Hilary’s Seventh Cervical Vertebra and our Minister for Immigration

Please prepare to write a letter. Gather your wits. Gather pen, paper, envelope and a stamp. Or prepare your keyboard. Now read on:

Around 1985 my former classmate Hilary rolled her car and fractured her seventh cervical vertebra. The damage to Hilary’s spinal cord resulted in her quadriplegia: for the past thirty-odd years – half of her lifetime to date – Hilary has ridden a wheelchair.

When your legs don’t work, when your hands are too weak to crack an egg, when your bladder and bowel are deaf to the commands of the brain, you need a lot of help. Hilary receives a lot of help. Good help is proverbially hard to find. And easy to lose. Hilary is about to lose Ilaisaane, one of her two good helpers.

I visited Hilary a couple of days ago and I met Ilaisaane. I hadn’t seen Hilary since we left school. That was half a century ago. It’s not as if Hilary lives far from me. It is not as if I had not heard of her situation. I felt a horror, the primitive horror of looking misfortune in full gaze and I kept a coward’s distance, a guilty silence.




 I walked through the door and there was Hilary and there was the schoolgirl grin. As a child Hilary grinned at life; nothing and no-one seemed able to cow her. Plenty of us tried. And here was Hilary, offering me a hand, thin as a wafer, the fingers fine and delicate and very white. Her handclasp light as fairy floss. And that grin, so vital, so charged with – there! I can’t avoid it – charged with hilarity. Hilary introduced me to her carer.

The name is Tongan. With her ready smile and her winning manner Ilaiasaane may be hard on the tongue but she is easy on the eye. The two ladies gave me some Tongan elocution training. You pronounce the name, ‘ill-eye-saah–neh’. Hilary calls her, ‘my beloved Saane’.

I asked Saane, ‘What do you do for Hilary?’ Uncertain how candidly she should respond, Saane looked towards Hilary. Hilary said, ‘Everything.’ ‘Everything’ includes cooking, preparing, serving, clearing of meals. It includes showering, dressing, undressing. It includes the most intimate elements of personal hygiene and toilet. The needs of a human body arise by day and by night. The carer needs stamina and a sense of humour. The person cared for depends utterly upon the carer; she must surrender autonomy. Dignity hangs in the balance: either party can fracture it. Rage must be the natural state of a person whose body will not obey her, but grace is the quality she needs. Few would possess that quality. I wondered that this person, known until now only as that unformed being, the schoolchild, might.

As Ilaisaane and I talked, I wondered who’d want to deport this charming, mild, good humoured person. She didn’t strike me as a danger to Australia. The opposite seems to be the fact: while here she has become a State Enrolled Nurse, studying in her Hilary-free days. She plans to become a Registered Nurse. Meanwhile she works, Hilary pays for her help, and Ilaiasaane pays taxes. Hilary herself works from home, spares the government costs of institutional care and pays taxes.


I asked Hilary how she earns her living. ‘I’m a social worker. I see and counsel clients here, at my home. I specialise in working with male family violence. I also run reflective supervision groups for other therapists.’

I nodded. Numerous psychologists of my acquaintance are her paying clients. I had a further question: ‘So, all three of you – Iliasaane, you and O.G. – all pay taxes. And losing your carer could tip you into institutional care? In that case, the Commonwealth of Australia foots endless bills for your care while losing three sources of income tax?

‘If those are questions they are three not one. And the answers are “yes”, “yes” and “yes.”’


So what is the problem here? The problem is the man smiling in the photo. His name is Ogolotse. ‘You say the ‘G’ as ‘H’, Ilaisaane informs. Hilary refers to him as O.G.


O.G. comes from Botswana. Years ago he studied Multimedia at RMIT. After graduating he returned to Botswana and worked in television before returning here, completing a Masters degree at RMIT, then working in his professional field on a skilled worker’s visa. That employment has evaporated in a mist of obfuscation. As a result O.G.’s visa lapses. And we will shortly evict him.  


Why should we care?

Hilary explains: ‘It takes a long time to find a good carer, a longer time to train her. She needs to be able to work around the clock. Saane works 38 hours over three days, plus 3 sleepovers. She’s been with me five years…’ Unspoken is the bond, the intimacy and the trust between the two women. I feel it flow as I sit between them, like a warming current of regard. Hilary continues: ‘We have a hearing at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on August 28. That’s a favourable sign; we have a chance. On the other hand our lawyer has sacked O.G. because he can’t pay the legal fees. We’ve been advised we need one thousand physical letters of support to appeal for ministerial discretion to produce at the hearing.’




1. Address letter to:

The Hon Peter Dutton

Minister of Immigration
Parliament House

Canberra 2600

2. Copy letter to Hilary at quincetree@gmail.com

3. Draft letter (sample follows)

Dear Minister Dutton

I, the undersigned, wish to express my alarm that this couple, named above, could be dismissed from Australia. I believe them to be excellent, honest, hardworking people.

I have heard about Ms Kalavi’s employment as a carer for a social worker who has quadriplegia. Ms Kalavi shares this job with one other person, so her work there is vital to the woman’s wellbeing and continuing to be a productive member of society. I have no doubt that if Ms Kalavi had to leave suddenly it would cause a damaging crisis in this woman’s life.

Ms Kalavi works as the woman’s carer for 38 hours a week plus sleepovers. She has been with her a long time, for 5 years. That level of training and familiarity would be extremely hard to replace, especially given how hard it is to find compatible staff for such a close relationship.

I urge you to grant residency to this couple as soon as possible.




(Passport No. – OR – Driver’s Licence No. – OR – Medicare No.) 

Email: minister@immi.gov.au

Email: peter.dutton.mp@aph.gov.au

 4. Hold your breath, say your prayers, hope that your ordinary goodness will pierce a minister’s heart.

And accept my heartfelt thanks,





10 thoughts on “Hilary’s Seventh Cervical Vertebra and our Minister for Immigration

  1. You have written about three lovely, admirable members of the human race and a daft government who wants to make all three lives as difficult as possible. I have only just seen this, and by the dates and where I live I am a useless reader in this cause. Similar things are happening all over this country too.


    • I think Australia is a special case

      With. The exceptions of the one percent who are First Australians we are all immigrants, all part of that ancient story, that endless human wave of those who leave home and travel and make a new home

      We leave and we arrive- prompted by opportunity or adversity or both

      And we somehow pretend we were always here

      And feel free to resent vilify exclude the next humans on the wave

      Yet immigration enriches this country

      We humans can make our hearts very small, very hard


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Howard n everybody else that has taken a moment of their life, to pay attention to the story of me and wife who r probably complete strangers to most reading this blog.

    Thank you to Howard, for pouring out his thoughts and sharing our life. Howard I could have never been able to tell my story as good as u did, ur words strike the heart, they certainly stired me and gave me a fresh boost of energy and hope. You have given me a reason to keep pushing, thank u.

    I wish to introduce myself, my name’s at the top of the blog I’m Ogolotse but everyone calls me Og. I’ve lived in Australia 8 years now. It’s my home away home.

    I launched the Community TV Program Africa Amara. The program gave Australia’s television audiences their first-ever look into Australia’s local African communities, their contributions to Australia’s multicultural society and the untold stories of progress and transformation re-shaping modern-day Africa. It examined stories and issues of great importance to the African diaspora in Australia – stories rarely seen in Australian media. It challenged Australian audiences to step beyond stereotypical depictions of Africa and Africans and informed public thinking about the issues that will decide the success of the newest chapter to Australia’s multicultural story. It has broadcast on c31 and wtv in Perth,it’s been running since 2011, it will do a 3rd re broadcast in Perth & surrounding areas starting September 4th due to popular demand of Western Australian viewers, I also hope to broadcast in more states over the next weeks. You can see it here


    Will also appreciate ur Facebook like over here:


    Media Lecturers Dr John Budarick and Dr Gil-Soo Han from Monash University used Africa Amara as one of the prime subjects in their research on African Australian Media outlets. It is titled “Why and how African-Australian media matter”. Their findings unearthed the importance of such a project to the emerging African Australian Community.

    Below is a reading from one of the research passages:

    “The importance of migrant media to migrants, as well as to debates
    surrounding multiculturalism and belonging in modern societies,
    foregrounds questions about control, ownership, and representation.
    Who controls migrant media? How are they funded? What are the
    commercial, ideological, political, and/or social pressures that shape
    these media? Who represents the community and how? These are just
    some of the questions that need to be asked of migrant media, and we
    begin to address them here by focusing on participants’ motivations
    and aims, their imagined audiences, and the connections they seek
    to create between African and non-African Australians. Migrant populations are never homogeneous. They may articulate collective
    Positive stories: Why and how African-Australian media matter
    histories and maintain collective cultures, but this is rarely done
    on uncontested terrain. Understanding migrant media thus means understanding the way in which migrants negotiate their identities and histories within contested minority media spaces and in the context of majority discourses.”

    I and Ilaisaane have had 2 unsuccessful visa applications over the last 2 years due to my skills being considered inadequate for whichever visa we had applied for. The 1st was a special talent visa and I was pleaing to be allowed to stay here because of this TV show that I was already running, I was advised by the immigration department that they could only grant me residency if I could prove that the program was international standard or pretty much Hollywood material, I was asked to also provide international awards etc, but all my awards are Australian because of course it’s an auzi show. As demands from immigration grew I freaked out n withdrew this application. I got a traditional 9-5 working as a marketing specialist, my employer appreciated my skills and soon sponsored me for a 457 visa. Unfortunately this visa was refused as immigration considered me as a TV professional, so according to their definition I had no business working in marketing, so I and wife were asked to leave Aus in 28 days in June 2014. We launched a request to be reconsidered by the migration tribunal which is why we will be going to the migration tribunal on the 28th August. If things don’t work out here, we will have to head to immigration minister and seek his intervention in allowing us to live in Australia permanently, this will be the very last chance for us to be allowed to live here.

    With everyone’s support, perhaps it is possible that I and Saane could be seen as valuable or Ok to be allowed to stay here, thank you for your support. – Og😎

    Liked by 1 person

    • Og

      We have not met but we know each other. Neither of us is aboriginal to this land of dreaming; each of us arrived recently with our own dreams. Our task is to enrich this land that needs our dreams and our hands. I pray you will stay with us. Botswana’s loss can be Australia’s gain. And Hilary’s.


  3. Thank you so much Howard for putting our story together. OG and I really appreciate. Let’s hope for the best. God bless.

    Kindly regards.



    • We are a generous people in a pinched and grump mood

      We are led by a pinched and miserable bunch, strangers to leadership, Who FoOLLOW public opinion
      Our opposition forces itself to act miserable and harsh so we won’t think they are pussies

      But generosity can emerge and assert itself
      We wait it’s day


      Liked by 1 person

  4. What do I think? I think we living here in this great south land after the gubbahment and crown of England stole this land in 1788 from the original ancient caretakers now known as aboriginals, are the last humans to have any say in determining which if any? other humans may, or may not arrive and settle here! ” Ask the aboriginals ” Put this comment to the current gubbahment and prime minister and listen to their evasive answer!


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