A way to experience Fortress Australia

A way to experience Fortress Australia
Rhonda Dredge

How would you feel to be locked up in a cage, cut off from everyday life by wire mesh?

There’s one way to find out – turn up on Friday night at 6pm out the front of the Park Hotel on Swanston St and give it a go.

Here, protestors have kept up a constant vigil outside what has become an inner-city detention centre.

Last week several detainees were released, and the federal government announced that some refugees would be settled in New Zealand.

“The deal is for 150 a year,” protest organiser Petrina Barson said. “There are more than 1000 refugees still in detention in Australia.”

Protestors set up the cage so the public can experience what it’s like to be locked up.

Vera Manojlovic was a tennis fan for Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open when she first came to the Park Hotel and what she saw politicised her.


I came here to protest about him [Novak Djokovic] being deported and found out what was going on.


Organisers say that the global publicity surrounding the tennis player’s incarceration raised the profile of the issue.

Vera spent 20 minutes in the cage, not because she couldn’t cope with being locked up, but because there was a queue to get in.

The cage is available to the public at 6pm every Friday and at special times for celebrities.

“The whole thing is a metaphor,” Petrina said, who also acts as jailor.

People enter the cage at their own volition and this reporter gave it a go.

Your first response is to get your bearings. There was a line of protestors across the street with placards saying, “Honk or Ring for the Refugees.”

You’re inside a cage looking at them and it becomes your job to record.

You have no life yourself in a cage so you can feel trapped in other people’s cages.

The cage is slightly taller than a person and there’s no seat inside.

You feel disconnected from the people outside the cage. They have the power and chat about important issues.

Someone takes a picture of you. For once you are the subject of a story and it feels good.

“Subjectivity is part of the whole debate,” Petrina said, when the issue of remaining objective was raised.

Being in a cage teaches you that you need to trust your own responses and not block them out •

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