New Zealanders will take to the streets around Australia to protest 13-year-old laws that restrict benefits for Kiwis across the Tasman.
New Zealanders will rally together in cities around Australia to protest what they call unjust and discriminative immigration laws.
The rallies on Wednesday, organised by the Iwi n Aus Foundation, will take place in Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria.
About 300,000 New Zealanders live across the Tasman on special category visas. This means they pay taxes but don’t get access to benefits of permanent residency such as disability care, welfare and social housing.
The restrictions were brought in under a joint agreement between Australia’s Liberal government and Helen Clark’s Labour government in 2001.
Iwi n Aus, run by a group of mothers, says the discriminative laws are affecting not only their children but their Australian-born grandchildren.
Founder Erina Anderson says Kiwis often cross the Tasman with no concept of how bad it can get for them in Australia.
“If Prime Minister John Key wanted to stop New Zealanders from coming to Australia, there’s one simple way thing he could do – tell people what they can expect,” she told AAP.
“Nobody would willingly pick up their family and move across if they knew their children weren’t going to be afforded equal rights.”
She says through her work she sees many New Zealanders suffering from mental illness and extreme financial stress after falling on hard times in Australia.
Many Kiwis can’t get permanent residency because their occupations aren’t on Australia’s wanted-skills list, and therefore also can’t get citizenship, she says.
Families in Australia also have children with different rights, depending on when and where they were born.
“How do you say to your children who are going through high school, the ones of you who are citizens or permanent residents can go to university because you can get a student loan, but sorry darling you can’t because you were born in Auckland?”
Kiwi mothers and fathers are not entitled to single parent payments, so even if their children are born in Australia, the death of their Aussie spouse or a separation could leave them without the means to support their children.
Her Australian foster kids have been disadvantaged by her New Zealand status, missing out on carers’ payments for their special needs, Ms Anderson says.
“If I knew what I know, I would not have come,” Ms Anderson said.
“No way would I have brought five kids across the Tasman and many of us feel bad that we have.”
But it’s not as simple as just packing up and going home, she says.
“Does that mean my sons who are fathers to Australian children, should they leave?”
“Should they abandon their partners to go back to where they came from?”
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he expected New Zealanders to be “lifters not leaners”.
But Ms Anderson says it’s not about Kiwis mooching off unemployment benefits.
“I wouldn’t be wasting my time lobbying for the dole, I’ve got better things to do with my time.”