The other side of the Ditch

Patricia Amiatu and Saufo’i Amiatu don’t know how they will afford their son’s education in Australia.

28 Nov 2015 – Nicholas Jones (New Zealand Herald)

As their eldest child nears the end of secondary school, the Amiatus have had more on their mind than his grades.

Raven, 16, moved from Auckland to Sydney with his family in 2005, the same year student loan support for new Kiwi arrivals was scrapped, following wider welfare and support restrictions in 2001.

Next year will be Raven’s last at school, and his mother Patricia and father Saufo’i were considering remortgaging their home to pay for their son’s university fees, or sending him to live with his grandparents in Mangere, South Auckland.

“He was looking forward to studying medicine and I don’t want to put a stop to it and say it’s too expensive,” Mrs Amiatu, who works as a technical officer at a genetics laboratory, told the Weekend Herald.

“He had one more year [of school] next year. We kind of told him — you don’t worry about it, we’ll sort it out. But we had to ask him if he was willing to go to New Zealand.”

If Raven did study in New Zealand he would likely return to Australia as soon as possible, meaning New Zealand taxpayers would foot the bill for his subsidised higher education, with little return.

However, Raven and the three other Amiatu children will now be able to study in Australia, after a law change this week was signed off with support from both the Liberal-National Coalition and Australian Labor.

The change, announced by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during his New Zealand visit last month, will give student loan access to Kiwis who arrived as dependent children and lived in Australia for at least 10 years.

The new rules start from next year and will affect around 2600 students.

“It is a big load off our shoulders,” Mrs Amiatu said.

“It’s hard enough to put them through [university], let alone trying to support them with the distance. They probably would have ended up being a not-completing statistic.”

Joanne Cox, a spokeswoman for Oz Kiwi, a lobby group for expat Kiwis, said the law was the first positive step since the 2001 changes, introduced by the Howard Government.

Before that, Kiwi arrivals on temporary visas had rights generally equivalent to permanent residents, with some waiting periods, and could become citizens after two years of residence.

They are now excluded from the dole, disability support and other welfare programmes, and there is no longer a clear path to citizenship.

Australians in New Zealand can access a wide range of welfare support, normally if they have lived here for two years or more.

Ms Cox this week met Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Phil Goff in Canberra, where they had travelled to lobby politicians on the issue of Kiwi expat rights.

Australian ion Minister Peter Dutton gave little indication that a change could be considered, Mr Little said after their meeting, but both Coalition and Labor members of a migration committee broadly recognised some unfairness in the way rules were applied.

That was particularly true of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which Kiwi expats help fund through Medicare levies, but cannot access.

Prime Minister John Key said this month that Mr Turnbull has raised with him the issue of a clearer pathway to citizenship for Kiwis, and he was cautiously optimistic there could be changes in the longer term.

Those on temporary visas have no automatic path to permanent residency or citizenship, and are required to compete with other migrants on the basis of required skills, a process that costs thousands of dollars, with no guarantee of success.

[NZ Herald source]

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