Submissions for the 2016 Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize were assessed blind. Five hundred entries were equally divided between the judges, who arrived at a longlist of thirty stories. This longlist was then reduced to a strong shortlist of fourteen, and finally to two runners-up and a winner.
Prison islands feature heavily in Australia’s post-invasion history. From the imprisonment of convicts on the islands of Sydney Harbour to the forced removal of Indigenous people to Rottnest Island and Flinders Island, Australian governments have a long tradition of punishing deviance – be it criminal, racial or both – offshore. Those deemed guilty of ‘wrongdoing’ have been kept out of sight and away from scrutiny – a tradition that lives on in the inhumane detention centres of Christmas Island, Manus Island and Nauru.
The first door is split directly from the centre of a swamp gum and is blocking up its home, swaddled in the bush. The timber’s grain ploughs its length and a fist of brass knocker presses its knuckles from the centre of the wood. As I float down the sandstone path, dressed as a vampire, the eucalypts in flower swirl all around me and their scent rains down and the sound of their smell is a bright and comforting chime of sweet wetness. And yet I am frightened – for a long time I’ve been unable to sleep.
This is not the first time a refugee crisis has washed up on the country’s shores: older Malaysians still recall the arrival of tens of thousands of Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s. The boats were initially pushed back out to sea, until, after increasing pressure from the international community, the Malaysian government established a refugee camp on the tiny island of Pulau Bidong. Less than one square mile in size, the island was deemed to have a capacity of 4500 – at its peak, it housed over 40,000 refugees.
Jeremy Corbyn, the first radical socialist leader in the Labour Party’s history, was never going to have things easy. Elected against considerable resistance from the political establishment – but with 60 per cent of Labour members’ support amid a surge in party recruitment – his cards were marked from day one. Labour MPs let it be known that they would get rid of Corbyn by any means necessary. As it happens, the media has been their constant ally in the struggle.