8 Aug 2021

'Crushing' deportation to NZ after four decades in Australia

9:22 am on 8 August 2021

A 43-year-old man who has been in Australia since before his first birthday has lost an appeal against being deported to New Zealand.

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Photo: 123rf

Heath Cowgill came to Australia with his parents in 1977, when he was 11 months old.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia, sitting in Perth, heard that he had more than 130 convictions and had served six years in jail for aggravated burglaries in 1998.

He received a suspended sentence for burglary and theft in 2012, but it was dishonesty offences which triggered the cancellation of his visa last year.

Cowgill said that he had stopped offending until 2017, when his son was stillborn. Being deported would be "devastating and crushing" for his partner and four children and would also separate him from his mother and sisters, he said.

The tribunal heard he was not a violent offender and long-standing mental health conditions had been diagnosed and medicated, resulting in dramatic improvements to his mental health and a path to a drug-free lifestyle.

He had no links to New Zealand nor support for his mental health and drug problems, he said.

But tribunal member Brigadier Gerry Warner ruled against his appeal.

"The 54 recent convictions involve widespread harm to the community through identity theft, financial and property loss, loss of confidence in institutions, threats of violence and resultant stress and adverse effects on victims' wellbeing. [His] previous offending behaviour caused unacceptable harm to the community through property loss and violence.

"Further, the applicant's entrenched drug abuse and serious traffic offending also raise the potential for significant harm. The community should not be expected to tolerate the risk and resultant harm should [he] commit similar offending in the future.

"The tribunal concludes that although there are countervailing considerations that favour revocation of the cancellation decision, including the best interests of minor children, the applicant's links to Australia and the extent of impediments if removed to New Zealand, they are outweighed by the primary conditions of the protection of the Australian community, whether [he] engaged in family violence, and expectations of the Australian community."

Cowgill will be deported after he is released from his current five-and-a-half year jail term.

A total of 176 New Zealanders were being held in Australian immigration detention facilities as of May this year while they await decisions on deportation, more than any other nationality.

New Zealanders make up 12 percent of all detainees, who include illegal maritime arrivals and overstayers.

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