Kiwi Orphan Living In Australia 60 Years Blocked From Coronavirus Help Payments
New Zealand-born woman Liz Bateman only has $10 left to her name, but she's ineligible for government benefits despite having lived in Australia for more than 60 years.
Bateman, 65, was just five years old when she arrived in Australia as an orphan during a time when passports were not required to travel between the Trans-Tasman neighbours.
Despite residing in Australia for the better part of six decades, and paying taxes for at least 30 years, the mother of two encountered a roadblock when trying to seek government support after falling into financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to 10 daily, Bateman held back tears as she explained she has a driver's licence, a Medicare card, a Tax File Number and a birth certificate but Centrelink can't help her because she doesn't have immigration documents detailing her arrival.
Bateman said she contacted the embassy in New Zealand, which told her it does not have records of child migrant documents from the 1950s.
Eligibility requirements are set by the Department of Social Services. 10 daily has contacted the department for comment.
"I keep saying to them [Centrelink], 'there's no documentation'. No records were kept in those days and we didn't even have passports," Bateman said.
"Any time I've ever been asked where I was born while filling out documentation I say 'New Zealand' and no questions of status have ever been asked."
Bateman, the eldest of four siblings, was shipped over to Australia on her own after her birth parents abandoned her.
She has little memory of them, but believes they are both deceased.
"All I remember at that age was I was with other children and my parents weren't there," she said.
"As for the reason, I have no idea why and until this day I still don't know."
"When I found my mother in 1985, I had a lot of questions to ask and I got nothing -- all I was told was that times were tough."
Bateman arrived in Sydney with a group of child migrants in 1959, and was sent to the Dalmar House Orphanage in Carlingford, which became her home until she turned 11.
She then spent years in the foster care system and at age 15 she learned she was a ward of the state.
While her situation is a unique one, she certainly isn't the only Kiwi living in Australia who is under financial hardship and locked out of government support.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden described Kiwis as "Australia's best migrants" during a public address and criticism of Scott Morrison just a few weeks ago.
About 600,000 New Zealanders call Australia home, and are here on a range of different visas.
But Bateman's circumstances are different, in that she has lived here for her entire life. She is undoubtedly Australian, but lacks the official documents.
"I legitimately have been paying tax here for so many years. It is absolutely ridiculous," she argued.
"They don't hand out Tax File Numbers to people who don't have the rights to be here and work. I thought during a time like this these sorts of things would be waived."
10 daily has contacted Centrelink, Australia's Department of Social Services, the Department of Home Affairs, the New Zealand Parliamentary Office and New Zealand's immigration office for comment.
She might be turning 66 in just three weeks, but Bateman has no plans to retire and is hoping she can gain access to JobSeeker payments to help make ends meet while she looks for work.
"I want to keep working but I can't," she said.
"It's harder when you get to my age, to get help."
Bateman spent many years running hotels but most recently worked in administration at a warehouse which supplied hospitality items like glass and dinnerware to hotels.
But with COVID-19 forcing many Australians like Bateman out of work, money has dried up.
"I have $10 left in my account. I have to keep asking friends for money but I cannot keep doing that," she said.
Coronavirus has exposed the struggles many New Zealanders and other foreign workers are facing in Australia.
Everything changed in 2001 when an adjustment to a law split New Zealand natives living in Australia into two categories: protected and non-protected.
People who arrived after February 26, 2001 were classed as a non-protected Special Category Visa holder or 444 Visa holder, meaning they're ineligible for many benefits -- including Centrelink help amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Having arrived well before 2001, Bateman should be eligible for a payment.
Instead, she's left wondering where her next meal is going to come from -- but she understands she is not alone in this crisis.
"The government will give money to one person but then they can't give it to others who have been doing the right thing," Bateman said.
"They need to take a step back and take a look at who they're helping."
Contact the author: email@example.com