Plebs and celebs: the Aussies who can’t travel and the celebrities who can

plebs-and-celebs:-the-aussies-who-can’t-travel-and-the-celebrities-who-can

CARTOON BY BRIAN DOYLE

To celebrate the one year anniversary of our loss of freedom of movement as Australians I thought it would be nice to profile some of the celebrities who’ve been happily traversing our international borders, even as everyday Aussies remain stuck at home or abroad.

Who doesn’t love a little celebrity gossip?

First up, we have actress Nicole Kidman and her husband Keith Urban who were given permission last July not only to return to Australia, but also to shirk hotel quarantine in favour of something more comfortable at their holiday home in country New South Wales.

Compare this to a Nicole* with a less famous surname whose Australian husband and children haven’t seen her for months as she has continued working as a flight attendant with a U.S. carrier.

In a Facebook group set up by Aussies stranded as a result of Australia’s Covid-19 travel restrictions, Nicole explains that, though she has permanent residency in Australia, her application to return to her family in Australia has been denied. This has left her “homeless overseas,” she explains, with little in the way of healthcare in the midst of a global pandemic.

Then we have American actor Tom Hanks who was given permission to fly into Queensland in September of last year, despite having contracted the Covid-19 virus.

Spare a thought for a less important Tom. He and his Filipino wife sold their Australian home in 2019 and shipped its contents to the Philippines in order to retire there, where Tom has permanent residency. Tom briefly returned to Australia for a medical procedure in March 2020, but subsequently became stranded as global travel ground to a halt. He has since been denied permission to return to the Philippines to be with his wife.

Recently, British singer Ed Sheeran was graciously allowed to visit Australia to perform at the funeral of a good friend.

Meanwhile, an Ed of much humbler origins has been denied permission to leave Australia and be with his terminally ill grandfather, despite providing “every single document as evidence” to support his application.

US actor Zac Efron has been given permission to enter Australia in Covid season—not once but twice. Another Zac has a fiancée stuck in Canada whom he hasn’t seen in eight months, and whose application to leave Australia to visit her has been denied six times.

Julia Roberts, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon … the list goes on. A long queue of celebrities continue to enjoy visits to and exits from Australia’s sunny shores even as other Julias, Marks and Matts remain stuck overseas or forbidden from leaving Australia, in contravention of Australia’s international human rights obligations.

In a little ray of hope, Labor has recently put pressure on the Coalition government to fix the broken visa system that is hindering the partners of some 100,000 Australians from having their visas approved so that couples could reunite.

In the meantime, those who remain stranded from loved ones have plenty of time to reflect on the ugly results of turning human beings into economic units whose fame determines their eligibility for travel.

Maybe it’s time to recapture the idea of the Imago Dei, where everyone possesses equal value as creatures made in the image of God.


* Names have been changed to maintain anonymity

Kurt Mahlburg

Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate…

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