A LIGHT IN THE DARK

Posted by SCA on  November 8, 2019 |
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A note to Samantha Connor, first and foremost a righteous human being and so too a consistent voice in the disability advocacy space, whose spirit I only wish was, quite literally, infectious and thus capable of being made communicable to a global audience in need of such positive pathogens.  Sam’s response to my letter is her own and not mine to broadcast but suffice to say that I am fortified by the knowledge that in her reply, a reminder, that there are indeed human beings who do not view our collective experience through the narrow prism of self-interest.  My letter to Samantha follows:

 

Hi Sam,

The tip of the sword – the most glaring point coalescing around more than a bit of quite meritorious metal is this:

We are home upon an Australian continent our Trans-Tasman family have been honourably present for centuries and the country we inhabit is the only genuine, true and quite permanent home my little family know – cynical government branding exorcises around what permanent means, notwithstanding.  Such authenticity of permanent place means nothing under modern LNP Government engineered policy changes to redefine what it is to call the nation one’s home and to be otherwise under law and upon country permanently.  Australian policy law shifted with a slow creep in the nineties and affected a radical but scarcely noticed recasting under one John Howard, around what it was to belong and to be home (my anomalous birth in Canada was just the start of our personal unraveling against such policy machinations, as you’ll glean from my essays).   I believe our case, more than any before it, shows the utter absence of integrity in the immigration system let too long to be toyed with by men who had no place directing the better lights of this nation’s future.

We are currently surrounded by not less than four generations of living Australian family – parents, siblings, cousins, nephews and so on.  None of this matters under the vagaries of today’s Australian policy law – especially where Dylan is disabled – that’s a terminal deal breaker with this LNP Government and we are made pariahs for the sins of our service in sacrifice to a child we won’t abandon.  Ironic huh? The Australian Government signals a compelling mandate to service crisis care as it creates crisis in a family only seeking equity of equality upon a continent that is by every rational, fair and reasonable definition their true and only home.  We are a most curious case, especially where we cannot be so easily swept away as temporary (like so many I’ve seen exit country, left broken, that no one hears about).  I am legally branded a Kiwi and form that diaspora, my wife and children branded by other nations and other visas – we are the face of an immigration systems manipulation which that same system’s architects hoped would never appear on the scene – for our predicament showcases the craven recasting of a once reasonable immigration system, reengineered in service to treasury and budget incomings, irrespective of the human collateral damage and inequality affected by such ambitions.

A case such as ours, speaks to the very lack of moral probity (or even fundamental fairness or merit) in a visa system serving a broader immigration organisation recast by John Howard and reinforced by subsequent Governments in this century, as an industrialised means of massive wealth generation to the federal bottom line – and very little more – endless messaging and marketing campaigns of Government notwithstanding.  A most modern advertised visage of diversity this Government spins out that signals inclusion as it attends very punitive and profound exclusion where one is found wanting by a bad year’s earnings or more repellant still – where a child is disabled (both factors fouling a permanent residency visa where people do everything right but are still made wrong).  The later, the disability of a child, a permanent and unforgivable exclusion to any hope of legally recognised permanence of place, under the very real machinations of visa and social security policy law of which too few are not fully aware or may have no understanding of whatsoever.

Under the requirements of many permanent resident visas, If you can make sufficient earnings under your “temporary” visa, maintain that visa and affect application for “legal” permanent visas then you have a fighting chance.  If you have one bad year and don’t meet the earnings requirements (that feed the economy through your taxation and spending) your doomed.  Frankly such consistent earnings year on year are rare amongst many Australians – but even where earnings are better than many but not meeting the approximately $55,000 earnings threshold each and every year your dudded – start again for re-harvesting to treasury.  Setting aside the morality of such a monetising of human beings let us consider that if you were sick or found in casualised work before a business closure or simply had hours cut – your  earnings for the year, and thus your family’s hopes of inclusion – dudded.  Such anxiety is compelling enough but where you have a disabled child such anxiety is not the least of it – you have no chance no matter your earnings because a disabled child is a kind of disease to this government who want nothing to do with disabled people whom they view in policy and private (if not in public pronouncements) as undesirables – a capital threat.  And so, where a family has a disabled child in their midsts, no matter the integrity of their work, their ongoing taxation without representation (or benefits) even as they stimulate the economy via their spending, the disabled child means one can never avail the medical exemption that is a component of the permanent residency visa program.  People don’t grasp the betrayal or even the policy law analytics (a clear intention of design).  The myriad policies attending over 100 visas within an immigration system are not just distant peripheral static in the public square but very easy to twist in the wind, where they were seen by anyone at all.  The public lose interest connecting the dots that hang people and otherwise attend depravity played out upon real people’s lives who are doing everything we once asked of good citizens – except their being increasingly recast as “guest workers”.   What kind of country are we?  Not the messaging or the slogans or the misdirection – the truth is ugly, discriminatory and currently perfectly legal under highly contorted policy protocols that managed to find their way into law.

Our sage and insightful daughter Maya (age 8) and her severely disabled and quite miraculous brother Dylan (age 9) have known no nation but Australia from ages 1 & 2, respectively but receive ZERO direct support from government (they get to go to school so there is that) otherwise nothing, not even a Medicare card.   They receive no direct support because they are cast, under the vagaries of those highly contorted and little-known policy laws as temporary persons in perpetuity – well, not quite forever, they’ll eventually face deportation as adults where I fail in my quest to enshrine the permanence at law by ministerial discretion – or – what would be the equivalent (in our house) of a miraculous legislative conversion via parliament – in which legislation ending these vagaries came to pass.  I had to become Dylan’s primary care giver (no compensation).  My wife works 5-7 day weeks and I freelance from the ‘kitchen table’ where care duties allow such undertakings and we just survive each week – sometimes not so much survive as manage to not end.

The children will, as previously alluded, be deported as adults – all in my essays online.  My wife will be deported with them.  That is our future.  That is the “hope” we have to hold.  That is our “aspirational dividend”.  One could be forgiven for finding Government’s executive messaging around hope and aspiration rather cynical signalling exorcises when reviewed against our quite real lived experiences.  Still we don’t falter or abrogate our commitment to country, community, broader family and one another.

Maya will be deported first, as an adult because she is not disabled and thus her dependency will fall away at the age of majority.  In a final act of indignity, she will be allowed to “stay” in the only nation she has ever known since she was a one year old child – where she can be harvested for significant revenue as a human being quite cynically badged as a “foreign student” and made to pay her fees up-front, often at inflated rates as high as 400%.  At the conclusion of this last passage down the immigration abattoir where her usefulness would be extinguished, she shall be dispatched or otherwise deported.  The Government will signal “options” but that’s a polite way of inferring “workarounds” and we have always reflected integrity and transparency, not duplicity, no matter how much we confront it – perhaps never more than we have with this Government. We therefore refute and decline to entertain such “options”. We want the veracity of the system to be restored for the immigration system is quite broken indeed and ignored in service to hyperbole around a “refugee crisis” and further obfuscation around that highly valued populist rhetoric to government that is safe boarders – as if all shareholders in the great ongoing Australian story of liberal democracy did not collectively value safe boarders and as if people seeking a better future were somehow the criminal ilk the government hopes to see them continually cast.

Dylan and my wife will follow Maya when I die (where she would see herself the first to go where I live to her age of majority).  My wife, Marilyn and Dylan’s capacity to find inclusion in the New Zealand diaspora that I must now rely on post-Howard 2001 policy changes shall find no form with my last breath – they will no longer “form” a New Zealand family but will “default” to their original nations of citizenship that are used to further exclude them and in a final terminal act – see them deported from a nation they formed and contributed for a quite literal lifetime.  If I die before the children are adults then all three will be effectively deported together shortly after – all in in my essays.  ALL FACT.  ALL BASED IN HIGHLY CONTORTED BUT LAWFUL POLICY PROTOCOLS FEW FULLY GRASP.  We are the human face showing the inherent betrayal of people within the weaponised immigration visa protocols.  We are the case the government wants to go away.  We are not going to go away and I want to see the entire system reformed.

I could articulate the policy law here (it is available in my other essays and letters) – I suspect some in government hope I continue to do so every single time I write about this because modeling shows people tune out against too much detail (I remind myself there is a time and place for everything). There is time, has been time and shall invariably be more time and place where each ‘i’ made dotted and each ‘t’ crossed –   but I also need people to understand in general terms too – what is happening within the massive immigration industry, of which the visa sector is but a single component. I had to research the laws, the policy aberrations and I had to be right.  Sometimes being right doesn’t mean much before a government who are masters of obfuscation, distraction and delay.  Against a public tired and distracted, such obfuscation is a fairly easy conversion kick at goal from dead centre before the posts, for a government who know how to play the game.

We break every mould as a family but are left ruined, even as we should personify 21st Century Australia.  We’re a multicultural, multiracial, multilingual, multinational family with centuries deep roots in both Australia and New Zealand whose only home is in Australia surrounded by those aforementioned greater Australian family – parents, siblings, cousins, nephews (an irony of some gallows humour finds Dylan born on Anzac Day 25 April but the least ‘loved’ Anzac from either shore).  My wife and I work in paid and unpaid work in sacrifice to our son – and service to an Australian economy whose government recognises us only for our contribution through our spending and taxation but denies us any equity of inclusion or hope and no service access, cover or much of anything else. Imagine a “challenging” life without Medicare or other basic beneifts so intrinsic to the normative functioning of most lives within this Commonwealth (keyword: common-wealth), then add a severe disability to a child as you were affecting a migration settlement in country that sets you for perpetual exclusion, then thwart your income earning potential in the face of service to that disability, even as you now need more than most just to compensate for what’s not a de-facto service for us but all others.  There are, of course, no therapies for Dylan but we do everything we can for him by ourselves. The state sanctioned exclusion – in perpetual limbo – is something hard for people to grasp – even for us.

We did not fully grasp this when we came “home” seven years ago because we came home “healthy” but have been made sick by government and policy.  It’s a point I need to stress more: We were made sick by policy and government not the disability, which was diagnosed after we settled with our larger, very much legal – and quite decidedly Australian citizen family – upon a continent our family have been HONOURABLY present for centuries (such a strange field of play, especially where some 1 in 3 Australians are from overseas with no former ties to country).  We can handle sacrifice, service and love before one another and in specific to Dylan’s needs (he needs support with everything from nappies, toileting, eating, bathing, brushing his teeth, dressing – everything).  He is overwhelmingly non-verbal (a few errant words although he can repeat and recognise words he does not speak them or type them or otherwise communicate them but he can read and articulate when presented them one at a time – sometimes).  What we cannot handle is a Government who is quite literally killing us through a slow war of attrition and complete disengagement.  Just passing the parcel of my earnest, well researched and increasingly desperate communiques… from one department or state actor to the other until (as I suspect) they figure or otherwise reckon we give up or die or both.

What we must confront as a family, under the machinations of government policy is not simply hard or difficult – it’s impossible where I am now Dylan’s full-time carer and full-time advocate for the cause.  If I don’t find an outcome that conveys us from this absurd but quite legally real state of being “temporary” in Australia ‘forever’ to “permanently legal” in Australia, then Dylan will be deported to the only place his mother has citizenship when I die: the Philippines, with his sister.  Such an outcome coming despite that disabled little boy and his beloved sister having lived virtually all of their lives (and certainly every known memory of those lives) in Australia – longer than even many permanent residents and citizens whom Government is now cast as a kind of “defender” against the “threat” our children somehow pose.  An outcome that is at best absurd and at worst despicable and vulgar in its punitive consequences.

Marilyn has not been back to the Philippines since we left seven years ago  (I had been working for Fox in a past life and opportunity in Southeast Asia beckoned at the time and I lived there for over five years); the children have never been back to that fractured and poverty-stricken nation since they left when they were only ages 1 & 2, respectively (a fact I stated but one that bears repeating until someone in government actually considers the integrity of what they are doing to this family).  It’s mind boggling that such will be the outcome but where I am the only Kiwi in house and Dylan’s disability activates a little-known EXCLUSION in the permanent residency visa (that sees our permanent residency visa killed before it even finds procedural life towards ministerial discretion) we are effectively left in a kind of detention/limbo that is stunning.  In fact, quite morbidly, it occurred to me that people in detention receive more care (forlorn as their state surely is) they are, at a minimum afforded the dignity of medical care that my wife and children are completely denied.  We are truly at a breaking point both psychologically and from any rational capacity to service our alienation. Marilyn, Maya and Dylan have not even Medicare; NDIS for Dylan is a fatuous hope.  I know – I painstakingly applied and was painfully rejected by a form letter with as much attendant compassion as a ‘camp guard’.  All in the essays I’ve written online.

My wife once reflected only determination when she went to work each day.  After seven years of this cyclic misery without end she is despondent in the evenings now, working at least five and sometimes seven day weeks to generate earnings which attend no aspirational dividends and flow like scarce water reserves into an Australian economy from which we extract no benefit – in every respect.  Our once glowing, ambitious and radiant daughter, Maya, has that look of a defeated person where she is now old enough to hear conversations – surely made darker where she brings the innocence of an 8-year-old to such compartmentalisation in her mind.  Our severely autistic son, Dylan, does not understand what is happening to us but he senses insecurity and knows we are all anxious and otherwise without joy.  And quite possibly this is his understanding also of hope – or its abandonment, for we that entered Australia in health, with such hope and every belief the future was indeed – aspirational.  Australia recast as a variant of Dante’s Inferno, which we cannot escape and which we must endure without benefit of a Beatrice or Virgil.

We are a family that exudes every tenet of exemplary lives but we end each day defeated and forlorn; made most sick – not by disability – but instead by exclusion that flows from those little-known policy aberrations borne of policy laws quietly attended to in 2001 by John Howard (I wrote the most interesting article I could about a very boring subject; and so it may come to pass that fewer people have read, than one hopes or wishes, but it’s here for background:

https://methinketh.com/2019/10/30/if-you-dont-like-it-go-home-v-2/  

Dylan’s disability needs would be enough to challenge the best fortified families to hold the centre – we are at the edge of the edge of the edge.  If one could front the Disability Royal Commission and present a better case of utter abandonment, even exploitation by the state, they’d be hard-pressed to look beyond our modest house and mighty struggle.  Pity the Government could not be more overtly “tried” before such a commission.  They would surely be found wanting… and quite decidedly guilty.

I am occasionally eloquent but it’s asset classed value is negligible in this battle royal and we have no ties to power, no more wealth (long gone in service to replacing services denied) and our hope, as noted, is undeserved for there is no light at the end, even as we continue digging forward in the darkness.

We are as far past breaking point as you can come as a family before shattering.  I always said if we were breaking we could fix ourselves – but once we’re broken it may be too late. Maybe we’re already broken and we’re too stubborn to admit it or recognise our dislocation?  Perhaps the possibility for finding ourselves complete or otherwise whole as we once were is already gone and we must remake ourselves before a kind amputation and find a new way of going forward, different, but healed – though never whole as before.  A different family left broken but through healing and real change reimagined as a new variant of whole, the result of a metamorphose through a kind of hell, fury and fire. Then again, maybe we’ll be made shattered and swept away into the wind as dispirit pieces?

We have a kind of drive and ambition for a thousand people but we’ve been going like this for so long – for too long – time is becoming a new enemy as I see what it’s taking from us; from my wife and our children. We may lead admirable lives but that means nothing before the quite daunting institutional Australian government systems we must confront.  A bit of messaging from a representative of government a well posited smile and a turned shoulder renders any possible enquiry on our behalf dead before it’s known life. It’s a domino theory of problems in which one denial of a service begets another and we’re falling fast.  I fear if we don’t find balance soon we’ll be a kind of tragedy I try not to contemplate but which surely drives me with an urgency I never knew I possessed.

The Government really have us over a barrel because I can’t even get our permanent residency application in the queue for inevitable rejection in service to a statutory process requirement so we can hope the Immigration Minister, one David Coleman, can have pressure bought upon him to grant us LEGAL PERMANENCE via his DISCRETIONARY POWERS (I can’t imagine Mr. Coleman is looking for us and will do all he can to avoid us).  It turns out that Home Affairs have weaponised the application system to analytically keep one from even completing the 19 page New Zealand stream online-only-permanent-residency visa where you don’t answer the permanent residency application’s questions in a way the analytics have been engineered at the Home Affairs website portal – to allow forward progress (I suspect this is the new normal for most visas but I stick to facts in evidence and personal experience).  In other words, where one does not comply or otherwise find their answers to the application conforming with the analytic design of the online questions, the 19-page online-only application cannot even be executed as a statutory component of that much coveted Ministerial Discretion; such ministerial discretion only actionable (and then not even a guarantee of review is a certainty but a possibility, but only possible for consideration before the Minister (at his prerogative) where the actual application has been submitted, reviewed and rejected.  In the words of Joseph Heller’s Yossarian, “That’s some catch, that catch-22.”  I have come to wonder if the party or parties engineering this immoral piece of handiwork every conceived of a case like ours or a determined father who unpicked the vulgarity of the engineered system and its utter lack of due process at law? The Home Affairs web portal a rather dystopian harbinger for any family of the damned who don’t find digitized analytical conformity before they’ve even filled out the application.  So much for the legal probity of due process.  Aye?

Once I deconstructed the ballet of process, policy and protocol and realised the circular madness of such an outcome I asked David Coleman to ask the immigration department to let the application be presented to department as a physical application that it find its inevitable rejection as a component of process to his hoped-for discretionary powers, where the application has effectively been rotting upon the digital docks of the Home Affairs portal from September 2018.  The reply to my personal, pained and detailed request that he attend ‘Ministerial Direction’ (not discretion – direction) that the application even be known to government, was replied to by someone at his office with no surname who, in short, simply replied with a referral to “tech support.”  No joke – it’s all on the website at www.methinketh.com  Sometimes I want to lose my mind but I really need it so I can’t give up but it’s like we fell into a dystopian mashup of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky and Orwellian doublespeak.  A complete and utter denial of due process before a Government who feel people are due nothing but may, in our case, be tolerated where they are harvested for something – our contribution to the economy through our earnings where they make for a net gain to Government.  This is un-Australian. This is the death of the fair go, personified.  I will not give-up.

I have the honourable task of fighting for that which is infinitely bigger than myself; a little boy named Dylan who is more than simply his disability and who deserves to be safe; a little girl, Maya, one year his junior but now almost his second mother – a child possessing a wisdom and comportment too few adults of either gender reflect; and a woman named Marilyn with whom we created life and family and has sacrificed her own life in the workforce without any reward in ways few people would tolerate or maintain dignity, within an Australian nation that was alien to her in language, culture, and experience but within which she has risen in endless service of work as she sacrifices any personal fulfilment in service to a family she will not abandon.  We have no hope unless the Gordian Knot I’ve detailed is unwound.  When you have been through the wars smug juniors of government and even the haggard cohort they represent are quite repellant when they wave you away with cheap smiles and hollow rhetoric.

I started writing about this in June at the website I built from the kitchen table – my “office”.  The site, www.methinketh.com now has over 20 essays I’ve written in the last four months (and some open letters to politicians – including Scott Morrison and the maddening exchange with David Coleman’s office I mentioned already – that blog post regarding Immigration Minister David Coleman is titled, “No Guidance, Death by Error Message.”

When your story is true and its merits are profound you start out feeling like you have a chance.  When you have to define such complexity as one speaks truth to power you find most people are less interested – it’s complicated and complicated loses votes and attention spans in a highly competitive social space – so I have much to consider as I keep fighting.  I must continue to maintain our fight and our integrity but realise that audiences give you highly abridged opportunity into which we must pour profoundly complex propositions. I refine my message daily without corroding its integrity. The government is well aware of the greater societal distraction, to be certain and draws a dividend from the all too frequent silence. Quiet is good according to the mandate of a government who seek little change and dislike conversations that don’t echo the chamber of their bubbles.

People have told me our case is one of the most egregious examples of state sanctioned abuse and exploitation they’ve ever seen – the least fair – that scares me because we fight from a deep (and dark) pocket … it also empowers me.  We don’t give up – but we’re losing this battle and we’re looking for allies.  We did not seek this battle but having it set upon us we cannot lose the fight – human lives, not simply treasure or trophies, hang in the balance. I am too well aware by now that right is not might in a cynical political and policy landscape.  Quite often power can retain its entrenched position where any threat to its authority can be crippled, setting aside moribund irony of the word crippled – though perhaps perfectly appropriate where government seeks to make unequal we fight back for equality – not sameness – simple, dignified equality.   A fair go for those who have a go, absent any rhetoric or oversimplified messaging.

Please forgive the length of the prose.  I’m asking a lot of you to read this much but I’m grateful if you do. If you want to pass along any or all of this you surely have my consent and gratitude.

 

Go well,

Scott Anderson

 

 

 

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