Doctor denied residency because of son’s Down syndrome.

drmoellerI’m seeing red. This is downright unconscionable. And in the face of a massive workforce shortage, too? This guy CAME to Australia answering the call for rural doctors in the first place.

“Son’s Down syndrome forces doctor out of town”

A German physician working in rural Victoria (Wimmera) has been denied permanent residency in Australia – because his teenage son has Down Syndrome.

He is the only specialist physician in the area.

Dr Moeller, whose 13-year-old son Lukas has Down syndrome, answered the Australian Government’s call for foreign doctors to help ease the chronic doctor shortage in rural areas but, after two years on a temporary visa, the Department of Immigration knocked back his application for permanent residency last week.

An Immigration Department spokesman said Dr Moeller was rejected because a Commonwealth medical officer assessed that his son’s medical condition would result in a significant and ongoing cost to Australian taxpayers.

He said the medical officer’s decision was legally binding and the department had no choice but to abide. Dr Moeller is now contemplating moving his family of five back to Germany.

More at the Wimmera Mail-Times,, and all over.

Victorian Premier John Brumby has decided to leave off any pretence at varnish, and has called the decision “stupid” and “a serious error”.

The Department is weaselishly trying to defend their bigoted actions this afternoon, says The Age.

Peter Vardos, the Immigration Department’s first assistant secretary of migration and visa policy, today said Lukas was not being discriminated against because of his particular condition.

“It has nothing to do with the fact that Lukas has Down syndrome per se, it could be any condition that potentially has a long-term financial impact on the Australian community,” Mr Vardos said.

“For any person migrating to Australia on a permanent basis there’s an objective set of criteria that all must be subjected to, and unfortunately on this occasion Dr Moeller’s family didn’t meet all the criteria.”

So discrimination against people with disabilities is just fine, so long as it’s objective, Vardos?

Australia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities on the 17 of July, 2008, barely three and a half months ago. The Convention includes articles providing that PWD should be equal under the law, that where children with disabilities are concerned the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration, and, perhaps most pertinently, that they should be treated equally with regards to nationality and immigration.

Now’s the time to put up or shut up, Australia.

People: Start writing to or calling Immigration Minister Chris Evans.

* his Contact Form

* Ph: 02 6277 7860.

[image source: Wimmera Mail-Times]

Categories: medicine, Politics, social justice, work and family

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22 replies

  1. This truly is disgusting. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Yes, it’s utterly disgraceful.

  3. What a crock of fucking shit. “Hey Herr Doktor, thanks so much for shifting your entire family halfway around the world to help us avert a massive rural doctor shortage. Your contribution to the community is totes appreciated, but now our figure sheets are looking better it’s time to say Auf Wiedersehen.”

  4. What the fucking fuck. Seriously, all across Australia, there are massive shortages in all sectors of the medical industry, but rural areas in need of GPs are really feeling the pinch. And the department does THIS?!

    I am truly disgusted with the way this family has been treated.

  5. Brumby and Roxon are both asking for the decision to be reconsidered, so I think he’ll get to stay. But this is dumb and offensive on so many levels. The good thing is, is that the Dept of Immigration might get another kick up the bum and change their rules. But, maybe I’m being an optimist.

  6. Let’s hope so, Fine. But the strange thing about the immigration procedures around this stuff is that it seems to come down to the doctor doing the assessment. I had a student once, who was here on a student visa, and had been told by her doctor that she would be considered too overweight for permanent residency. I looked up the rules, because this sounded so utterly appalling, and as it turns out, weight is not one of the criteria that can be taken into account. But of course, being ‘overweight’ is currently, at least in some places, being connected to health issues. Her doctor was so convinced that, even though this student had no ‘co-morbidities’ (so she told me), he, the only doctor in the Philippines (I think?) certified by Australia to do these health checks, would deny her application. I am appalled by the way that these kinds of differences between people become grounds for exclusion from a country. I’d also be interested to see the selection criteria for doctors who can do health checks…

  7. I would love to see what Michael Berube would have to say about this (partly because he’d be so snarkily but charmingly eloquent, Dr Vardos would be in a foetal position very soon but unable to say how he got there)

  8. Nothing further to add except to add my outrage to the others. I read about it yesterday and knew you would be on it, letter already written.

  9. I just wrote an email to the Senator:
    Dear Senator, I was outraged to hear about the decision to deny Dr Bernhard Moeller and his family permanent residency status because of his son’s disability. As a solicitor I understand the law involved but I also understand that the Minister has the final discretion in immigration matters. As such I appeal to you directly Senator Evans. Under the new Rudd Government, Australia has finally ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities that provides for the protection of the rights of the disabled including a focus on the best interests of the child and a guarantee of equal treatment in matters of nationality and immigration. Here we have a child with Down Syndrome, a relatively common disorder among the Australian population, whose sufferers live productive and enriching lives that give great joy to their families and friends. And we have the child’s father, a specialist doctor, whose skills are desperately needed in the country, who has given a great service to his new community.
    Put up or shut up Senator Evans. I plead with you to use your power of discretion to let this family stay. Show us, the Australian public, that your government is different than it’s predecessor and that we voted for you for a reason. We need more doctors; we need more loving families, and we need more people like the Moellers.
    Thanks for alerting me to this issue. I’m saddened but not really surprised. The good news is, the Wimmara Times is reporting that the Minister has asked for information about the case. I think this is the kind of story where political pressure can work. The family here is European, the father is a doctor (in the country no less!) and his son has Down’s syndrome, a condition many of us are familiar with and understand.
    The Minister has a discretion to override an immigration decision and he can use it here. But that’s not really the problem. What we need to do is to get the Government to change immigration law so that it can’t be used to discriminate against any person because of a disability or medical condition. No person should be judged as a burden to the State. We are all valuable. The Australian Government has done the right thing by ratifying the Treaty. Now we just have to make sure they stick to it at home.

  10. It was front page news in the melbourne Herald Sun, 2″ high font, FOR ONCE they get something right.

  11. The moral compass of the Dept of Immigration is still seriously askew. My email will be joining the deluge.

  12. It’s a shame this would never hit the news if the father in question wasn’t a doctor though.

    The moral compass of the Dept of Immigration is still seriously askew.

    This is indubitably so. However, this case would appear to be following standard policy. From Immigration fact Sheet 22:

    Australia enjoys some of the best health standards in the world. In order to maintain these standards people who want to migrate permanently, or stay in Australia temporarily, must satisfy the health requirement specified in the Migration Regulations.
    The health requirement is designed to:
    * minimise public health and safety risks to the Australian community;
    * contain public expenditure on health and community services, including Australian social security benefits, allowances and pensions; and
    * maintain access of Australian residents to health and other community services….Only TB is mentioned in migration legislation as precluding the grant of a visa, but the applicant is given the opportunity to undergo treatment in most cases. Other health conditions are assessed on the potential cost and impact on the Australian community resulting from the possible use of health and community services.

    WildlyParenthetical, you may be interested in this section:

    Being overweight
    Being overweight is not in itself likely to lead to failure to meet the health requirement. If the applicant is assessed as being obese, related medical conditions will be explored. These include diabetes, heart disease (including hypertension) and arthritis. Such conditions may mean that the applicant is assessed as not meeting the health requirement.

  13. Under the present laws the minister has the discretion to overturn a decision such as this and grant the doctor and his family permanent residency. It is interesting to note that no minister has ever exercised this discretion to date. Immigration laws need some serious attention. I once worked out that if the present immigration laws were in place when my grandparents had sought refuge in Australia that they would have been refused, they never would have met and I would not exist. That was a sobering exercise.

  14. Wow, that’s appalling.
    “Objective set of criteria,” my hide.

  15. We recently had a case quite similar to this where a family was denied residency because the daughter is disabled. People on so cost when they see disability and ignore the intangible things that they add to society. Not everything is about money.

  16. The kid is only 13 years old – for all anyone could know he might end up learning a trade, working full time and supporting himself. We have a local bakery in Edinburgh entirely run and managed by people with Downs Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.
    At least now I know why my mother is so paranoid about me renewing my Australian passport. She’s probably afraid they wont let me back in now that I’m disabled.

  17. All I can say is that the focus should be on people instead of dollars. I mean, seriously.

  18. Unfortunately the rejection does seem to be the standard. Even if the family has lots of money and can guarantee the child will not cost the taxpayers any money in the future they are not allowed in.
    It can even be very difficult to get people in on visitor’s visas who may fall ill (eg elderly relatives).

  19. It is the standard, Chris, and that needs to be changed. This could be a trigger case for Australia to start looking at its discriminatory, anti-Convention laws.

  20. i really cant believe they made that ruling I mean a doctor is usually pretty well off i dont think the government will have to pay that much to help him


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