Sunday, November 09, 2008

Disability Discrimination in Australia

This past week, a German physician living and working in Australia was denied permanent residency due to the fact that his 13-year-old son with Down's Syndrome does not meet alleged health requirements for citizenship. Citing the potential cost of the child's future medical care, the Australian immigration authority denied that this is a case of discrimination based on disability.

The case has sparked a veritably international outcry, and the boy's parents---Bernhard and Isabella Moeller---vow to appeal the case to the highest court in the country.

Apparently, Dr. Moeller was aggressively recruited to live and work in Victoria, a rural section of Australia which is currently experiencing a severe shortage of primary care physicians. Taking into consideration the relatively disastrous impact of the loss of yet another valued physician in this underserved region (especially in light of Moeller's son's current state of good health), there seems to be a misguided---and blatantly discriminatory---calculus at work on the part of the Australian authorities.

While it is true that Dr. Moeller and his family are indeed Europeans living in Australia as guests, I am nonetheless shocked that the Australian government would choose to take such a course of action towards a gentleman who has provided an invaluable service towards the health of the Australian people. With an enormous rural area in need of qualified medical providers willing to relocate in order to serve such far-flung populations, why would the Australian Powers That Be take such a myopic stance? This clearly discriminatory action flies in the face of moral decency in a truly Orwellian fashion, bringing to mind troubling images of immigrants being administered genetic tests to look for "potential" future costs to the petitioned state.

Meanwhile, The Australian---an online newspaper---reports that another case of a healthcare provider being denied residency due to having a child with Down's Syndrome is concurrently being appealed. The article elucidates further, stating that these two occurrences are "the tip of an iceberg" wherein numerous potential immigrant families are apparently discriminated against and denied residency by the Australian government in the presence of Down's Syndrome.

Luckily, many figures in the Australian government are coming out strongly in favor of Dr. Moeller, demanding a swift review---and reversal---of this appalling ruling.

It is this blogger's strong opinion that a broad review of the Australian immigration authority's practices in regards to physical and mental disabilities must be conducted. Furthermore, the revelation of such egregious actions by one segment of the government bureaucracy may reveal even deeper layers of covert discrimination not yet publicly exposed in multiple areas of Australian jurisprudence.

If there is indeed an iceberg of discrimination lurking beneath the waters of Australia, perhaps the current international disgust being expressed at these recent nefarious actions will spur disability rights organizations across the "Land Down Under" to make their voices heard far and wide. This type of discriminatory behavior has no place in any society, and the citizens of Australia who care about such issues will certainly rise up and make their politicians and officials take notice, or said officials will only ignore the issue at grave risk of their own political future.
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