Moderator Sharon Hollis has written to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to ask that he reconsider deporting Sheryil Allen, a 50-year-old woman with autism, and her 80-year-old mother Florence Allen to India, which would mean leaving behind the rest of their family in Australia.
“Forced separation would do irreparable harm to Sheryil and Florence who are both vulnerable on account of intellectual disability and old age respective,” the letter written to Mr Dutton on behalf of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania states.
Florence and Sheryil have resided in Australia since 2012 and live with synod employee Jacqueline Vanderholt, who applied to get her mother and daughter permanent residency.
This was denied because it was ruled Sheryil’s autism could be a potential burden to the Australian taxpayer, even though Ms Vanderholt and other family members have taken full responsibility for her care.
“The family has indicated they are in a position of financial self-sufficiency to care for both Sheryil and Florence,” the synod’s letter reads.
“My autistic sister has very simple needs which the family can easily provide,” Ms Vanderholt wrote on the change.org petition site.
“A walk in the park, a drive down the countryside, playing with her dolls and most importantly to be surrounded by her family. She loves her nieces and nephews immensely.
“Having an autistic aunt in our children’s midst has etched their characters enabling them to be true value-driven Australian citizens. “
Sheryil and Ms Vanderholt’s four brothers all live in Melbourne and there are no relatives left in India.
Ms Vanderholt says without any family in India to help her ageing mother Sheryil will have to be placed into institutional care.
“This would cause her great trauma, despair and inconsolable grief as she has never lived a life without her family and has no understanding of any other language other than English (being the language always spoken at home even in India),” Ms Vanderholt writes.
Ms Vanderholt’s appeal to Mr Dutton for special ministerial intervention on compassionate grounds was rejected at the end of August, meaning Florence and Sheryil could face deportation on 3 October.
Both the ABC and SBS have produced stories on the family’s plight and there has been widespread social media support for Florence and Sheryil to stay.
An online petition asking for that to happen has gathered 42,104 supporters at the time of writing.