is doing nasty things to our mind and body.

I woke at 5am and we eventually got up at 6. Had breakfast and went back to bed at 9am for a couple of hours. It’s the quickest way to pass the time.

I have been doing a 15-minute exercise challenge each day, mainly to pass the time and hopefully lose some of the confinement weight. They say it’s also good for the mental state. I don’t know about that. I feel crap before it, during and after it.

My vegetarian meal tonight – chicken and par-cooked potatoes. They’re still giving me vegan for lunch every day, and for dinner sometimes I get meat and sometimes vegan. Never any protein with the vegan meals though. I’ll come away from this experience with a protein and vitamin D deficiency. Rang the hotel manager who told me that unless I go into anaphylactic shock from meat, I can’t have vegetarian. I wasn’t happy with this answer so I rang the support line again. They said they’d fix it…again.

I reminisce about the overreaching measures of our government, for the sake of not even a 0.2% fatality rate. Why can’t they take a herd immunity approach where vulnerable people stay in lock down for 6 months, and the rest of us who are less risky, return to a level of normality? Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying we should relax every corner of society back to normal, but I am saying we should take a balanced approach that minimises risk to the vulnerable but also takes a "do no harm" approach to the millions of citizens who are healthy. I’m happy to catch Covid for the sake of the herd, given my chances of survival are good. Better me than someone vulnerable. Of course, it doesn’t matter because the government makes the choice for all of us.

Given the pain that millions of Aussies feel with no income, mortgage stress, lack of food etc, versus a fatality rate of 0.18% (and dropping), at what point does the cure become worse than the disease?

Spoke to my parents and Aunty, who are both great at wailing with me. Fellow wailers welcome.

Easter - Detention

I would say Happy Easter to ourselves, but it’s easily the worst Easter we’ve ever had. And since nothing changes from day to day, I figured I’d group the days to make it less boring to both write and read.

We had a lovely Friday night and Sabbath with our church online. It’s good to see familiar faces after so many weeks overseas. Easter Friday was a time of reflection of the torment Jesus faced in His walk to the cross. He was a many of many sorrows, beaten, ridiculed, tortured and put to death in the worst way imaginable. Even worse than the physical pain, would have been the mental anguish He suffered. Anything I am going through is dwarfed by His experience. Like the Bible says, He goes before us. Literally.

Easter Sunday brought more conversations with friends and family who we haven’t chatted to for a while.

It also meant joy as I contemplated the victory of the empty grave. That’s my favourite part of the Easter story. The victory. I’m sure it didn’t feel like that for the disciples, who watched their world crumble as their faith and belief gave way to despair and brokenness on Friday afternoon. However, when contemplating what that first Easter meant for them, it occurred to me that despite the hopelessness they must have felt, the regret and doubt that would have plagued their weekend, it didn’t diminish the moments they’d had with Jesus before that. All those memories for 3 years of ministry were still there, even if there was little comfort in them at that exact moment.

When I’m going through hard circumstances like I am now, and maybe I’m not feeling Jesus’ presence or maybe I’m questioning my own faith that He’s there to begin with, those past experiences mean something. Not only are they reminders of my time with Him, but they are like seeds laying dormant ready to be watered and spring to life.

Past experiences are present nourishment and future blooms.

That’s what I took away from Easter this year.

Monday 13 April – signing off

I think the returned traveller who suicided in mandatory detention this past weekend says it all. Death is always tragic, but the death of someone who was deprived for the sake of others, seems more tragic than usual.

This is as good a time to finish my blog as any. We’re still in detention for another 9 days, it still sucks, the meals are still atrocious and incorrect, we still don’t know how we’re getting home to Sydney, but there’s really nothing more to say that hasn’t been said already.

Thank you to everyone who supported us with words of understanding, encouragement, mourning, commiseration, songs and photos. This too shall pass, and in the meantime, we cling to your generosity of spirit.

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13th April 2020

Fellow wailer here for you!!!
I agree with you that the most frustrating part of this is the illogical government regulations and overreacting response to the virus. I say, let the virus run rampant across our countries to build up herd immunity, and advise those at risk, such as myself, to maintain social distancing and washing hands often. And it that doesn't work, I'll take hydrochloroquine which big pharma is fighting like hell to keep from being the inexpensive solution to the whole mess. The big argument here is that Trump believes that he can lift the shutdown, and the governors think only they can. The matter is moot as without Trump's support for more money, the governors will then have the bear the financial burden of a continued shutdown in their own state. I appreciate what you wrote about Good Friday and Easter.

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