Open Letter to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Committee

To the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Committee,

My name is Ashleigh Vellios, and I’m married to Francois van Gruening, which makes Daniel and Sharon van Gruening my in-laws. I am disappointed that my families battle for their Australian citizenship has come this far! I believe that their health condition is an unsatisfying reason for denial of citizenship, especially when the applicants have maintained their condition financially for the past 12 years without government assistance. I believe my mother and father-in-law have been unfairly dismissed and deserve to be granted their Australian residence.

I myself am only second generation Australian, with my dad’s parents migrating to Australia from Macedonia and my mother’s mum migrating from Germany. I’ve grown up in and have experienced a multicultural Australia! I’ve learnt some of my family’s traditional language, experienced their cultural traditions as well and eaten and cooked European dishes; all whilst growing up and identifying as an Aussie. And now thanks to my new family, I’ve learnt to speak some Afrikaans, eaten South African dishes and learnt about some of their nation’s traditions, which I am so thankful to have experienced because I believe that culture develops personality and individuality.

My husband and I first met when I was 17 and although we were young for such a serious relationship, Sharon and Daniel were incredibly welcoming. They invited me over for family dinners and adventures out, whilst maintaining a vested interest in my life and culture. Sharon has visited my Baba and Dedo (grandmother and grandfather) many times for their traditional European lunch and has heard many stories about their life in the ‘old country’.

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I have been treated like part of the family from the very beginning to say the least, thus I have witnessed a family that is extremely close and loving to one another, and it is a shame that it could be potentially broken up! My in-laws sacrificed crucial years of Francois and Johan’s childhood, leaving them in the company of their relatives in order to find work overseas to make enough money to migrate their family to a safer country to not only allow their sons, but their future grandchildren a life without serious crime and murder. South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world and In 2014 Francois’s uncle whom lived on the family’s farm back home was brutally murdered. I have witnessed firsthand the emotional toll this death has caused the family. My husband and I are incredibly fearful for Sharon and Daniels life if they are sent back to South Africa, I couldn’t bare it if anything was to happen to them.

My in-laws have been there to celebrate our birthdays, academic achievements, our engagement and wedding day; they have supported and encouraged us over the five years we have been together. My husband and I are planning to start trying for a baby in the next year and we want Sharon and Daniel to be here to celebrate the birth of their first grandchild. We want them around to celebrate their grandchild’s birthdays, academic and sporting achievements and most importantly we want our children to develop a relationship with their maternal grandparents. We want our children to understand their South African heritage; they can experience the language, food and culture in Australia through their Ouma and Opa. To be honest, this will not be possible if Sharon and Daniel are sent back to South Africa.

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Sharon and Daniel are well respected members of not only their immediate family here in Perth, but with the Manjimup community. Working full time and participating in local sporting activities has allowed the couple to develop and maintain relationships with fellow town members. As such Shaz and Daniel have often attended parties, gone out for dinners and drinks, and even gone on camping trips with their friends from Manjimup. They are also valued members at their workplace, often working overtime and putting in all their effort to get the job done to the best of their ability. As a result they have contributed greatly to the overall success and achievement of Manjimup Toyota!

Sharon and Daniel have been battling their entire lives and like many Aussie battlers, they share one thing in common, a wish to provide a better life for their family and loved ones. They may have been born in a different country, speak another language, and have an accent, but all things aside they are just like us, human beings trying to better their families future. As Australians we take our fortunate surroundings for granted, but for one minute put yourself in their shoes, and help them win their battle for a safer and brighter future. I for one cannot sleep at night knowing that I take this great country for granted, when so many others will never experience this opportunity. As a first world country I believe it’s our duty to provide others these same opportunities. Thus I will argue that it is un-Australian to deny the applicants permanent residence and split this family up! Doing so will have detrimental repercussions for the overall happiness of each member of this close knit family.

I believe in Australia!

Yours sincerely,

Ashleigh Vellios

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