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South African family in Australia face being denied residency due to son’s illness


A South African family who moved to Australia last year and have already endeared themselves to locals, could be denied residency due to their son’s illness, writes news.com.au.

Pump technician Nico Willers, his wife Jane and their three children moved from Pretoria to Geelong, Victoria, in May 2023.

The family have been sponsored by Webster Water Solutions on a four-year temporary skills shortage visa, after the local firm had been struggling for six years to fill the position.

The highly-skilled Willers, 44, has been praised by the company as “irreplaceable”.

However last August their son (also Nico) was diagnosed with type-one diabetes after being rushed to Geelong Hospital, where he spent five days in intensive care.

Immigration agents have now warned that the teenager’s diagnosis could be viewed as a “liability” to the government – and that his “disability” could affect the family’s chances of obtaining permanent residency.

“Agents are saying it could be a problem but no one is giving us a straight answer,” Willers told a local paper.

“Some have said our chances of getting permanent residency was almost none but others have said we could give it a try.”

Son’s illness a ‘drain’ on the taxpayer

Willers also noted that thus far, the family had been footing all of young Nico’s medical bills.

“They say it will cost the government money but at the moment we do all the payment ourselves, all the monitoring, all the injections,” Willers said.

“It is all out of our pockets. Their theory is it’s going to be a drain on taxpayers’ pockets.”

According to the Daily Mail, the family have already spent $24 000 emigrating to Australia.

Willers wants the Australian government to take into account his job security; especially in light of the business’ difficulty in filling the role.

Australia is currently suffering from a shortage of ‘tradies’, and Willers has been described as a “God send” by his employer.

“He has more than 20 years of experience,” Katrina Harris, director of Webster Water Solutions said.

“We deal with pumps and water management … it’s not something a plumber can do. We’d been searching all across Australia and New Zealand to find a technician.”

Reluctant to return to South Africa

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs in Australia had a more encouraging view on the matter. They said that health waivers were available for a number of visa subclasses, where the individual circumstances of applicants are considered.

“Just because a person failed to meet the health requirement, does not mean that their visa will be refused,” she said.

Willers said that he and his family dreaded the prospect of returning to South Africa, mainly due to safety concerns and the tough economic environment.

“Getting work for us in South Africa … it’s not good at the moment,” he added.

“It’s really important for us to make a living here and for us to stay here. And with the health of my son, he’s getting the best healthcare there is at the moment.”



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