Rikki Chaplain, Advocacy Officer

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Involvement with the Department of Immigration can be a harrowing process for anyone, but it is even more so for people with a disability. It is common for people with disabilities to be refused permanent residency in Australia, on the grounds that the cost of supporting them will be too great a financial burden on society.

BCA’s advocacy team has been assisting two people who are blind to remain in Australia permanently. Let’s look at each situation more closely.

Case Study 1

A 99-year-old man from Vietnam has been living with his family, who have been providing all of the support he requires. This man is totally blind and does not receive any financial support from the Australian government, or help from medical or allied health services.

His family insist on providing complete care for him, unless there is a medical emergency which requires him to be hospitalised. The man and his family have not even asked for support from a blindness service provider, as he feels that all his needs are met within the family home.

The Department of Immigration refused this man permanent residency, on the grounds that he would be a financial burden on Australian society. The family chose to appeal the decision, taking their case to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Their immigration lawyer contacted BCA for assistance.

As BCA’s advocacy officer, I wrote a letter of support, demonstrating that this man would not be a financial burden to Australia, and reminding the panel of Australia’s human rights obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The letter also explained that due to the man’s age, sending him back to his home country without support from his family would impose stresses upon him which would likely shorten his life. It emphasised that his family are more than willing to continue providing any form of support the man would need at their own expense.

We were very pleased to be advised that the man was successful in appealing his case. His immigration lawyer stated that the victory was most likely due to the strong support letter provided by BCA.

Case Study 2

A 30-year-old man who is totally blind approached BCA for assistance to support his application for a second Safe Haven (protection) visa. A Safe Haven visa lasts for five years, and he is approaching the end of his first five-year visa. The Department of Immigration prefers recipients of this visa to live and work in a regional area of Australia for 42 months out of the five-year period.

This man chose not to live in a regional area, due to the lack of opportunities and services available to him. The man has found work in a capitol city, and is studying at university. He also needs to access blindness services to develop his life skills and thereby increase his independence. He sought support from BCA to validate his need to remain in a capital city when he applies for his second protection visa.

While his application has not yet been lodged, BCA has argued that the man is already contributing to his community, and to Australian society more broadly, by working and studying. He does not receive a Disability Support Pension (blind), and is not a financial burden on society.

His achievements demonstrate his determination, and suggest that he will make much greater contributions in the future as a result of his studies and improved chances of gaining employment in his chosen field.

The outcome for this man is yet to be determined. It is hoped however, that BCA’s support will assist him in gaining his second visa.

If you are seeking advice on, or assistance with advocacy related to blindness or vision impairment issues, please contact BCA on 1800 033 660. Our advocacy team will be more than happy to help.

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