In a heartening victory for the power of community action, the Australian government has granted permanent residency to a Korean family who had previously faced rejection due to their child’s autism diagnosis.
The family of four, consisting of parents Yang Yoo-jin and her husband, and their two sons, had been living in Australia for eight years before applying for permanent residency in July of 2021. However, the Australian immigration department denied their application on the basis of their younger son’s autism diagnosis and other medical records.
Despite an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the family’s fate seemed to be sealed, leaving them at risk of being forced to leave the country.
But a groundswell of support quickly emerged after their story became public, with an online petition gathering over 30,000 signatures in a matter of weeks. The petition highlighted concerns that the family’s contribution to Australian society had been overlooked, and that the expected economic burden of their child’s condition may have been overestimated.
Under Australian immigration law, officials can reject permanent residency applications on the grounds of health reasons, including anticipated healthcare costs and the potential burden on social services. However, this provision has long been criticized for discriminating against individuals with disabilities.
The public outcry and petition signatories argued that the family’s case was an example of such unfair treatment, and eventually, the Australian government relented. On May 8, the family was granted permanent residency, with Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke using his discretionary powers to intervene in their case.
In a statement, Yoo-jin expressed her gratitude for the outpouring of support, saying “I felt that the world still has values worth living for.” The family can now continue their life in Australia with the security and peace of mind that comes with permanent residency.