A Kiwi family say they could be forced to move back to New Zealand after finding out their Australian-born son does not qualify for disability support.
Three year-old Kaiden Ryan was born in Sydney with ataxic cerebral palsy and brain damage, which means he is non-verbal and unable to walk unassisted.
But because his parents, Julian and Brooke, were born in New Zealand, Kaiden is not eligible to access Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), even though they’ve lived there for 14 years.
If Julian and Brooke had been in the country prior to 26 February 2001 they would have been granted permanent residence on arrival.
Now, when New Zealanders enter Australia, they are granted the Special Category Visa, which is classed as a temporary visa meaning they don’t have the same rights and benefits as Australian citizens or permanent residents.
They can only apply for permanent residency after five years. In contrast, all Australians who go to New Zealand are automatically granted residence visas, and can apply for permanent residence after living there for two years
“He’s a fighter and he hasn’t stopped fighting from day one when they said we had to say goodbye to our son,” Ms Ryan says.
The family had been receiving support from the non-profit organisation the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, but funding is about to run out. Kaiden would normally be transferred over to the NDIS.
“We pay the taxes for the NDIS through the Medicare levy. We've paid taxes every week since we've lived in Australia,” Mr Ryan says.
Kaiden could gain citizenship in his own right, but not until he turns 10.
Mr Ryan says they had planned to apply for permanent residency, which costs $12,000, but kept pushing it back as they needed the money to build a home.
They are going through the process now but they expect to be turned down on the basis their son will be considered a burden on the taxpayer.
“I just believe all kids with disabilities born in Australia who live in Australia who have parents paying tax in Australia should be eligible for disability services. It’s that simple. That’s all we're asking for, nothing else,” Mr Ryan says.
When an Australian couple relocates to New Zealand they and their children are eligible for all publicly-funded services, including disability support, after just two years.
Australia’s Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher says the Liberal National Government has no plans to change the eligibility requirements for the NDIS that were put in place by Labor in 2013.
The office of Labor leader Bill Shorten has told 1 NEWS that the party plans to review New Zealanders' rights in Australia if it’s successful in getting into Government this weekend.