It’s getting harder not to hate Australia for its iron border

“You know, I’m really starting to hate Australia,” my mother snaps. “I feel like I’m trying to get into Alcatraz.”

It’s Monday morning and I’m waking up to another emotional call from my mum, who is French, about her application for a visa to visit Australia from Britain. I’ve received one of these calls almost every day for more than a week.

Sophie Aubrey with her mother in 2019.

Sophie Aubrey with her mother in 2019.

“I’m trying to be angry. Because that’s better than being upset,” she tells me. And I agree. My eyes are tired of welling up.

It’s not really that she hates Australia.

It’s that her three children are living in this country, and right now, she has no way of seeing us again. Our reunion is entirely in the hands of the faceless people at the Department of Home Affairs.

Two months ago, when it was announced that parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents would be able to get a travel exemption to fly here, we – like many – were ecstatic. Christmas was saved. The happy tears were flowing. We have not hugged each other since 2019.

Anyone in my position, or similar, is well aware that visa processing times have blown out since COVID-19. Electronic traveller visas, which used to be approved almost immediately, are no longer available. The Home Affairs website says that about three-quarters of visitor visas are approved in 30 days. But it can take up to seven months. That’s a scary number. However, we were comforted: the department has assured that the visas of people with travel exemptions – including parents of Australians – would be prioritised.

On an application for a travel exemption, the traveller must provide evidence of their family relationships and vaccination. They also must state the intended date of travel. My mum’s was approved within days in October.

But the final piece of the puzzle – the visa – is still pending. The application has sat there untouched for more than 50 days. Call the Home Affairs helpline and all you get is general information and resistance to even look up an application.

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