Refugees caught in limbo in Australia share their stories in UNSW Sydney’s new storytelling project, ‘Temporary’, produced in a collaboration involving UNSW’s Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW Centre for Ideas and Guardian Australia.  

Australia is infamous for its offshore detention regime. Less well known is that, once those remote islands were ‘full’, 30,000 more people remained in Australia – their boats arrived but their lives were stopped by rules that deny them stability. These people live in our cities and towns in an endless limbo.  

UNSW’s new storytelling project, ‘Temporary’, shines a spotlight on people in the so-called ‘legacy caseload’, who go largely unseen and unheard among us. You can listen to their voices in the audio trailer for this series, which will launch on 26 November.  

Their journeys come to life in a storytelling hub produced by the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, vividly illustrated by refugee artists and photographers, and their voices rise from an eight-episode narrative podcast series by UNSW Centre for Ideas, co-produced with Guardian Australia, which will syndicate select episodes in its ‘Full Story’ podcast. 

The podcasts are hosted by Sisonke Msimang, a writer whose own family was granted asylum in Canada. Now living in Australia, Msimang says, “The stories of refugees and people seeking a better life, just like my family, really matter to me – and the stories in ‘Temporary’ reveal the inhumanity of a system that goes to extraordinary lengths to thwart the ambitions of regular people fleeing harm.”  

Temporary’ lays bare a system designed to deter people fleeing danger and seeking protection in Australia. It offers rare access, enabled by the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) based at UNSW, to people with lived experience of the system. They let us in on what it’s like to suddenly have to leave home without saying goodbye, to face an interview that seals your fate, to be separated from family indefinitely or stuck in judicial purgatory. To try to stay hopeful. 

“This is such an important project because it brings to the fore voices that have been silenced for so long,” says Professor Jane McAdam, Director of the Kaldor Centre. “Even though we know about the injustices of temporary protection and its detrimental impacts on refugees’ lives, it is quite jolting to hear people talk about their experiences directly. It brings home just how damaging Australia’s policies are – for people trying to rebuild their lives in safety.”  

If you’ve ever wondered what Australia’s hostility to refugees means in human terms, listen to ‘Temporary’, and explore the longform interviews. The series will help you understand how people survive in spite of a system designed to keep them out.  

Listen to the trailer, subscribe now to the podcast, and explore the upcoming stories

Explore ‘Temporary’