Australians with parents overseas welcome changes to family travel exemptions

Parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents will now be allowed into the states and territories that have reached 80 per cent double dose vaccination targets.

Valeria hoped her parents in Peru could come and help her raise her daughter.

Valeria hoped her parents in Peru could come and help her raise her daughter. Source: Catalina Florez/SBS News

Emma and Julio Vega had been planning to travel to Australia from Peru in March 2020 to meet their daughter Valeria's first child.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the closure of Australia's borders, they were locked out indefinitely.

It meant the Vegas' only contact with their granddaughter in her first 18 months of life would be through a computer or phone screen.

"My parents missing all those milestones was very hard, and my child not having that connection with her grandparents," Valeria Greenfield told SBS News from Brisbane.

"That was the worst part - everything that my daughter has missed from my parents, and everything my parents have missed from my daughter."

"Obviously, that time is gone. She's now 18 months, and we can't get that back."

Under Australia's COVID-19 travel ban, only the "immediate family" of an Australian citizen or permanent resident is allowed to enter the country.

Parents weren't initially considered under the travel rules to be immediate family, but a change in exemptions could see them allowed into Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday that parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents will now be classified as immediate family, allowing them to travel to states and territories that have reached 80 per cent double dose vaccination targets.

Emma and Julio Vega, bottom right, talk to their granddaughter from Peru.
Source: Supplied

"I know that will be very welcome news to Australians right across the country who were hoping to be reunited with their family members, their parents who are overseas," he told reporters.

In New South Wales, it will mean parents will be allowed to enter Sydney from 1 November if they are fully vaccinated. They will not have to undergo hotel quarantine.

"I want to stress that for the other states and territories - and I have advised the premiers and chief ministers to this end - it is about Australian residents and citizens first," Mr Morrison said.

Campaigners had long been calling on the federal government to include parents as immediate family for inbound travel, with many critical of the restrictions imposed on their parents to enter Australia.

Many Australian citizens and permanent residents, including new mothers unable to be with their mums and dads after giving birth, have described the family separation as "soul-destroying".

There have been numerous protests against the restrictions across the country in the past 18 months.

Ms Greenfield said while the change is "better late than never," the separation has caused a lot of pain.

"Unfortunately, many, many people will never get to see the parents again, because they already died or another thing has happened," she said.

"I feel for them, for all the people that will never get to be reunited."

With the reopening of Queensland's borders to international travellers still uncertain, Ms Greenfield said she plans to visit her parents in Peru with her daughter.

She said she can't get her parents' hopes up again about meeting their only grandchild in person, only to have them dashed.

"I'm going through a huge cost financially, emotionally, I'm separating my child from her father here, but I just have to do it. They have waited for so long."


Share
Published 16 October 2021 at 5:37pm, updated 16 October 2021 at 5:43pm
By Catalina Florez, Amy Hall
Source: SBS News