||Issue No. 306||12 May 2006|
Interview: Out of the Bedroom
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Legal: The Fantasy of Choice
Politics: Labor Pains
Economics: Economics and the Public Purpose
Corporate: House of Horrors
History: Clash Of Cultures
International: Childs Play
Culture: Folk You Mate!
Review: Last Holeproof Hero
The Locker Room
The Real Truth About Independent Contractors
Letters to the Editor
Immigration Department Strikes Again
I have a story about my experiences with the Immigration Department and my efforts to come back to Australia to live again. I hope you can help me by bringing this story to the attention of the minister, as I feel that the staff of the Immigration Department can't cope with my case as it's outside their usual framework. They can't seem to look Œoutside the box‚ at individual cases.
I'll try and keep the story as short as possible, but I need to go back a few years to give you the background of my case.
My first husband and I were married in England in 1972 and our honeymoon was the plane trip to immigrate to Australia. We were only 21 and 19 years of age and it was a great adventure. We settled happily in Brisbane and over the next 15 years we built up a subcontracting business and then went into the building industry. We had a pretty successful business and paid thousands of dollars in tax, and our two daughters were born in Brisbane in 1976 and 1978. We thought of getting naturalized one day, but as with most immigrants in those days it was something that we would do one day.
In 1986, at the age of 35, my husband Graham was diagnosed with a brain tumor and he died 6 months later. A few months before he got sick he had done a job for a big businessman down the coast who then didn't pay him. As a result Graham was served with bankruptcy papers while he lay in hospital dying. So, while I was trying to care for our two children, who were only 10 and 8 years of age, and trying to care for my dying husband, our family home was repossessed and I had to find a rented house at rent I could barely afford. I stayed with friends for a short time after Graham's death and then decided that the children needed the security of family and a home, and so I returned to England so that we could be with my parents and brothers and sisters.
Over the next 17 years I remarried, worked hard and made sure the girls had a stable life. My oldest daughter went on to do a University degree, and my youngest daughter married and had her first child. I tried to forget my life in Australia, even though my children had been born there, as the last couple of years there had been so traumatic. But, of course, my past came back to haunt me!
My oldest daughter got the opportunity to return to Brisbane for a year as part of her University degree and jumped at the chance. She didn't remember a lot about her life there but as soon as she got back the memories came back too and before long she had made the decision that she wanted to return to Australia to live permanently. Then, my youngest daughter, after speaking to her sister, decided she wanted to return also and so, at 7 months pregnant, and with her husband and 3 year old son arrived in Brisbane. My second grandchild was born in Australia, so now all my family was in Australia and I was in England! My second husband and I decided to visit so that we could see our new grandchild and so in 2004, after 17 years out of the country, I returned to Brisbane on a holiday visa. All the memories came flooding back, and the good ones far outweighed the bad ones! We loved it, loved the lifestyle, the climate and the people. My husband Chris had never been to Australia before but he loved it too and before we had left we knew that we wanted to return here to live and to be close to our daughters and grandchildren.
This is when the Immigration Department comes in to the story. Once I had returned to England I contacted the Immigration Department and applied to be re-issued with my permanent visa, which I had held for 15 years as a permanent resident of Australia. I was told that because I had been out of the country for more than 10 years and had never been naturalized, that I could not be re-issued with my permanent resident‚s visa, and my application would be treated in the same way as any other person applying to immigrate to Australia. This is despite the fact that I had lived there for 15 years, had paid tax for 15 years, had two Australian children, and two grandchildren, one of whom had been born in Australia! I was to be treated the same as someone from Pakistan or China or Vietnam, who had never set foot in the country before.
I tried to appeal the decision, but was told I was not allowed to appeal, that the appeal would have to come from my daughters in Australia. They did appeal (this appeal cost us $1400), and a video-link was arranged between my daughters, two friends who spoke up about what had happened to me and the circumstances of why I had left the country, and a judge appointed by the Immigration Department. At the appeal, the judge informed the participants that although she was sympathetic to our case, she could only adjudicate Œby the book, and that the Immigration laws stated that if a person is out of the country for a period of more than 10 years that they lose their rights to regain their permanent visa. So, our $1400 dollars was actually lost before we even started the appeal, as the law also states that if the appeal is successful we would have the money returned, but if unsuccessful we would lose the money.
I was told that we should contact the Minister for Immigration, but that the whole process would be a lot quicker if done from Australia. We still desperately wanted to come to Australia to be with our family, so we decided to sell up our house in England and take a chance on making the new appeals in Australia. We applied for and were given a 6 month holiday visa, with the option that if we leave the country after 6 months we can stay another 6 months. This can go on for 4 years, as long as we leave the country every 6 months, but of course we need to work and can‚t work while on this visa, so it makes it a bit difficult to travel overseas every 6 months!
We arrived in Australia in June 2005, with the decision made that we can afford to stay for 12 months without working. After 12 months, if we have not been accepted, we have to go back to England, get jobs and start again. We rented a house and I started the new processes to try and get my visa. I contacted the office of the local state member and was given details of the correct people to contact and started the process again. I have spoken to Canberra, spent hours in the Immigration Department in Brisbane (which is staffed by immigrants!), filled in forms and made countless phone calls. I don‚t think the story has even got as far as the minister yet as it‚s still going through all the red tape. I was told that I could possibly get a bridging visa while the application is going through, but I have now been told that we DO have to leave the country as the decision won‚t be made until AFTER our first 6 months is up in early December. So, we have booked a few days in Fiji in early December and then we can come back for another 6 months to continue the saga.
I just think this is so unfair. We were told by the original judge that the Immigration Department can change the rules if they want to, depending on the case, but I really feel that it just depends on how a particular person feels on the day, as to how fast the application is going through, and whether they will change the rules. We are just every day battlers and we can‚t afford for this to go on too much longer. We just want to be with our daughters and grandchildren, get a job and buy a house (which we have enough money to pay for cash). I believe that mine is an unusual case and that it deserves to be looked at fairly. Why can‚t a person who has paid tax in this country for 15 years, who isn‚t a terrorist, who speaks English, who has come here legally and whose family are all Australian come here when they can give permanent visas to people who have come in illegally on a boat with no identification?
I hope that you are interested enough in my story to contact me and if you do I‚ll be happy to talk to you. I will do ANYTHING to try and stay in Australia and be with my family.
Rose Walker Regents Park Qld
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