MUA members have rallied outside the Cairns office of LNP Member for Leichhardt Warren Enstch over the highly unusual circumstances surrounding the nationality of the children of Australian Merchant Navy Veteran John Bird.
Mr Bird’s children were born were born in Papua New Guinea to a Papuan mother before the nation achieved independence in 1975 and were granted Australian citizenship.
However, this is now seen as a mistake by the Australian government and family members are worried they will be deported by the Department of Home Affairs.
One of them remains in hiding, despite assurances by Mr Entsch.
MUA officials and members including Joe Deakin, Terry O’Shane and Thomas Mayor have been involved in trying to resolve the situation.
Please find a letter of explanation below from the Secretary of the US Army Small Ships Association Dan O’Brien.
Dear Members and Friends,
It is with some regret that I am compelled to inform you of a situation that is causing significant distress to a Veteran Member and his family.
The welfare of our Veterans and their families is a high priority for our Association, and we hope to assist in any way that may contribute to their well-being.
Australian Merchant Navy Veteran John Bird recently advised me that his children's Australian Citizenship has been revoked, and they have been threatened with deportation. After the war John married in Papua and fathered five children who moved to Australia with him after PNG Independence. By virtue of the PNG Constitution John's children became citizens of PNG when independence was declared in 1975.
Nevertheless, they have lived in Australia for approximately 40 years, and enjoyed the benefits of Citizenship to which they are lawfully entitled as a result of John's Australian citizenship. John's children were issued Australian Passports, have Australian children, and one daughter has been a member of the Australian Army Reserve for twenty-nine years.
Approximately two years ago, John's daughters Cathy and Mary-Anne attempted to renew their Passports and were told, 'The rules have changed. You are not Australian'. It would appear that their Australian citizenship became invalid in 1975, and since that time their Australian Citizenship has existed due to a governmental oversight. Since their Passport applications were rejected, Cathy and Mary-Anne have been subjected to the scrutiny of the Department of Home Affairs and forced to maintain their residential status via Bridging Visas.
Their claim to Australian citizenship can be simply validated by virtue of their parentage, however during past two years departmental case workers have been unable to resolve this administrative oversight. One can only marvel at the miracle of bureaucracy.
The Bird family did not seek independent legal advice regarding this matter. The costs associated with legal advice have been beyond the reach of the family, as they are low-average income earners. They are genuine Australians who mistakenly believed that common sense and the course of natural justice would prevail.
Recently John's daughter Cathy was threatened with imminent arrest and deportation. She is unprepared to leave her family and be deported to a place where she knows nobody, and has no source of income. She is currently in hiding, attempting to avoid arrest by immigration officers.
This situation is having a very detrimental affect on her health, and also the health of her family members. John is understandably distraught and believes that his other children will eventually be subjected to deportation.
John has recently spoken to the media to bring his situation to the attention of the public, however this course of action has not generated a positive response from a representative of the government, and John's family continues to suffer from stress related illness.
On behalf of John's daughters I contacted a very well respected immigration lawyer who is an expert in this area and is prepared to assist them to re-secure their Australian citizenship. The lawyer has offered to request an intervention order that will prevent immigration officers from attempting to arrest Cathy while her application is reviewed. If this is possible it will allow her to return to her home and live without the fear of imminent deportation. John was extremely relieved to learn of this possibility, however the cost is prohibitive.
The lawyers have generously offered to assist John's daughters for approximately 10% of the fee usually charged for this service. The total cost will be only $3,000 plus GST.
It seems that obstructions to common sense are expensive to overcome, however this step is necessary to secure the welfare of the Bird family and alleviate the debilitating stress that they are currently enduring.
We are seeking donations to assist the Bird family with the above-mentioned legal costs. Although the lawyer has been generous and compassionate, she is unable to complete the necessary work prior to payment. If you are able to assist with a donation please do not hesitate to contact me directly, or deposit your contribution to our Association Commonwealth Bank account.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia
Account Name: U.S. Army Small Ships Association Inc.
Account Number: 1006 1337
John Bird is the sole surviving crew member of S.S. Fingal, which was torpedoed during 1943. Immediately after the sinking he did not hesitate to return to active service at only fifteen years of age. John's late sister was Nancy Bird-Walton A.O. , O.B.E., the pioneering aviatrix who dedicated many years to serving the Royal Far West Children's Health Scheme and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. John's daughter Mary-Anne has served the Australian Army Reserve for twenty-nine years and is held in very high esteem by her Commanding Officer. It is difficult to believe that this family, who has given so much to our country, could be treated so unjustly by an agency of the Commonwealth.
If you are able to assist, please be aware that your contribution is required as soon as practically possible.
The sooner that the threat to John's daughter Cathy is alleviated, the sooner the family can return to their normal lives and recover from this traumatic experience.
U.S. Army Small Ships Association Inc.
U.S. Army Small Ships Association Inc.
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