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Crowdfunding last hope for ill Kiwis in Oz

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 12:58 12/05/2014
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IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH: Joy Chambers, her partner, Willie Neal, and son Bevan Julian in Perth last Christmas.

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Kiwis who become sick across the ditch are turning to crowdfunding sites to make ends meet as a result of Australia's ‘totally unfair' immigration laws, writes Anna Pearson.

Joy Chambers sometimes wishes she had never sent her only son on an overseas adventure to Australia. He was 30, it was 2001, and Bevan Julian, now 43, never returned.

Julian arrived in Australia only weeks after the introduction of special category visas for Kiwis by the Australian Government.

Special category visas allow New Zealanders to live and work indefinitely in Australia. They are eligible for Medicare (state-funded medical treatment) but not for a range of special benefits and allowances - including the sickness or unemployment benefit - that Australian citizens are entitled to.

This wasn't an issue for Julian - until he got sick.

In 2007, by then a father of three young children, Julian was diagnosed with an extremely rare and painful autoimmune disease.

This year, out of desperation his mother set up The Bevan Fund on New Zealand crowdfunding site Givealittle.

The 66-year-old and her partner have mortgaged their house in Nelson and both still work.

Looking after a sick son in Perth is expensive.

"Bevan pays their taxes, he pays superannuation, but he has no help. A fortnight ago he lost another job because he collapsed again. He can't get a benefit there because [Prime Minister Tony Abbott] won't have a bar of it," says Chambers.

The Bevan Fund is among "quite a few" causes for Kiwis who are ill in Australia and struggling because they are unable to get sufficient help from the Australian Government, says Givealittle spokeswoman Georgia Moselen-Sloog.

"We have noticed about five or six just in the past couple of months, which is enough to take notice of. We're a reflection of what's going on [in society]."

Since 2001, and despite paying taxes and superannuation, New Zealanders can not claim as many advantages that Australians can.

Kiwis wanting permanent residence there must meet strict criteria, such as having a job on a skills shortage list or having the sponsorship of an employer.

Australians living in New Zealand receive much more generous terms.

A group protesting against Australia's immigration laws says people seeking help on sites such as Givealittle do so out of desperation.

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Iwi in Aus spokeswoman Erina Anderson-Morunga says the poor treatment of Kiwis in Australia, especially those who are ill, is a "massive" issue.

"There are people trapped in limbo, where they don't qualify for the help they need. There are all sorts of reasons [why they can't just come home]," she says.

Kiwis in Australia are entitled to the basic care of Medicare, but are not covered for "anything over and above that", whereas "if you are an Australian living in New Zealand you are treated equally from the moment you step off the plane".

Moe Guttenbeil was born and raised in Bluff, but moved to Australia in 1997. She still lives in Sydney with her husband and 13-year-old son.

The 35-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in September last year. Her body is "shutting down" because her spleen is not working properly.

Guttenbeil has set up a Givealittle page to fundraise for monoclonal antibody therapy, a new treatment trialled in the United Kingdom, which isn't government funded in Australia or New Zealand.

"Each bag of blood, which I have every second week, costs $2265. We have taken out loans and everything, but we have got to the point where the bank is not going to lend us any more money," she says.

Because she arrived before 2001 Guttenbeil is entitled to a sickness benefit, but she says Australian citizens get "extra little allowances". They also get home care, but she doesn't qualify.

Chambers says while her son has not got long to live, he cannot return to New Zealand where he would get the support he needs, because he'd never see his three children again.

"It's just beyond me really, that [the Australian Government] can be so dismissive of New Zealanders. Bevan is angry at the situation. I think it is inhumane and totally unfair."

- The Nelson Mail

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