The boundaries of the state are elusive and arbitrary. Beyond and between them is a void.
The idea of ‘Australia’ ends just a few metres from where I’m writing, in an alley between this building and the next. From my workday window I gaze directly into several rooms opposite, the windows of a hotel now co-opted as a detention centre; a prison for men who fled one state under duress and are yet to find the comfort of belonging in another.
Rain is spattering, the day is suddenly cool. There are lights on and men in their rooms. I walk out for a moment, returning with a cup of tea. The man lying on the bed lifts himself on an elbow and gazes coolly across. There’s a man on his mobile phone. A man, resting back in a chair, bare feet raised on the window ledge. The glimpses are intimate, from close at hand, but simultaneously removed by both captivity and the symbolic excision from citizenship, from some concrete, enabling sense of belonging. The privileges of this state are denied the men inside. Some have been confined for eight years without trial or recourse. They are homeless in a powerful and punitive sense.
In this room: Australia, and all the formal, legislated social comforts our state affords. Over there, just out of reach: a no man’s land, liminal and constrained.
How do a few square metres of one Australian city contain both possibilities? What trick of thinking creates a space where the national geography of fundamental inclusion ends, in a combined act of arrest and forgetting?
Across the alley there’s a sobering truth of this country, a place happy to take men prisoners in a nowhere of our making.
In this edition you’ll find ruminations on home and the state, written by men and women who have left one in the hope of finding the other. Across the way, other stories remain works in progress. Let’s hope we hear them told.