IF YOU stand still long enough anywhere in the UK, you are bound to hear an Australian having a visa status discussion. Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who can apply for an ancestry visa. My family is now fifth generation Australian, so I am not eligible for this. I have convict and Potato Famine ancestors — Scots that helped settle the Western District, a great grandfather that landed at Gallipoli and saw out WWI in The Somme. My maternal grandfather was a Rat of Tobruk, also serving his king, and my other grandfather has an OBE. My British Isles genetics means I have red hair, can’t tan and have a penchant for roast dinners. But my story is the same as so many others. That’s what makes us Australian.
Based on our shared histories, the establishment of a Bilateral Free Skilled Labour Mobility Zone between the UK and Australia makes sense. It would benefit the UK to promote their economic and political connections to the Asia Pacific through stronger relationships with Commonwealth nations in the area. I am glad that Boris shares in the frustrations felt by so many from both nations, but in writing to him I wanted to raise more than the immigration issue.
During this challenging period of economic instability, the United Kingdom needs to ensure that its residents, and the residents of 27 European nations with the right to work in the UK, are provided with opportunities to gain employment. However there are also many industries in the UK crying out for decent workers. Education is an area not in labour shortage, yet every day I was in the UK I was in a school teaching in a room not filled by an EU resident. At the school I was working in, there were three Antipodean teachers employed full time. One can only imagine how many others there are filling this ‘non shortage’ across the entire country. Children require stability in their lives and schools provide this for them. However, if a class teacher has to leave due to their visa expiring and sponsorship being too difficult to arrange, the ones that suffer are some of the most vulnerable children in the country.
In an age where education improvement continues to dominate politics, the restrictions in place to easily employ experienced, outstanding non-EU teachers need to be changed. Cost cuts are causing principals to decrease their amount of experienced, expensive full time staff and instead employ experienced supply teachers to support newly qualified and overwhelmed local teachers. By no means am I saying the imports are better than UK or EU teachers, but if there is really no shortage, why are Antipodean teachers so sought after? It raises the question: are we filling the same types of voids in health, child care and other industry as well? In order to be sponsored the Resident Labour Market Test requires there to be no British national or EU citizen available to do the job. However, the test makes no allowances for the fact there may be a non-EU person right for the role who knows those children, that school and who does their job to the max every day.
Immigration and employment are complex issues and as an Australian I am not going to throw any stones. My situation is by no means uncommon and there are so many others across the globe that seek the opportunity I have already been given as a Commonwealth citizen. I’m back in Australia now, and people ask me why I want to return to the UK. I wouldn’t get a pension, I would take an overwhelming pay cut and it rains a lot. But as a global citizen I would like to be given the opportunity to do what I do best, where I want to do it, in a place that feels like home.