Day 2. Regulation nation This second story was written after being escorted to a hotel room in the Melbourne city centre and issued with a detention notice to begin a mandatory 14 day 'quarantine’ period after travelling from Rotterdam. ¶ This story imagines the decision tree invented by a anonymous civil servant which resulted in the issueing of colonial-style detention notices to all arrivals to Australia who were then subjected to forced quarantine on arrival.

Sift the research pool

Direction and detention notice issued 5 May 2020. Template based on pre-existing form first released as part of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic). Set in Arial. Designer unknown.

Tweet by Deputy Chief Health Officer for the state of Victoria in Australia, Dr Annaliese van Diemen whose signature appears on the bottom of each Direction and Detention Notice issued to quarantined visitors. Van Diemen’s Land was the first colonised name given to the island state of Tasmania.

May 7th, 2020

The form hard to be clear and concise. It was provided to inform, and enforce, but also not to panic anyone. As each returning visitor alighted from the plane and made their way from the jet bridge, through to baggage claim and customs this form act as an important intercept. It would also be the first time a passenger would know exactly where they were going to be for the first 14 days of their detention… *Detention.* There had to be a better word we could use. It was hard to see the term without evoking thoughts of refugees pushed offshore to and into modern day ‘detention’ camps, out of sight but not necessarily out of mind.

What are they doing elsewhere? Let’s see… New Zealand are calling it ‘managed isolation’… as opposed to self-isolation, I guess. Oh wait… they have two paths for visitors: one for those with symptoms and one for those without. What is that called? Oh, just ‘quarantine’. I guess the stigma of offshore ‘detention’ centres doesn’t apply since New Zealand have welcomed former Manus island refugees in the past. It seems a bit harsh separating out the well and the sick. How does the visitor's treatment differ, I wonder? Should we have separated out visitors too? Which hotels would take the sick over the well?

Back to the form. Okay, we have a sort of template from the 2008 Public Health and Wellbeing act. It’s inelegant but I bet they never thought it would be enacted on as wide a scale as this. I’m guessing the public review of the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 was postponed after stalling mid-way through last year. It’s clear enough. I’ll need to add space for individual names and signatures. Could probably do this myself. I’ll just print out that bit and stick it on top of the page. Attending officers and department officials can handwrite their names and the names of incoming passengers. Again, messy and inelegant but… I wonder if we can get it re-typeset so it’s not a composite anymore. Maybe pop some state branding on there… [makes a call, chats, hangs up]… No time. Oh well. It is what it is and this is only a temporary measure. I mean, we don’t want to strip people of their liberties and have them holed up in posh hotels indefinitely… do we?

One last scan over the text before I circulate it… okay COVID-19 has been inserted into note 1 (5). Mentioned ‘you have / you will be detained’ twice. Not good. Nothing to be done at this stage though. Instructions, conditions, compliance. All in there. Needs the deputy Chief Health Officer’s signature. I hope the recent twitter storm she provoked has blown over…

‘Detention notice’. Still doesn’t sit well. Associations will this term are probably something Australia, well post-colonial-ised Australia, will never shake… and be doomed to reenact, in various forms, time and time again. Van Diemen was onto something although I'm keeping that opinion to be myself… as all good civil servants should… must. I’m just going to file this now. What’s next?

Written and published by Michael Bojkowski c.2021.

Res >^..^<