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Mother of international student fighting ‘last stage’ tumour gets special permission to travel to Australia

Harpreet's mother Sukhwinder Kaur gets special permission to travel to Australia amid coronavirus restrictions. Source: Supplied

Sydney-based Harpreet Singh’s mother, Sukhwinder Kaur has reached Melbourne after she got an exemption to travel to Australia on "compelling" grounds.

Ms Kaur whose 30-year-old son is fighting for his life has been battling on many fronts.

On one hand, she has been braving the news of her son's deteriorating health, while at the same time she has been struggling to find ways to be by his side as he lies miles away “tied to tubes” in a hospital bed.

On Thursday, Ms Kaur won at least on one front when the Department of Home Affairs approved her application for exemption to travel to Australia on "compelling" grounds before it was reportedly rejected at least twice.


  • Harpreet is battling 'last stage' brain tumour at a Sydney hospital
  • Harpreet's mother has travelled to Australia on special permission amid COVID-19 restrictions
  • Family claims Harpreet has less than a month's life expectancy

Ms Kaur landed at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on Friday morning, along with 443 other Australians who returned home in the second mercy flight from India, after the country closed its borders as part of a nationwide lockdown designed to contain the coronavirus.

Harpreet's mother Sukhwinder Kaur minutes before the flight took off from New Delhi.

Speaking to SBS Punjabi, Ms Kaur’s younger son, Gurpreet Singh said the news of the approval has brought some respite to his family.

“We were already at the airport with our luggage when we received the approval. We have been struggling to get the special permission ever since border restrictions were put in place last month,” said Mr Singh.

He said, with his brother’s health worsening, it was more urgent than ever for somebody from the family to be with Harpreet.

“Harpreet’s health is falling rapidly and it is more important than ever for my mother to be by his side. The doctors tell us that he is now struggling to hear or see things and is hardly responsive,” said Mr Singh.

Harpreet Singh brain tumour
Gurpreet Singh (L) and Harpreet Singh (R) with their mother.

Thirty-year-old Harpreet who arrived in Hobart in Australia on a student visa was diagnosed with a tumour in his brain last year. He later shifted to Sydney for medical treatment.

Mr Singh said his brother has since undergone four intense surgeries and multiple treatments, and the doctors have now told them that his life expectancy is less than a month.

“I spoke to his surgeon last month. He told me that the tumour has multiplied in Harpreet’s brain and has also spread to his spine, making him unable to move or respond to light or voice.

“The doctors have told us that he has less than a month to survive. Now only a miracle can save him,” said the anxious brother who had also applied for an exemption, but his application was reportedly declined.

“We had applied for an exemption for both me and my mother, but they gave us approval for only one person and we obviously thought that between me and my mother, she should be the one to travel.

“We are grateful to the Australian High Commission and the Department of Home Affairs for helping us at such a crucial time,” said Mr Singh.

Harpreet Singh brain tumour
Gurpreet Singh on his way back after dropping his mother at the airport.

Mr Singh added that besides the authorities, there was a group of people without whose help he could not have received an approval for his mother.

One such person is Syndey-based Varun Kapoor who reached out to the Singh family in India when he came across Gurpreet’s appeal to the Australian authorities on social media.

He and his wife immediately volunteered their services to visit Harpreet at the hospital almost on a regular basis.

“I just saw Gurpreet’s post about his brother and reached out to him via Facebook and asked if he needed any help. He told me about Harpreet’s medical condition and that’s how it all started,” Mr Kapoor told SBS Punjabi.

Apart from visiting Harpreet at the hospital, he also reached out to his surgeons and wrote to the Australian High Commission, before liaising with Harpreet’s migration agent to apply for his family's travel exemption.

“We looped everyone in we possibly could, the High Commission here and in India, the Consulate General and the group who was organising private charter flights from India because we did not want to waste any more time.

“We initially got permission from the Australian High Commission in New Delhi who told us that Harpreet’s mother and brother’s visitor visas were valid and that we could go ahead and book their tickets for the next charter flight,” said Mr Kapoor.

He said he then wrote to the Department of Home Affairs to get permission for the duo, but after multiple attempts, they only succeeded in getting permission for one of them.

“After discussing with the family, it was decided that Harpreet's mother would travel.

"We are still trying to get an approval for Gurpreet so that he can join his mother who is aged, cannot speak in English and can surely use some assistance in these hard times,” said Mr Kapoor.

Harpreet Singh brain tumour
Harpreet Singh was diagnosed with a tumour in his brain in 2019.

Mr Kapoor said he was not alone. He claims there is an army of 30 other strangers who he lovingly calls ‘seva (service) angels’ who have banded together to help Harpreet and his family during these difficult times.

“They are all volunteers, most of whom do not even know Harpreet or his family. They visit him on a rotational basis, talk to him, try to cheer him up and sometimes even give him massages. It’s just overwhelming how an adverse situation has brought so many people together,” said Mr Kapoor.

The group has now appealed to the Government of Victoria to waive off Ms Kaur’s mandatory quarantine period so she can join her son in Syndey at the earliest.

Coronavirus symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia, according to the Federal Government's website. Symptoms can include a fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath.

If you develop symptoms within 14 days of returning from overseas, you should call to seek medical attention.

If you don’t have symptoms but you have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, you should also call to seek medical attention.

If you believe you may need to get tested, call your doctor, don’t visit. Or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

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