Government attempting to deport Indigenous man to New Zealand

Tim Galvin, who left New Zealand with his Aboriginal mother when he was two, has been placed in detention

Helen Davidson


Email: Sun 17 Feb 2019 06.00 AEDTLast modified on Sun 17 Feb 2019 14.03 AEDT

Tim Galvin, who was born in New Zealand to an Aboriginal mother and arrived in Australia as a toddler, has appealed the deportation decision but could be in detention for a year. Photograph: Rebecca Lemay/AAP.

The Australian government is attempting to deport another Indigenous man to New Zealand, despite him having no ties to the country where he was born while his parents were visiting the country more than 30 years ago.

Tim Galvin’s mother and three brothers are Australian-born citizens, and his father is a UK-born citizen. His mother has signed a statutory declaration stating she is of Aboriginal descent. Galvin’s wife is a Noongar woman and they have four children together.

Last week Galvin was about to be released on parole after serving most of a two-and-a-half year prison sentence at Acacia Prison for burglary.

“Then the day before I was getting out on parole … they told me they were coming to take me to the detention centre,” Galvin told Guardian Australia from the Yongah Hill facility, outside of Perth.

Galvin learned he was a New Zealand citizen when his Australian visa was cancelled in 2016. He appealed and said his lawyers had pushed for a resolution before his release but 17 months later, there was none and he received a notice of deportation.

“They want to kick me out of my own country,” he said. “I came here when I was two.”

“My mum is Aboriginal – she’s from South Australia. All my kids are Aboriginal, my missus is Aboriginal, and they’re trying to send me to a foreign country.”

He said he was handcuffed for the transfer, which came unexpectedly.

“I had job with my brother, I’ve got my missus and kids to look after,” he said.

“I was going home to them and work. I was on parole to finish up and be with my family.”

Galvin is appealing the deportation but with increasing numbers of visa cancellations on character grounds, the wait is upwards of a year, during which Galvin will remain in detention.

In 2014, the federal government changed immigration laws to trigger mandatory deportations for anyone sentenced to a jail term of 12 months or more. The government is now seeking to expand those powers.

Since then, onshore detention centres have housed increasing numbers of people under the mandatory deportation orders, a significant proportion of whom are being sent back to New Zealand, including those who have lived in Australia for most of their life.

“Australia is entitled to set its own immigration policies, but we have made plain to the Australian government our concerns about people being removed who have little or no connection to New Zealand,” a New Zealand ministry of foreign affairs and trade spokesperson told Guardian Australia.

“The Australian government knows that we want greater compassion applied to people who moved to Australia as children and have effectively spent their entire lives there.”

Gerry Georgatos, coordinator of the National Trauma Recovery Project, said Galvin’s brother had been waiting outside Acacia Prison on the scheduled day of release, not aware he’d been transferred to Yongah Hill.

Georgatos had been visiting Galvin, and said he showed “acute levels of fear-ridden distress” at the prospect of being detained and deported.

“We have been working with Tim psychosocially and psycho-educatively to improve his lot, to pathway him to being there for his children and this obscene Kafkaesque government policy of ‘bad character’ has stalled all our good work, denying best shot at life for this young family. Tim has served his sentence, worked redemptively and no one should be forever and a day punished.”

Galvin’s partner, Bobbie-Joe Woods, said she worried about her partner’s mental health, and her children, aged between five and 13, were struggling with the situation.

“It has a lot of effects on us. We’ve already been waiting more than two years for him to get out of jail,” she said.

“They just want their dad back”

Labor senator, Patrick Dodson, said the case demonstrated “a lack of understanding of the unique status of First Nations peoples and their relationship with Australian citizenship”, and noted the disproportionately high rates of incarceration among Indigenous people.

“From representations made to my office, I understand that Mr Galvin has clear ties to Australia and faces significant impediments should he be deported to New Zealand – a country he demonstrably has no ties to,” Dodson told Guardian Australia.

“I am concerned that this matter does not properly consider Mr Galvin’s ties to Australia and that his Aboriginality is more than simply lineage, and includes connection to country, community and culture.”

It is not the first time the Australian government has attempted to deport someone of Indigenous heritage.

Previous cases have gone to the high court, notably Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms, who are are seeking damages. Similarly to Galvin, both men were told shortly before their planned release from jail that they would instead be going to immigration detention.

Both were born overseas but have lived in Australia since they were young children. Both have an Aboriginal parent.

Love, who was born in Papua New Guinea, has an Aboriginal father. His visa was reinstated after 40 days of detention, the ABC reported, but Thoms is still in etention.

Georgatos said his organisation was supporting another eight families in similar predicaments to Galvin’s.

The home affairs department said it does not comment on individual cases.