'Why is grandma leaving?' Support grows for new parent visa


There could be good news for thousands of Australians whose parents live overseas - there's a proposal for a new tourist visa designed for the parents of migrants.

When Arvind Duggal moved to Australia in 2008, he brought his young family, but he had to leave one important family member behind.

His mother still lives in India, visiting as often as Australian migration laws allow.

"She is coming here for one year then she goes back for six months,” says Mr Duggal.

“That time is really hard for us because she is living by herself, with no support. So it's really important for us to bring her here." 

Visas which let parents of migrants live permanently in Australia are difficult to obtain, and expensive, costing $50,000 per person or a wait of about 30 years for a low-cost version.

Mr Duggal currently has two sisters living in India, so neither of these options are available to him. He doesn’t pass the “balance of family” test.

The Adelaide-based bus driver says in his culture, it’s the son’s responsibility to look after parents.

“This is really making us sad,” he says, adding that it is also hard on his young children. 

“The kids, they got really upset, why grandma is leaving, you know? Why can’t she stay here with us?”

"The grandparents always have a very important role in our children's knowledge and relationships.” 

“We always learn from our grandparents… and our children are missing that part."

Mr Duggal wants to see a new tourist visa introduced which won't require family members to travel home for long stays.

His petition has gathered 27,000 signatures, and some political support. 

South Australian state Labor Senator Tung Ngo is among the supporters, backing calls for a three year long-stay tourist visa that includes a provision for mandatory private health cover for recipients. 

"Grandparents are very important to many of these new migrants. They have the responsibility of passing on their cultural values to the grandchildren,” he says. 

“And if the grandparents are not here, that makes it very difficult for many of these new migrant families."

He says the proposed visa is not intended to be a pathway to permanent residency for elderly parents, and that the stipulation for private health insurance is designed to ease the burden on taxpayers.

“I think it’s important that my proposal is a win-win for Australia, too," he says. 

National president of the Migration Institute of Australia, Angela Julian-Armitage, says even with the private health insurance provision, the plan could strain resources.

"The difficulty is that it's a huge balancing act for government, and that's where the devil will be in the detail,” she says.

“It'll be a difficult thing to do because primarily the government has a responsibility to you and I, and those migrants who have come to Australia through the normal pathways of migration.”

“It is a good thing that they're united with their families but how it's done, is where the detail will let us know a bit more about whether this will be good or bad."

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has previously rejected the introduction of another class of tourist visa for the parents of migrants.

A spokesperson for the Minister told SBS the government understands migrants want to have their parents spend time with their families in Australia, and that there are already several pathways for doing so. 

The Labor Party hasn't ruled out the proposal, and is expected to announce a decision in coming days.

Arvind Duggal would like to see change introduced, and fast.

"There are many families suffering from this issue,” he says.

“The parents are already old. They don't have that much time.”


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