An 11th-hour reprieve against a deportation order has kept an 80-year-old mother and her 50-year-old autistic daughter together with their family in Australia.
Florence Allen and daughter Sheryil were booked on a one-way flight to India on 15 January, with the immigration department requesting evidence that the tickets had been purchased.
However, solicitors acting for the family began pursuing a temporary visa option on medical grounds, which is currently being processed and meant Florence and Sheryil did not have to board the flight.
The temporary visa would enable Florence and Sheryil to remain in Australia for a year, and continue living with the family of Synod of Victoria and Tasmania employee Jacqueline Vanderholt, until Sheryil completes her medical treatment.
“For the moment the family is beaming with happiness to have our mother and sister with us even though it may be short-lived,” Ms Vanderholt said.
A sustained public lobbying followed the decision that Florence and Sheryil leave Australia (where they have lived since 2012) and return to India, where they have no relatives.
A petition calling on the government to allow the pair to stay gathered over 66,000 signatures and a number of MPs and senators responded to the requests of constituents by taking up the matter with the minister and department concerned.
“There has been so much support,” Ms Vanderholt said.
“People have been fantastic. I can’t fully express how thankful I am to everybody who has helped take up the cause to keep our family together.
“I am deeply touched by the overwhelming support from Uniting Church. There are no words to express the gratitude to everyone who went out of their way to truly practice the vision of the church in seeking community, compassion and justice for all creation.
“Former communications director Penny Mulvey, synod moderator Sharon Hollis and associate general secretary Isabel Thomas Dobson and acting communications director Ros Marsden have pursued options and political connections.
“Also, a big thank you to synod communications officer David Southwell for all the support.”
Florence and Sheryil were denied permanent residency on the basis that Sheryil’s autism meant she might become a tax payer burden, despite the extended family in Australia, including Ms Vanderholt and her two brothers, demonstrating self-sufficiency in looking after them.
Ms Vanderholt said that similar departmental decisions have been reconsidered in the past, which has given the family hope.
“As Martin Luther King says: ‘We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope’.”