A country as a fortress: tens of thousands of Australians are locked out by their own

Welcome to Borderline, season 2.

Isabelle Roughol
Isabelle Roughol

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Episode 07: The plight of stranded Australians

🇦🇺 There isn’t much permanence in the life of a global citizen, but you can always come home. That’s the promise of a passport: those doors will always be open to you.

Not true anymore for tens of thousands of Australians, who have been locked out of their own country. The federal government has imposed flight caps, allowing only 4,000 international arrivals a week, a bit under 1% of usual numbers. The few available seats go for a fortune while economy passengers keep getting bumped. Some have been stranded abroad for months, losing jobs, running out of money, separated from children or dying parents, unable to get healthcare or an education, living illegally in countries where they never intended to stay.

The system is ostensibly in place to help relieve pressure on Australia’s hotel quarantine system, also one of the strictest in the world. Leaving the country is nearly as hard: it requires government permission. State borders are closing too, splintering the country into so many islands of their own, each competing to appear the most serious and effective in keeping the pandemic at bay. When does action become overreaction?

For the first episode of this new season of Borderline, I spoke to four Australians caught up in those grinds. Each story is an individual tragedy. What has perhaps hurt them most is the indifference, even the hostility of fellows Australians tucked in their own beds. The country has become a fortress, and it’s not leaving a side door open for its own.

“Just let us come home. We are as Australian as you. We cried with you when the country burned. We are you.”

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Announcement: Borderline now has a Patreon page.

🚨I’m pouring my heart and many hours into Borderline. It’s pretty much become a full-time job. (Don’t tell my actually paying consulting clients…)

I opened membership on Patreon with two objectives in mind: 1) give a place for those kind souls who asked to show their support and help me cover costs (on my way to building a global media empire) and 2) create more community for those truly defiant global citizens who want more.

Members get every episode 24 hours early, exclusive content, behind the scenes access, weekly livestreams with me and a community to chat with about the world. So pledge now.

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Season 2 is here. Tell me what you’d like to hear.

✊ This week’s is my proudest episode yet. It’s why I started Borderline. Global citizens were already viewed with suspicion and demonized in political discourse. This year has shown us that when trouble hits, the world closes up like a shell. Our freedom of movement has never been more quickly or more drastically curtailed, and we have largely acquiesced. One social media follower chilled me when he responded to my concern for transnational families: “people need to understand that crossing borders is offensive now.”

I’m a big fan of beating Covid-19 and I have beat the drum for informed public health policy and responsible individual behavior. But it is also our duty to ask: Whom do we no longer see when we look out for our own? What cannot be sacrificed?

We’ll discuss this and much more on season 2 of Borderline, which should run to Christmas (sooner than you can get a flight to Australia if you bought a ticket today…) Some episodes in the work: Do travel restrictions actually work to fight the pandemic? Wtf is going on with Brexit? The end of the American century, with Wade Davis. Everything you need to know about the Internet, with James Ball. We’ll go to Lebanon to hear from one of the world’s largest diaspora. We’ll even listen to a musical written just for us.

Got ideas for topics I should cover, people you want to hear from? Let me know in comments. Welcome to season 2.

Meet One Lane Bridge.

🥝 Let’s stay in that far away corner of the earth for a moment. Ever taken to the road in New Zealand? The South Island is so sparsely populated you never encounter much traffic. No point building wide roads. The landscape is dotted with one lane bridges one is encouraged to engage slowly. There’s even a few you share with trains, which would have been a good thing to know before my brothers and I blindly drove on...

It’s in homage to that most inspiring country and the creative bond I share with my brothers that I created One Lane Bridge, a storytelling studio. OLB is simply the production umbrella under which live Borderline and other projects in development. Because let’s face it, you don’t want to have to pronounce my last name.

You may have noticed that this newsletter has taken back the name “Isa’s Notebook.” That’s because with One Lane Bridge, I may soon be talking about a lot more than just Borderline. You’ll continue to get Borderline updates with every new episode, while conversation starters, reading recommendations, posts etc. will live on Patreon.

And while we’re talking back-to-school spruce, check out the new website.

Talk to you next week.

Milford Sound, New Zealand, by François Roughol. (Yep, my brother.) See his photography on Insta.


Isabelle Roughol Twitter

Journalist, podcaster, media consultant. Telling stories & building better newsrooms. Writes The Lede. Ex- LinkedIn News, Le Figaro, The Cambodia Daily. 🎓 Mizzou '08, Birkbeck '25.