Sharon Blevin left Dublin for Sydney in 2011 after a marriage break-up and a business failure.
She has since become an Australian citizen, but difficulties in obtaining a visa for her daughter have led her to call Australia’s immigration polices “outdated and unsympathetic”.
Ms Blevin’s two younger children, Jade and Mark, came with her to Australia, but her eldest child, Leah Curran, initially stayed in Ireland.
“She stayed back because there was a problem with her dad and she wanted to be with him,” Ms Blevin told the Irish Echo. “Eight months later she followed me here because she realised she wanted to be with her mam and sister and brother. She had to come in on a working holiday visa and do her farm work.
“When the migration department contacted me about my visa, I asked the case worker for advice about Leah’s situation and she said we needed to go for a 445 visa. So we done that when she got here and that was rejected.”
Ms Curran, who was then aged 21 and is now 25, was not eligible for that visa, so the family applied for a different visa.
“We applied for an 802 visa, because there is no child visa for parents to bring their children who are over 18 to Australia. The requirement of the 802 visa is that the child be totally dependent on the parent when the application is lodged, which we proved. The child has to not be in a defacto relationship and has to be single, which she was. The child has to be engaged in full-time education in Australia and, on leaving their home country, also had to have been in full-time education,” said Ms Blevin, who is now remarried.
But there is a gap in Ms Curran’s studies of three years, so the emigration department referred the case to an appeals tribunal.
“Our case was that in that three years we were in financial dire straights. Firstly, our business in Dublin went belly up due to the recession and my marriage breakdown. There was a lot of emotion and trauma and I had to leave the family home because of the toxic environment the children were in,” said Ms Blevin, who works in community welfare in western Sydney.
“But the woman at the tribunal just didn’t want to know. She asked Leah, who does make-up artistry, why she didn’t go to university. Leah said in Ireland you don’t do that in uni, there’s no degree qualification for it.
“I had the separation agreement from the Irish court, I had a letter showing the company going into bankruptcy, but she just didn’t want to look at them.
“The decision was that we didn’t prove we were in financial dire straights during that three-year period. She wasn’t happy with what we had produced. I was out of the room when she announced her decision and got called in. Leah was crying her eyes out, Jade was crying her eyes out, Mark was just sitting there and my husband was just looking at me. We were all very emotional that day. I felt like we were criminals from the way she was talking to us,” she said.
Ms Blevin has put up a petition on change.org to get support for her daughter to be allowed to stay in Australia.
“The reason I put the petition up is this has been going on since Leah got here. I have paid out $30,000 in migration lawyer fees. All we want to do is stay together. Why is studying even part of the visa?
“Leah is an amazing young, enthusiastic woman with a lot to offer both her family and the Australian community in which she has become an integral part of.
“It saddens the whole family both in Australia and Ireland to have my daughter, my eldest child to be told that she will not be accepted as a resident of such a prosperous and generous country as Australia, one which prides itself on multiculturalism, with a fair go attitude and compassion.”
But time is running out for Ms Curran. Unless the government changes its mind, she has to leave Australia by March 18.