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Episode 1: A limbo of Australia’s own making

Vietnamese refugees arriving in Australia saying thank you

My life has been in limbo since I was 16.... People my age, I think they have goals and dreams of what they wanted in five years or in 10 years, just like a normal human being. For me it's like, if I have tomorrow, I'll be happy.


Who are the Temporary people – and how did Australia trap them in endless uncertainty?

Meet Zaki, who fled a Taliban death warrant when he was a teenager to find somewhere safe. Instead, he finds himself impounded in the crude politics of fear that Australian leaders have been stoking for decades. He is one of 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the ‘legacy caseload’, kept silent by a system that holds permanent protection out of reach. We know the stories of Manus and Nauru, but how did this happen, right in our midst?

In this story we uncover the politics and meet someone still waiting, still temporary. He shares his memories. His good days and bad. What it’s like to leave home, to be denied the right to go to school or work, to be separated from your family. To be in a limbo of Australia’s own making.


The voices in Temporary come alive in longform journalism – vividly illustrated by photographers and artists who themselves are refugees and people seeking asylum – on a series hub produced by UNSW’s Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.

Temporary is hosted by Sisonke Msimang, and produced by Kara Jensen-Mackinnon and Miles Herbert, with editorial support from Lauren Martin and Miles Martignoni. Original music composed by Lama Zakharia, mixed and mastered by Ryan Pemberton, with series artwork by Matt Huynh. Temporary is a project from the UNSW Centre for Ideas and Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law co-produced with Guardian Australia, inspired by the book Refugee Rights and Policy Wrongs by Jane McAdam and Fiona Chong.

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