Allow Dimas, a child with autism, to stay in Australia

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Dimas and his family arrived in Australia when he was just three years old. His mother, Dr Yuli Rindyawati, brought her family to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in Economics at the University of Canberra. I, Cameron Gordon, was Yuli Rindyawati’s primary doctoral supervisor when I was Associate Professor of Economics at the Faculty of Business, Government and Law at the University of Canberra. Yuli was one of my most responsible and capable doctoral students and already had deep ties to the local community. They have since built their life in Australia for more than ten years.

Dimas is Yuli’s youngest child. He is 14 years old and has autism. He received his first education in Australia, at Malkara (special) school in Canberra. Dimas currently goes to Woden (special) School. His family have seen Dimas evolve from being completely non-verbal, to comfortably verbal with a basic vocabulary. He adheres to any verbal instructions and tasks given to him, and he fluently understands both English and Indonesian. Dimas never presents any tantrum or aggression towards his family, his peers or others. He is also not on any medications. Because of this, he has received an employment offer letter to work as a shop assistant which is a paid job. He will commence his work after his graduation in 2021. He is already being taught job related skills to empower him and increase his potential for his future employment so he can earn his own income. This shows that Dimas will not be depending on government support; rather he will be contributing by becoming part of the labour force and being a taxpayer.

Yuli lodged her permanent visa application only to have it rejected by the Department of Immigration. Dimas’s autism condition did not satisfy on the Public Interest Criteria (PIC) of the Immigration Regulation, noting his condition will bring a “a significant cost to the Australian community in terms of health and community services”. But from his recent medical report his autism spectrum was downgraded from Severe to Moderate due to his significant improvements. His communication skills improved from non-verbal to having speech delay. As a result of this the health and community services he needs to receive have been reduced considerably. Despite all this the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) continues to maintain that Dimas is still not eligible to be a member of Australian society only because of his congenital condition and despite the fact that the family has contributed financially to Dimas’s health and community services without any government assistance; financially supported his needed services for a paediatrician, psychologist, therapist, and speech pathologist over the decade; and that there has been significant improvement in and adaptation to his condition over that time. If allowed to stay in Australia, the family will continue to financially support those services for Dimas alone.

Unfortunately, unless given consideration by David Coleman MP, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship & Multicultural Affairs, Dimas and his family will be facing deportation. Dimas will cease to receive the support, care, and schooling that so greatly improves his development and significantly decreases the severity of his disorder. His progress will regress without the support that he is receiving right now. Deportation will impose an immense burden due to the loss of opportunity and social integration for Dimas. Deportation will split the family and hurt the child.

Dimas’s family have a long standing aims to open an Indonesian café in Canberra. Their goals are not only to employ Dimas as a kitchen assistant but to employ others with disabilities so that they too can be given a chance to earn income and experience. Dimas’s family, including his mother, father and their siblings are currently employed and contribute actively in the Australian community taxpayers, employees and community members with well developed ties. Their life is here, their home is here, and that should not be stripped away simply because Dimas was born with autism and despite the fact of both significant adaptation and improvement in Dimas' condition and the putting down of significant and demonstrable roots by his family.