NZ family in Australia struggle to survive

No government support for New Zealanders
A NZ family living in Perth are struggling to make ends meet after a father broke his leg and cannot gain access to any benefits. (Photo: Tupungato/123R)

22 May 2018

Phil Pennington – Radio New Zealand

A broken leg and Australia’s unfair treatment of New Zealand citizens has left a family of six living in Perth with only $100 to survive on.

Johno Walsh broke his leg playing in the park with his children at the end of April.

Because his injury occurred outside of his work as a diesel engineer he was ineligible for sick pay or work cover. Now he and his wife Debbie, originally from Hawke’s Bay, found out their income protection insurance won’t pay out until the end of June. They have four children.

So Ms Walsh went to the social welfare office, Centrelink, to see about getting access to their seven years of superannuation paid while living in Australia.

“We sat there for hours. They had no idea. She kept getting us to apply for all sorts of benefits and then would go, ‘Oh no, sorry it’s been rejected cos you’re not citizens’.”

Listen: Debbie Walsh tells Phil Pennington about the family’s struggle

New Zealanders on the Special Category Visa are not eligible for federal benefits. No one can withdraw super for hardship unless they had been on a benefit for six months.

Centrelink staff asked how it was possible permanent residents from other countries were able to qualify for benefits and New Zealanders with seven years in Australia could not.

“Why would it be [locked]. It’s our money, it’s ours,” Ms Walsh said.

“As for ANZAC, it just makes us furious. It’s just not fair. The rest of the world get a better deal.”

The bank had put their mortgage on hold but interest was backing up.

It was unsure if Mr Walsh would need further surgery. An initial mistake in diagnosis meant he was sent back to work for 10 days after breaking his leg, which had made it worse.

“Surely there must be something for us, we have four children. How are we supposed to feed them for the next four weeks?

“They said I could go to work, but my husband can’t walk.”

They and their New Zealand friends both had no idea that their income protection nor superannuation would buffer them.

“We’re trying to play it cool cos we don’t want our kids to know, because I don’t think they need to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

“That’s the life of a New Zealand citizen in Australia.”

[Read the Radio NZ article].


Comparison of rights – New Zealand vs Australia

New Zealanders Centrelink entitlements

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