Health Dashes Migrant Hopes

Health dashes migrant hopes

Mark Dunn
Herald Sun
November 05, 2008 12:00am

APPLICATIONS by almost 3000 disabled or ill people wanting to migrate to or stay in Australia were rejected in the past two years because officials considered their health costs too high.

The 2957 people rejected suffered a range of health problems from HIV and Down syndrome to various cancers and physical and mental disabilities.

German migrant doctor Bernhard Moeller — the only resident specialist physician serving more than 50,000 people in the Horsham district — and his family were last week refused residency.

Their son Lukas has Down syndrome, the cost of which, immigration officials decided, would be too onerous for taxpayers.

But another migrant couple, both doctors, have thrown their support behind the Moellers, who are appealing to the Migration Review Tribunal.

English-born Edward Bouverie and his wife Nichola Wood successfully fought the Immigration Department to bring their Down syndrome child to Australia in 1989.

They work in rural and regional Western Australia, which suffers a chronic shortage of medical staff.

Dr Wood said bureaucrats initially advised them to consider leaving their newborn son, Joshua, in England by having him adopted.

Dr Wood and Dr Bouverie had already gained residency, but it took a four-month fight for them to win Joshua residency.

They did so by emphasising that Australia had signed a United Nations charter outlawing discrimination against children.

The couple have worked in Australia since, often in remote Aboriginal communities or the Cocos Islands, and have helped to train young doctors.

“We have worked very hard, and love Australia,” Dr Wood said. But she said heartless decisions by the Immigration Department were damaging Australia's reputation, particularly in professional circles overseas.