The notion that people across the socioeconomic spectrum would be treated equally in our wide brown land is a bit of a furphy, or possibly a fantasy that we tell our children before they grow up to realise the truth. Whether it’s Indigenous woman Tanya Day being locked up for being drunk in public while we accept this behaviour yearly at the Melbourne Cup due to the event’s boost to the economy, there are certain benefits that wealth and whiteness get you in this country.
Let’s look at the recent finding by Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass in her investigation into the sudden lockdown of the public housing towers in Melbourne. In a move which was found to violate human rights, the residents of the towers were locked up without warning during the second wave of COVID-19, while the rest of the city’s citizens were given time to collect the necessities and prepare themselves.
Then you have the homeless people of Melbourne who were housed in hotel accommodation during COVID lockdown, but have since been turfed out onto the streets – their welfare no longer such a pressing issue.
Of course, there are people who are deservedly granted exemptions from hotel quarantine. Airline crews, foreign diplomats, Australian government officials and unaccompanied minors are allowed to self-isolate at home, as are those with “strong compassionate or medical grounds”.
It’s nice to think of a world where the rich and powerful are meted out the same treatment as those stuck at the bottom of the ladder. But it’s hard to see a world where that will happen any time soon.
Emily Day is Deputy Opinion Editor at The Age.