COVID-related travel restrictions have prevented migrants’ overseas-based parents from visiting Australia.
Many migrants rely on extended family members such as grandparents for help with raising children.
Just under 30 per cent of Australia’s resident population were born overseas.
Simrat and Prashant Mudgil, who live in Watsonia in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, welcomed their first child nine months ago. They had planned to bring their parents to Australia to help out but COVID-related border closures prevented it, Ms Mudgil said. “Back home, grandparents are there 100 per cent for the grandchildren. That is the child care,” she told the ABC’s AM program.
“You also learn a lot of values from your grandparents.”
Ms Mudgil had postpartum anxiety and Mr Mudgil said that without family in Australia, the couple have found it difficult to find support. “There was no-one around to talk to [and it took a toll], not only financially, but mentally and physically,” he said. “There was a financial hit because I had to take so much leave from my office, the baby didn’t sleep well and [I had] to take care of my wife as well.
“And we can’t even see this ending anytime soon.” He said they both understood the reason for the flight restrictions, but he said he wished extended family of Australian residents had been given consideration. “Everyone has their challenges during COVID, but we felt betrayed — [there is] not much talk about people who have no family support,” he said. “I always thought there must have been some option.”
Now the couple is considering leaving Australia, either to return to India or to be closer to family in Canada. “That way we are close to some family, rather than none,” Mr Mudgil said.
Parents struggle to re-enter workforce without family support
Pinal Doshi, who lives in Melbourne’s outer east and has a six-year-old and six-month-old, said she could not see a way she could return to work. “I don’t have any family here — just me and my husband — and he works full time,” she said. “I want my mum and dad here.”
Due to the COVID-19 travel ban, only the immediate family of an Australian citizen or permanent resident is allowed to enter Australia. However, parents of adult children are not considered immediate family. “They were meant to come over when I was pregnant because I was working full time,” Ms Pinal said. “Then with working from home and homeschooling all through the pregnancy.
“And then there was a newborn in the house. I don’t get much sleep and it affects me mentally as well. “We really need someone to come over so we can get a little bit of a break now.”
For many families, the cost of child care is too high and some residents in Australia are not eligible for any subsidies, making extended family a lifeline for migrant parents who hope to re-enter the workforce. Additionally, parents who work shift hours can struggle to find appropriate child care. And for some, cultural considerations prevent them from taking up formal early childhood education options.
A spokesman for the Home Affairs Department told the ABC the Government acknowledged the difficulties people faced reuniting with their extended families, however, there were currently no plans to include parents in the definition of immediate family for the purpose of travel exemptions. “Any changes to travel exemption categories will be a process informed by health advice,” the spokesman said.