Queensland's homeless Kiwis flown back to NZ

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2012

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Homeless New Zealanders in Queensland are being flown home at the expense of social agencies and shelters.

Half a dozen agencies and homeless shelters in southeast Queensland have confirmed either organising or paying for New Zealanders to fly back across the ditch in the past year.

However, many more homeless youths are refusing to return, preferring to remain on the streets in Queensland.

Agencies said New Zealanders often found themselves in dire straits because of a lack of government support, family breakdowns and unemployment.

One woman sent back to New Zealand was on the street after escaping an abusive relationship.

An elderly couple who agreed to return were being evicted from their home under pressure from mounting debt. There is no direct funding available for homeless New Zealanders in Queensland and flights are usually paid for out of agency reserves or through a federal emergency fund.

Vicky Va'a, co-ordinator at the Nerang Neighbourhood Centre on the Gold Coast, said the centre had helped send about a dozen New Zealanders home.

They included people of all ages, from homeless teenagers to entire families struggling with unemployment. "By the time they get to us, it's already bad and it's been bad for a while," she said.

Sharon Turner, of the Gold Coast Youth Service, said it had helped two youths return to New Zealand because they could not access housing or welfare in Queensland.

Many more homeless young Kiwis had turned down the offer, she said.

"We do see and support a lot more young people who prefer to stay on the Gold Coast with limited to no options," she said.

New Zealanders are automatically issued with special visas on arrival in Australia, allowing them to live and work there indefinitely.

However, special-visa holders are refused access to most social support available to other long-term residents, including unemployment payments.

In Queensland, these restrictions extend to public housing and disability support.

Many New Zealanders moving to Australia are unaware of these restrictions, which critics have dubbed discriminatory and even racist.

The restricted support has also been blamed for growing poverty among New Zealanders in Queensland.

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- The Dominion Post

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