Crisis worker tells homeless Kiwi widow ‘go home’
DESPITE being homeless, jobless and without access to any government support, New Zealand citizen and widow Francis* is not looking for a handout.
"All I want is a hand up and an opportunity to restructure and rebuild my life for me and my family," said the Gold Coast mother-of-three in her 40s.
"I've sold all my worldly possessions in order to survive, given away my beloved animals who have been part of my family and I am desperate to get a job so I can pay my bills and get into a property, just so we have somewhere that we can call home again," she said.
She's applied for help from Centrelink and sought help from crisis centres and women's refuges only to be told she's not eligible for any support because she's on a New Zealand passport.
"I also called many charity lines for assistance with no prevail and I was treated like a third-grade citizen and was told perhaps I should go back to New Zealand," she said.
"And I'm like, 'really?' This has been my home for more than 10 years, I've worked, paid taxes, been a good citizen, worked for some of Australia's top companies and done everything by the book.
"My three sons live here, all of our friends and family live here and I love Australia and the people here so much. This is my home."
To be eligible for any financial support she has to be a permanent resident, something that's financially out of reach at the moment.
She's surviving by using the little money she has to pay for holiday accommodation because real estate agents told her not to bother applying for a rental without a job.
Despite being stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty, completely foreign to her, she is determined to crawl out of the hole she's stuck in.
"Never in my life would I ever dreamt I would be a widow, jobless and wondering how I would pay for my next meal or provide a roof over my children's heads," she said.
Growing up in Auckland with a professional government job, she and her husband moved to Melbourne in 2008 before moving to the Gold Coast in 2016.
Her husband stayed in Victoria due to work commitments and they lived apart for 18 months before he joined her in 2017. Cruelly, after only being reunited for a short period of time, her life took a tragic turn.
"One week after returning from a family holiday, the man who I fell in love with when I was 18, my soulmate had tragically became ill and died. I thought at the time, 'I'm a widow at 44, this isn't the way my life was supposed to be'."
Life spiralled downhill rapidly but she continued to work until the COVID-19 virus impacted her life, as it did for thousands of her fellow Gold Coasters.
"Providing a roof over me and my family's heads, putting food on the table and not being on the streets is one of my biggest concerns."
Sadly, Francis's story is all too common. Another New Zealand citizen contacted the Bulletin admitting she had lost her job due to COVID-19 and she and her husband were living on the breadline. With no access to financial support because they're ineligible to become permanent residents, they have to accept charity.
"We moved here for a better life for our children and we can't just go home. And how would we pay for our quarantine in New Zealand, where would we go after that? What about all our stuff here?
"Because we're Kiwis we don't qualify for anything, but we're lucky compared to people who have children born with brain damage, they're entitled to nothing, yet they pay the disability levy."
She said half of her extended family was eligible for citizenship and they were going down that path.
"If we could become Australian citizens we would, but it's almost impossible for so many of us to get permanent residency. We don't want to go back to New Zealand, this is where we've made our home, we love it here."
* Name has been changed to protect her identity.
SENIOR REPORTER EMILY TOXWARD WRITES …
"WHY I'M NOT ELIGIBLE TO BECOME A PERMANENT RESIDENT"
MY Kiwi blood is boiling. Why?
I just read Facebook comments on an article I wrote in March about New Zealanders struggling to stay afloat during COVID-19 because they aren't entitled to any government support.
Here's a sample …
"Kiwis always wanting free handouts."
"Is it true that all kiwi males have had romantic liaisons with sheep by the age of 14?"
"Go back to your own country to get money."
"Become a permanent resident or citizen and you can get all the benefits … simple really."
NEWSFLASH: Unlike other immigrants there is no direct pathway to citizenship for some 647,000 New Zealanders living in Australia.
We want legislation to change so hardworking New Zealanders who love Australia and have made it their beloved home have the same access to citizenship as everyone else.
For hundreds of thousands of us who arrived after 2001 we must first be permanent residents. But to do this we must meet a myriad of conditions, including earning at least $53,900 for four consecutive years.
This rules me out because even though I arrived in 2004, have Aussie-born kids, built a house and have lined the pockets of State and Federal Governments through taxes, I only earned about $45,000 a year because I was self-employed for 10 years.
It feels like I'm being punished for choosing to stay home to raise three children while making an income.
I don't think my wage was anything to sneeze at, and neither is $52,000 a year, but it's not enough to prove to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton that I'm making a valuable contribution to society.
As a non-citizen I can't vote, can't access any benefits if I'm made redundant and I will be sent to an immigration detention centre if I'm involved in a car accident and found guilty of manslaughter. All because I can't become a citizen of a country I love. A country that belongs to First Nations people but is populated with a melting pot of cultures from across the globe.
But I'm one of the privileged ones, I have a full-time job, good health and a stable relationship. This is not the case for thousands of the 50,000 fellow Kiwis on the Gold Coast.
It should be them telling you their stories but they won't (I've asked dozens) because they fear negative abuse, they know they'll get told to "go home" or "stop bludging".
Fact is, we are NOT dole bludgers, we are hardworking members of society. We volunteer alongside you at the tuckshop, our husbands coach your son's footy team, our kids flip burgers alongside yours and we stack supermarket shelves at midnight. But we're treated like second-class citizens.
I wonder if savvy politicians realise there's potentially more than half a million Queensland votes up for grabs by giving Kiwis a fair go.
Or do they fear constituents will snub them if they're seen to be giving money to Kiwis?
Time will tell.
Originally published as Crisis worker tells homeless Kiwi widow 'go home'