Grandparents overseas call on Australia to include them in family travel exemptions

Parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents aren't considered immediate family under Australia's coronavirus travel exemptions, meaning many can't come and meet their new grandchildren.

Simone Holmes' mother

Elisabeth Lutz lives in Switzerland, separated from her daughter and grandchildren in Australia. Source: Supplied

Every day since she was born, Emma and Julio Vega have seen their first granddaughter.

But only through a computer screen.

They had planned to travel to Australia from Peru in March to help their daughter, Valeria Greenfield, but closed borders prevented it. It came as a crushing blow to the separated family. 

"It was the worst news I've heard in my life to hear that we couldn't go," Julio told SBS News from Peru's capital, Lima.

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

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

But parents aren't considered immediate family, causing heartache for tens of thousands of people. 

"It's really hard not having their emotional support, not having their presence," said Valeria, who lives in Brisbane.

SBS HINDI: Petition to consider parents 'immediate family' presented in parliament

The Home Affairs website states: "You are only considered to be an immediate family member if you are: a spouse, a de facto partner, a dependent child/ren, [or] a legal guardian".

Other countries such as Canada are allowing parents of citizens into the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Valeria has lived in Australia for almost 12 years and became an Australian citizen five years ago. With the arrival of her first child, she was looking forward to the support of her parents so she could return to full-time work sooner. 

"The worst thing is to live in uncertainty. My child, as any other Australian citizen, deserves and needs that company of her grandparents."

Her mother Emma said: "that's our biggest wish; to have our granddaughter in our arms."

'There needs to be compassion'

Simone Holmes is also at breaking point. She's been trying to get her widowed mother, Elisabeth Lutz, who lives in Switzerland, to Australia all year.

"There needs to be compassion and you've got to look at the mental health and the emotional strain that this puts on us is incredible. We are just losing hope, we're desperate to see our loved ones," she said. 

Simone Holmes has signed a petition calling for the rules to change.
Source: SBS News

Simone came to Australia in the year 2000 and became an Australian citizen in 2006. She has two children with her husband and lives in Brisbane.

"It's so important for my kids, so important for me. My mum is all I've got, virtually."

It's so important for my kids, so important for me.

- Simone Holmes, Brisbane

She says all costs related to her mother's travel and stay will be covered, including expensive visas, quarantine and health needs.

"They actually take their money with them and spend it here, so instead of saying they're a burden, no, they actually would be good for the economy."

Simone's mother Elisabeth remains in Switzerland.
Source: Supplied

Simone says "it's like a punch in the gut" every time she sees whole football teams or cricket teams and their families allowed into the country when people can't get their own parents in.

"They've really made it so hard for parents who, to me, naturally would be my immediate family."

'No proposed changes'

Simone and Valeria are among more than 11,000 people who have signed a petition calling for a change to the rules, which was presented to federal parliament this week.

Liberal MP Celia Hammond told parliament: "parents are a key part of an emotional support system for many immigrants and their families".

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has up to 90 days to respond to the petition.

Peter Dutton has up to 90 days to respond to the petition.
Source: AAP

A spokesperson for Mr Dutton told SBS News: "No proposed changes are being made at this point in time. The current restrictions are based on medical advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee". 

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge did not respond to a request for comment.

Valeria has this message for him: "Alan Tudge, think if it was your family. I know your parents were born overseas, I know your grandmother was born in Canada, imagine if you weren't able to see them anymore". 

"Please, we're asking you to give us a positive response or otherwise provide us with a plan for the future."

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction's restrictions on gathering limits. 

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW, VictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania

Published 14 November 2020 at 10:55am
By Catalina Florez