Nash is a Sri-Lankan born multi-disciplinary artist based in Melbourne, where he has lived since 2012. His first book, What to Expect When You’re Immigrating, will be published by Affirm Press in 2021, and in this column and original artwork Nash reflects on the impact of coronavirus on Australia’s temporary migrant workers.
As strange as the times might be for everyone, they are far more uncertain for the temporary migrant workers here in Australia. With all industries being impacted severely by the pandemic, many of the 1.2 million temporary migrant workers here are out of work, including myself.
But unlike my local counterparts, who have access to financial support from the government, the time when it might be impossible for me to make ends meet is fast approaching.
‘Those who are in Australia under various visa arrangements – they’re obviously not held here compulsorily. If they’re not in a position to be able to support themselves, then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries.’ Prime Minister Scott Morrison
As an immigrant, I have heard the phrase ‘Go back to your own country!’ in different contexts, like joking among friends or from a drunk stranger on the street. But when the Prime Minister of the country you hope to soon call ‘home’ implies it, it hits a little differently.
Leaving may not be an option for some of us, whether it’s because the ticket home is too expensive, or the airports in our countries have closed, or we’re in the middle of studies that we have already invested thousands of dollars into.
The government’s instinct to look after its locals and permanent residents first is understandable. But having contributed to the country’s economy and its social community it is difficult to not be affected by the lack of support – financial or otherwise.
In this time of crisis we need to find comfort and support in our loved ones and neighbours (albeit from a distance); spare a thought for the temporary migrant workers whose loved ones might be a bit further away and for whom ‘isolation’ might be more than just a physical experience.