[Freddie Sayers from LockdownTV interviews (20 mins) Harley Hodgson, a young Australian woman who has just spent 14 days in involuntary quarrantine at the COVID internment camp called “Howard Springs” in the Northern Territory, Australia.
Inside Australia’s COVID
Lead to More Lockdowns
Dec 3, 2021
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Published on Dec 3, 2021
Inside Australia’s Covid internment camp
Dec 3, 2021
Listen to the podcast version: https://shows.acast.com/lockdowntv-wi…
Read the full article here: https://unherd.com/thepost/inside-aus…
Hayley Hodgson, 26, moved to Darwin from Melbourne to escape the never-ending lockdowns — only to find herself locked up in a Covid Internment Camp without even having the virus.
She’s just returned from a 14-day detention at Howard Springs, the 2000-capacity Covid camp outside Darwin to which regional Covid cases are transported by the authorities. In an exclusive interview with Freddie Sayers, she recounted her experiences.
// Timecodes //
00:00 – 01:53 – Introduction
01:53 – 05:38 – How did Hayley end up in Howard Springs, Australia’s COVID camp?
05:38 – 07:18 – “Get in the COVID cab or get a $5,000 fine”
07:18 – 09:54 – Hayley arrives at Howard Springs
09:54 – 12:31 – Australia’s COVID camps threaten Hayley with a fine
12:31 – 13:04 – Hayley is offered Valium for the distress caused by the camp
13:04 – 14:45 – Hayley has lost her job because of her stay at Howard Springs
14:45 – 16:29 – What is happening to Australia?
16:29 – 18:31 – What’s next for Hayley after her stay at the COVID camp?
18:31 – 19:33 – Escape from Victoria: Inmates flee Howard Springs
19:33 – 20:16 – Concluding thoughts
#Australia #Covid19 #Omicron
Hayley: Oh, it’s horrible! It’s a horrible feeling! You feel like you’re in prison. You feel like you’ve done something wrong! It’s inhumane what they’re doing. You are so small, they just overpower you. And you’re literally nothing! It’s like:
“You do what we say, or you’re in trouble! We’ll lock you up for longer.”
Yeah, they were even threatening me that if I was to do this again, :
“We will extend your time in here.”
Freedie Sayers: Hello. And welcome to UnHerd. I’m Freddie Sayers. Australia! Until recently, that country was most famous for it’s sunshine and relaxed attitude. Well, since the COVID pandemic hit, we’ve all got to know another side of Australia. With some of the longest and most stringent lockdowns and travel restrictions in the world, it’s become a case study of what happens when a government will do anything to keep COVID numbers low.
Their latest policy is to build special camps, COVID internment camps, to which infected, and suspected infected, people are moved. The biggest of these camps is called ‘Howard Springs’. It houses up to 2,000 inmates. Surrounded by tall fences, and carefully policed against attempts to escape. It’s been described as ‘the gold standard’ of such camps. And is being replicated across Australia.
Joining us today on the line from Darwin, in the Northern Territories, is Hayley Hodgson. She has just returned from a 14-day, let’s say, “stay”, at Howard Springs. And she’s agreed to tell us all about it. Hi, Hayley.
Hayley: Hi, how are you going?
Freedie Sayers: So we are really keen to just hear what’s happened to you, it sounds like you’ve had quite an interesting last couple of weeks. Take us right back to the beginning. How did this all start?
Hayley: Okay, so how it all started was, a friend of mine went to work and got tested for COVID. He had a little bit of cold. He tested positive. He got put into this quarantine camp. And then we went about our days as normal. And then the investigators started to knock on our doors, and stuff like that. So then what actually happened was, I had investigators come. I walked out front cs.
Freedie Sayers: So just to interrupt you. So how did they investigate you? Were you part of a contact tracing list?
Hayley: How they contacted me was, I have a scooter, and they ran my number plate. And they ran the number plates and saw the footage that I was with a person who had tested positive. And that’s how they knocked on my door, and knew where I lived, from running my number plate.
Freedie Sayers: Okay. So then do they call you up? Or did they come straight to the house, or what happens next?
Hayley: Yeah. So they came straight to my house. I didn’t get a call, or anything. I literally walked out the front. And it was two undercover investigators. And they said:
“Do, you know, so and so?”
“Have you been with them?”
I told them my whereabouts, where I’d been, everything like that. And they said:
And they said:
“Have you had a COVID test done?”
“Yes, I had.”
When I hadn’t. Just, because I was so scared, in the moment. And I’ve been to one of these quarantine camps before, only literally a month before this, so I know what it was like. I was just really scared. It was just a horrible position to be in. And I just lied and said, :
“Look, yeah, I have.”
When I hadn’t. They said:
And they drove off. About five minutes later, they called me and they said:
“We’ve tried to check the system and your name’s nowhere. We can’t find you.”
And I said:
“I’ve lied to you. I’m completely sorry. I’m so apologetic. I’m scared! This is just such a scary thing!”
And they said:
“Yep, righto, stay there. Someone’s going to come and test you.”
So I stayed there. And I just waited for someone to come and test me. No one came to test me. The next people who rocked up at my house were two other police officers. They blocked my driveway.
Freedie Sayers: So these are actually uniformed police officers, normal police officers.
Hayley: Yep. So then the police officers blocked my driveway, I walked out and I said:
“What’s going on, are you guys testing me for COVID? What’s happening?”
“No, you’re getting taken away. And you have no choice. You’re going to Howard Springs. You either come with us now, and we’ll put you in the back of the divvy van, or you can have a choice to get a ‘COVID cab’.”
So of course, I chose the COVID cab. Because they said:
“Well, if we’re to take you, we’re going to hand you a $5,000 fine.”
So of course, I didn’t want that to happen. So I just said, :
“Look, I don’t consent to this. I don’t understand why I can’t just self-isolate at home, like a lot of other people are doing.”
And they just said, :
“We’ve just been told from higher up where to take you. And that’s all that there is.”
Freedie Sayers: So, Howard Springs is the biggest COVID camp in Australia, isn’t it?
Hayley: Correct, yes.
Freedie Sayers: It’s this huge network of cabins — I think we’ve got a picture of it we can put up — that is built to house potentially infected people.
Hayley: Yeah. So they are literally bringing in now, hundreds of people that are of close contact, or that have COVID. So it doesn’t even matter if you test negative on your first test, your second, or your third. Because you’re a close contact, you have to stay in there for 14 days, no matter what!
Freedie Sayers: So, let’s get back to this situation at your house. So these two policemen, what is the choice they give you exactly? It’s:
“Come with us in this van, or you get a $5,000 fine.”
Hayley: Yep. So it’s:
“You come with us, we take you there, and you’re given a $5,000 fine, or we will call a COVID cab, and we will not fine you.”
So it’s pretty much, you have to consent otherwise you’re getting a $5,000 fine.
Freedie Sayers: Okay. So then, some hours later, the COVID cab arrives?
Hayley: Yeah, it was probably… The policeman stayed at my driveway until this cab came. They said:
“Can you please go pack a bag.”
So I went and packed a bag. And whilst I was packing my bag, I had my house-mates at the front speaking to them. And they said:
“Is she able to just do a test. And once that test comes back negative, is she able to leave, and come back to normal life?”
And these police officers said:
“Yes, we’re pretty sure that, … All you have to do is return a negative test, and you’ll be released.”
So that calmed me down knowing, okay, well if I return a negative test, I can just go back home. So I got in the COVID cab.
Freedie Sayers: I think we’ve got some footage that your mum took, actually, that we can play of you waving goodbye, and getting into the back of a van!
[Phone video — start]
Harley’s mother: I’ve just come, and she’s being taken away. But look at the COVID van! ‘Bar, bistro, pokies and functions’. How professional! Long live COVID!
[Phone video — finish]
Hayley: It is a COVID taxi. But it’s actually a casino bus. So driving there. And then the police escorted me in. I never saw those police again, they left. They weren’t allowed into the facility. So then new police came. And they were in charge. Obviously, I was very distressed. I was crying. I was saying:
“This isn’t fair.”
It was just horrible to go through. I stood there. And I just said:
“Can I please have a test now, because I need these test results back, as I will be negative.”
And later on I was negative. The whole time I was there I was negative. And I said:
“Once these go negative, am I allowed to leave?”
And she said:
“No, you’re here for the 14 days.”
Freedie Sayers: So the first time you found out that you were there for 14 days was when you arrived?
Freedie Sayers: Okay, so you get taken to a room? Is it a cabin? What’s life like inside these camps?
Hayley: You literally get put on the back of a golf buggy with your bags. And these people are in hazmat suits and everything. They don’t want to come near you, because they think you’re infectious. And they literally drop you to your room. And they leave you. They don’t come and say anything, they don’t check up, they don’t do anything. You get delivered your meals once a day. And you are just left.
Freedie Sayers: And are you allowed to talk to people? Have you spoken to people from inside the camp?
Hayley: We can, but we’re only allowed to stay in our designated areas. Which is nothing, maybe two metres. We have a deck that we’re allowed to go out, and maybe get a little bit of sunlight. But that is it. If you get caught off your decking without a mask on, or anything, you get a $5,000 fine. And that happened to me. So, I didn’t get a $5,000 fine, I got a written-up warning. I actually sent you guys some footage on that as well.
Freedie Sayers: Yeah. So, tell us about what we’re about to see here. So these are the officials inside the camp, who are disciplining you, because you were apparently not being contained within your area. Is that, right?
Hayley: Yeah, correct. So I went to the bin, to put something in the bin. But I was not wearing a mask. Mind you, I actually have an exemption, I don’t need to wear a mask. I have a medical condition. And the person that came to hand me the notice, was another police officer.
[Phone video — start]
Camp Staff (male) 1: So, what’s the go?
Camp Staff (male) 2: So this. I’m going to give you a warning, yeah? It’s an official warning — that you have to stay on your balcony and obey the rules, while you’re here. If we have to go over the rules again, I don’t care.
Hayley: So am I allowed to go to the laundry?
Camp staff (male) 2: You’re allowed to go to the laundry. But you’ve got to wear a mask. Yeah?
Hayley: Yeah, righto.
Camp staff (male) 2: And you definitely can’t go up the fencing rail. But you’re allowed to go to the laundry, yeah? That’s always been the case, yeah.
Hayley: Right. So if I was sitting just here, which is right near the fence — why are these guys in a cabin that’s right near the fence? It makes no sense, does it?
Camp staff (male) 2: Yeah. But you can’t leave your balcony to go to the fence to talk to somebody else. That’s just obvious, yeah?
Hayley: So if I was at that balcony cs.
Camp staff (male) 2: Again, it doesn’t have to make sense! There has to be lines everywhere drawn, yeah? And one of the lines is you cannot leave your balcony, and you cannot go to someone else. When it makes no sense, or doesn’t seem right to you, that is the line. And that’s what the law is. And that’s how it goes.
Hayley: The law?
Camp staff (male) 2: Well, the CHO direction.
Hayley: There’s a law that says that?
Camp staff (male) 2: A CHO direction, yeah. There’s a CHO direction on how the behaviour must be done. Especially in this area, because it’s much more highly infectious, and likely to have infected people here.
Camp staff (male) 2: There’s a risk. So far, the risk is still very high, yeah? While you’re here, can we just do that? Otherwise, next time it’s a $5,000 fine. And we don’t want to do that.
Hayley: It’s a $5,000 fine if what?
Camp staff (male) 2: If you breach again.
Hayley: If I walk out onto that path?
Camp staff (male) 2: Without your mask on, or for no reason other than laundry. If I cross that yellow line, …
Camp staff (female): Saying that you’ve broken the rule.
Hayley: That I’ve broken the rule, I will be issued with a $5,000 fine?
Camp staff (male) 2: That’s correct.
Camp staff (male) 2: We could even do that now. But we’re giving the warning first. Have a chat with you, because it’s a big fine. We’re all just doing the right thing, yeah? Like I said, I’m not here to fight with you!
Camp staff (male) 2: I don’t want to fight with you!
Camp staff (male) 2: I just want everybody to do the right thing. And unfortunately it’s my job to make sure they do. The ins and outs have got nothing to do with me. I’m just there to make sure the rules are adhered to.
[Phone video — finish]
Freedie Sayers: So what did that experience make you think? What was your feeling about being in that situation, with those people in control of your every movement?
Hayley: Oh, it’s horrible! It’s a horrible feeling! You feel like you’re in prison. You feel like you’ve done something wrong! It’s inhumane what they’re doing. You are so small, they just overpower you. And you’re literally nothing. It’s like:
“You do what we say, or you’re in trouble, we’ll lock you up for longer.”
Yeah, they were even threatening me that if I was to do this again:
“We will extend your time in here.”
Freedie Sayers: So the officers within the camp have the power to keep you there longer if you misbehave?
Hayley: That’s what they were saying, yep!
Hayley: Yeah, so, because I was so distressed, and I said:
“Can you just please let me out for a walk, or a run? I’m in this little box and I can’t move. I’m anxious, I’m feeling not well, I need to get out.”
And they literally said:
“We’ve got a doctor calling you. And we’ll get some Valium prescribed to you. That you can call us anytime you like. And you can have Valium.”
Freedie Sayers: Just to calm you down?
Freedie Sayers: So when did this end, Hayley? You were in there for the full 14 days?
Hayley: Yeah, correct. Yeah, 14 days.
Freedie Sayers: And that was a few days ago that you came out?
Hayley: Yeah, I think I’ve been out a week and a half now.
Freedie Sayers: So during that whole time, how many times have you tested? And did you ever test positive?
Hayley: Never tested positive. At all! And I was tested three times.
Freedie Sayers: So at the moment, you haven’t had COVID?
Hayley: Never had COVID. And I was a close contact of someone, never got it, and I was treated literally like a criminal.
Freedie Sayers: What’s happened to you since you came out?
Hayley: I no longer have a job, as I was casual, at where I was working. So I am now unemployed.
Freedie Sayers: So you were working at a store, or what? How did that happen?
Hayley: Yeah. So I was just working in a retail store. Obviously, casual, you don’t get paid any sick leave, or for being away from your job. So I wasn’t getting paid, or anything whilst I was being in there. They compensated me, I think, $1, 500 for the two weeks. And that was all.
Freedie Sayers: So you’ve lost your job?
Hayley: Yeah. Now currently unemployed, because of this situation.
Freedie Sayers: There’s been a lot of press in Australian media about how these camps are really luxurious. And it’s like having a holiday. Did it feels like a holiday for you?
Hayley: No. No way! You are literally trapped, in a box, on your decking, with fences all around you, cameras everywhere. It’s just astounding! Like you’re literally treated like a prisoner in there.
Freedie Sayers: So, let’s zoom out a little bit, Hayley. You’ve been living through this for the past couple of years. What is happening, do you think, to Australia, and to your country?
Hayley: Well, it’s so hard. It’s like people aren’t — we just abide by the rules. And we’re just going with the flow. But this flow doesn’t seem to be getting any better. We have hardly any numbers, and they’re doing this to us, still. It’s just crazy! I originally lived in Victoria, Melbourne, where it was really, really bad. And we’d been in lockdowns for months and months! And the reason why I moved to Darwin was to get away from that. Because Darwin wasn’t as bad, and the lockdowns weren’t happening. So once I moved up here, it was all fine.
And then that one case happened, and — it’s just crazy. They locked the whole state down, and just sending heaps and heaps of people there. Because obviously, Darwin is the only place that has this quarantine camp, in Australia.
Freedie Sayers: Because in the international media, it’s been reported that Australia is relaxing a bit, or at least the rules about international travel are relaxing. They no longer plan to have Zero COVID, they’re going to understand that they need to manage it. Does it feel like it’s getting better over there?
Hayley: Ohh! I think every state is different. At the moment, Darwin is really, really harsh with what’s going on and stuff. I think other states are relaxing as more people are getting vaccinated. But the unvaccinated people who choose not to be, are just looked at like prisoners, and that they’re doing the wrong thing.
Freedie Sayers: So what are you going to do next, Hayley? What comes next for you?
Hayley: What comes next? Well, find a job! That’s definitely! And I really want to get awareness out to what is going on. These camps are getting built all over the world. I know there’s another one getting built in Victoria at the moment. And as I said, it doesn’t matter if you’re not vaccinated. Whether you have one dosage of the vaccination, or two. It doesn’t matter your vaccination status, you can get sent to these camps if you are of close contact. Like I was. Or if you lie to authorities. As I found out, because I said that I had a test when I hadn’t. And then I found out later that I was in there for punishment.
Freedie Sayers: Who told you that?
Hayley: CDC. Centers for Disease Control.
Freedie Sayers: So they say that your sentence, your two-week incarceration, was actually punishment for having said you got a test, when you didn’t?
Hayley: Yeah, yep. When other people were in close contact. And they were allowed to self-isolate at home. Where there was probably about 10 of them, and I was the only one that got sent there. And that’s what I was saying:
“It doesn’t make sense! Why am I the only one here? I want answers to this.”
And that was the only time that I got an answer is when I rang CDC. And they said:
“Yeah, there’s a high chance that you’re in there for punishment, because you lied to authorities.”
Freedie Sayers: At any stage of this process, did anyone tell your rights? Have you had any contact with a lawyer? Has there been any kind of legal process?
Hayley: Nothing, I’ve had nothing. It’s so hard. Nobody knows, that’s the thing! You’re on your own in these situations. And you’re just left! That’s all, there’s no help when you’re in this camp. And there’s no help when you’re out of this camp. It’s just:
“You do your time, and we’ll leave you alone.”
That’s all there is.
Freedie Sayers: So we’ve heard that people have been trying to escape this Howard Springs camp in the past few days. What do about that?
Hayley: Yeah, I did hear that I think three people have escaped. I don’t know if they’ve found them, yet. But yeah, they have escaped.
Freedie Sayers: And do you understand why they would do that? Give us a summary of what your mental state has been like during this period. And what the whole experience has done to you.
Hayley: Oh, trust me, when I was in there, I was thinking:
“How do I escape? But, what are going to be the consequences if I do? And if I get caught?”
It’s an ongoing thing. Your mental health, as I said, you’re in a box! Your mind is going a million miles an hour, you feel horrible. Yeah, it’s just horrible what they putting people through. Because you feel like you’ve done something wrong, when you haven’t! All you were doing is going about your normal life, and you were close contacts with someone who was ill. That’s all it is.
Freedie Sayers: Hayley. Thank you so much for telling us your story.
Hayley: No worries. Thank you for having me.
Freedie Sayers: That was Hayley Hodgson. Thanks to her for telling her story. She joined us from Darwin in the Northern Territory in Australia, telling us about her last two, or three weeks, which have been, to say the least, quite unusual.
And let’s just remember that this is a person who has not had COVID. Even now. And here she is, she’s lost her job. And she’s just spent 14 days in involuntary incarceration. Raises, I think, some quite important questions about what the end goal of all this is.
Thank you to her, and thanks to you for joining. This was UnHerd.
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Version 1: Dec 3, 2021 — Published post.