Paying tax, but still feeling second class

Kiwis second class citizens
Philip and Deborah Vine with daughter Anya. (Photo: Harrison Saragossi)

15 September 2013

Andrea Petrie – Sydney Morning Herald

Soon after New Zealander Philip Vine was offered a job in Australia in 2008, he and his wife, Deborah, packed up their young family and moved across the Tasman.

They have since bought a house in Brisbane, established a wide circle of friends and are happily raising their four Kiwi children – Anya, 10, Zebedee, 9, Charity, 7, and Poppy, 5.

Ms Vine said they adored the country they now called home – almost as much as she loved reminding Aussies about the might of the All Blacks and that NZ was where champion racehorse Phar Lap, Hollywood actor Russell Crowe and the pavlova originated.

While they knew before they came that it had become harder for Kiwis to become Australian citizens compared with when Mr Vine lived here as a teenager, they did not realise just how much it would affect them.

Ms Vine said that because they could not get permanent residency or become Australian citizens, they were being treated as second class.

”I don’t expect the Australian government to pay for us or our children because it is our responsibility, but it’s frustrating considering for five years now we’ve paid taxes, we are contributing to the Australian economy, we’ve bought a house and have remained good, law-abiding people yet we can’t get any form of government assistance whatsoever.”

So when Mr Vine was out of work for five months – through no fault of his own – they were unable to access any unemployment benefits.

Instead, they had to rely on the generosity of friends and family to meet their mortgage, utility bills and living expenses, and most of their groceries came from a food bank.

”Many of our Australian friends who are wonderful, wonderful people were absolutely mortified when they learnt that we weren’t able to get any help during that time,” she said. ”People don’t realise what the situation is for Kiwis and we know of a refugee who has got more rights here than us.”

Adding to their frustration is that their eldest daughter has a complicated intellectual impairment which requires her to go to a special school, she needs constant supervision and has issues with her co-ordination.

When a hernia meant Ms Vine could no longer lift Anya in and out of the car, they had to buy a vehicle that could be modified to suit their needs.

Several government agencies told them grants were available to help meet the cost, but ultimately their Kiwi citizenship meant they were ineligible.

They live off one income, so Mr Vine is now working extra shifts whenever he can to pay off the car loan.

”It’s hard, but we manage because we have to,” she said. ”That’s why we don’t have carpet in our house and we walk around on concrete. The thing is we’re not asking for a handout. We pay taxes and we have to pay the NDIS levy so we are paying for all our disabled child and other welfare benefits so why shouldn’t we be able to access them?”

[Read the Sydney Morning Herald article].


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